Banks Takes the Blame

The blame for Illinois' poor defensive results ultimately falls on coordinator Tim Banks. To his credit, he's pointing the finger at himself.

CHAMPAIGN - I don't have to tell you the who and the what when casting blame for Illinois' 56-32 loss Saturday to Wisconsin.

The score and stats tell the story, so you already know what the deal is. You probably already knew before the game began. Still, I don't have to say it because defensive coordinator Tim Banks said it for us.

"Yup doggone right, it's on me," Banks said. "I've got to coach them better."

I'll at least credit him for taking the burden of pointing fingers off of me and you and anybody else.

That's about all I can credit the second-year coordinator for after the Badgers piled up 478 total yards and tailback Melvin Gordon averaged over eight yards per carry and scored three times.

I understand the Badgers are one of the better offensive units in the country. And it's not like anybody else has slowed Gordon down. He's now rushed for at least 140 yards six times this season.

But's it's always the same story, the same Strugglin' Illini. Both Washington's Bishop Sankey (208 rushing yards) and Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah (225) used the Illinois defense to score career performances.

In three losses this season the Illini have allowed an average of 299 yards rushing, with poor tackling, not fitting the right gaps and the inability to shed blockers comprising the list of reasons given.

"I feel like this is a constant theme, I'm coming in here and talking about how we didn't execute," senior linebacker Jonathan Brown said.

It's true that the Illini are young and lack depth. The defense lacks enough players like Brown, who is a mix of talent and experience.

From a coaching perspective, these are explanations for why the desired results aren't happening. The fans though? They see explanations as excuses.

Once again, I'll credit Banks for not running from the issue.

"Gotta coach better, I guess," he said. "Gotta coach them better. It's my responsibility to make sure we're tackling and you know we didn't tackle well and didn't get off blocks well."

So what is Illinois supposed to do? How does it get better?

"You know if I knew that then I'd know a lot," Brown said. "We just don't know right now."

The team talked about improving deficiencies during the two weeks of preparation for Saturday's game yet the same outcome occurred. Effort, Brown says, is not an issue.

"That's one thing I'm proud to say about, we work hard every day," he said. "Every day we work hard."

So it seems the players are trying their best. It's just not good enough.

To make up for that, Banks says he's tinkered with the scheme and personnel throughout the season. He says he's constantly in evaluation mode, always looking for an edge that might change his group's fortune.

"That's the name of the game because at the end of the day you can't make no trades," he said. "Who we've got is who we've got, so you've got to find a way to put them in the best possible positions to be successful. That's our jobs. That's my job, so that's what I've got to do."

So far, it hasn't worked. Once again, Banks doesn't deny it.

"At the end of the day we still want to play better," Banks said. "We just want to do our job and give ourselves a chance to win. Obviously we didn't do that tonight. We didn't play well enough to win."

Hey, Banks said it. And he's right.

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