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updated: 10/28/2013 10:20 PM

Illinois tries to erase worst of MSU loss

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  • Michigan State running back Jeremy Langford (33) makes his way into the end zone for a touchdown during the third quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Champaign. The Illini are trying to regroup after the 42-3 loss to the Spartans.

      Michigan State running back Jeremy Langford (33) makes his way into the end zone for a touchdown during the third quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Champaign. The Illini are trying to regroup after the 42-3 loss to the Spartans.
    Associated PRess

 
Associated Press

CHAMPAIGN -- If there is an advantage to having a young football team at Illinois, it might be that many of them don't know much about what last season's 2-10 season was like.

Younger players haven't hard as hard of a time letting go of Saturday's 42-3 loss to Michigan State, coach Tim Beckman said Monday. The trouble lies elsewhere on the roster.

"Probably more the older guys than the younger guys," Beckman said. "Because they've been around the losing longer, the inconsistency."

The loss -- offensive coordinator Bill Cubit called it a disaster -- was in many ways worse than anything Illinois (3-4, 0-3 Big Ten) experienced last season, even during the nine-game losing streak that closed the season.

Leading 3-0 early, Illinois then gave up 42 straight points to the Spartans, 28 of them in the second half.

Getting over it, taking what good you can from it and moving on to this Saturday's game at Penn State (4-3, 1-2), isn't easy, senior linebacker Jonathan Brown said.

"It's definitely a task. After a 42-3 loss, it's tough for guys to see the good spots in that," he said.

There were some things Cubit said he'd like his offensive players to hang onto.

While they had one first down and 18 of their 128 yards of offense in the second half, the Illini moved the ball on the country's top-rate defense for the first 30 minutes. The difference between the two halves, he said, wasn't in anything the Spartans did to Illinois, but in the Illini's execution.

In an offensive meeting Sunday, "I called guys out -- `Hey, what happened here? How come we didn't get this thing done?' And every one of them took ownership -- `Coach, that's my fault."'

"When I walked out of that room, I felt pretty good about those kids," Cubit said.

Offensive tackle Corey Lewis was in that meeting. He said after the game that he would apply a rule Cubit that stresses putting a win or loss aside after 24 hours. But in this case, dwelling on the little things in the loss helped, Lewis said.

"Coach Cubit just kind of showed us how easily that game could have been not 42-3," he said.

One of the key plays that that turned the game for Michigan State came at the expense of a freshman cornerback making his first start, and might have been the single-toughest moment for the Illini to put behind them.

Jaylen Dunlap tipped a second-quarter pass from Spartan quarterback Connor Cook to receiver Bennie Fowler, then appeared to get the ball a second time before it tumbled into the hands of the well-covered receiver for a touchdown.

The Spartans went up 14-3, but the score capped a 99-yard drive that pounded the life out of the Illini.

Defensive coordinator Tim Banks said he didn't have to say much to the young cornerback.

"So many people were consoling him, those types things," Banks said. "I think he's resilient. I think he'll be fine."

Beckman said Monday he thinks his team, until Saturday, had been mostly fine, too. He made a point of telling reporters that the Illini until then had a record that was at least .500.

"That's one of the things we will look at as a football team is that the last nine weeks we have been successful, we have been winners," Beckman said.

Notes: Beckman confirmed that senior wide receiver Ryan Lankford is out for the season after breaking a bone in one shoulder against Michigan State. ... Illinois is 1-7 all time at Penn State. The only Illini win was in 2010, 33-13. ... With his players giving up big yards and big points, Banks was the subject of job-security speculation even before Saturday's loss. He says he doesn't pay attention to any news or online chatter about his team. "It's the profession we're in," he said.

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