Same Broken Record

Illinois' loss to Purdue was stained by the same issues that have plagued the team all season.

CHAMPAIGN - Is it the close losses that hurt the most?

Do games just within a team's reach leave the players on the losing side more dejected than, say, a 45-0 loss to Michigan?

Following Illinois' 20-17 loss to Purdue, the players didn't look any more or less emotional.

Atheltic director Mike Thomas shook their hands as they filed off the field. Ashante Williams let out an obscenity before composing himself and signing an autograph for a young fan. Donovonn Young chatted with his dad -- his dad did most of the chatting -- before ducking into the tunnel. None of that was out of the ordinary.

And coach Tim Beckman's address to the media didn't come with any surprises either. Same questions, same answers.

Senior Day may have made things more difficult to swallow for the 20 players that played their last game in Memorial Stadium. But for the most part, this loss was just like the previous nine that the Illini have incurred.

Whether in Tempe or Columbus or Champaign -- the Illinois blueprint to losing is mapped out in distinct red ink.

Turnovers on offense and giving up big plays on defense continue to plague the team, now losers of 13 consecutive Big Ten games.

"It's the same old record," co-offensive coordinator Chris Beatty said. "We're not good enough to overcome ourselves in that situation."

"We can't do that. We're not good enough to overcome that."

The problems are simple to point out, but for a team with such a slim margin for error, the issues are hard to correct.

Even without star linebacker Jonathan Brown, the Illinois defense looked dominate in the first quarter, pushing Purdue around on three drives, allowing only eight yards and forcing three punts.

The offense, playing without tight end Jon Davis, couldn't carry the baton -- or wouldn't hold on to the football.

Three first half fumbles didn't lead to any Purdue points, "but it was hurting us," Beckman said. "It was hurting us. It was not giving us an opportunity to keep momentum and the opportunity to do what we needed to do to be successful. It deflates you. You cannot turn the football ball over."

Still, the defense kept the team in the game by forcing two short field goals, giving Purdue a 6-3 lead at the half.

In the third quarter, though, a familiar affliction attacked the team's well being. The Boilermakers hit on a 63-yard screen pass for a touchdown and another long run that set up what eventually proved to be the deciding score.

Of Purdue's 398 total yards, 126 came on those two plays (32 percent).

"It's just like anything, you've got to play every snap," defensive coordinator Tim Banks said. "I thought our guys for the most part did that. Obviously we gave up two big plays that were catastrophic. Obviously if we had to do it over again we like to think we'd make that play, but at the same time it's two plays."

The screen pass offered the most drastic defensive breakdown. It was a play Purdue hasn't run all season, Banks said, saved for just the right occasion. It looked to be a pass in the making to the short side of the field. But quarterback Robert Marve wheeled and threw back across to Akeem Hunt on the opposite hash.

There wasn't a single Illini defender in the area, as a breakdown in man coverage left Hunt free to run to glory.

It was a freshman linebacker, either Mason Monheim or Mike Svetina, Beckman said, who lost track on the play.

"They didn't see him," Banks said. "Everybody was running to the ball. You tell the guys, you know, pursue to the ball, pursue to the ball, you know, that's what they were doing. Unfortunately when you're in man you have to make sure that you go with your man. It hurt us."

Illinois made the game close with two second half touchdowns, but was unable to hold Purdue on the final drive of the game, left to watch the clock run out on yet another loss.

Injuries, the turnovers and two big plays by Purdue were too much to overcome.

Close loss, blowout loss -- doesn't matter. It all feels the same when what's to blame doesn't change.

"It's a learning thing, but again, it's a loss," Beckman said.

"We've got to rebound... We've got to stay focused on getting better and keep on working to get this thing fixed."


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