Defenseless Yet Again

One would think the Illini defense is tired of rolling out the red carpet.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind., – What else was Nathan Scheelhaase, Steve Hull and the rest of the Illinois offense supposed to do?

Scheelhaase threw for a personal-best 450 yards and Hull had a career-high 217 receiving yards as the offense scored 35 points at Indiana on Saturday.

It wasn't enough. Not with an embarrassingly awful defense in charge of 50 percent of Illinois' stake in games.

Indiana stacked up 650 total yards and scored a school record 52 points (for a conference game), as both tailback Tevin Coleman (219 yards rushing) and wideout Cody Latimer (189 yards receiving) set career records, too.

At this point, yeah I know, it's not surprising to see the Illinois defense give up the chance to break what is now a 19 game losing streak against Big Ten opponents

But this wasn't Nebraska. Nor was it Wisconsin or Michigan State. This was Indiana, the team that's only been to one bowl game since 1994.

In all fairness, nobody else is slowing down the Hoosiers. They have now scored 28 points or more in 10 straight games. Coach Kevin Wilson, now in his third year, is in charge of one of the best offenses in the country.

With that in mind, Wilson going toe-to-toe with Illinois defensive coordinator Tim Banks seemed unjust. Indiana scores on everybody. Illinois can't stop anybody.

The outcome couldn't have been good. But it was worse actually watching it than anything imagined.

Billed as a shootout prior to kickoff, it turned into a tune-up when the Hoosiers offense took the field, as they scored on plays of 75, 64, 50 and 41 yards.

That's the most demoralizing part. Scheelhaase led drives that answered, the offense worked hard to put points on the board. Four times Illinois fought back to tie the game. The Illini took the lead in the third quarter.

Each time it seemed the hue of momentum was turning blue and orange – boom, the Hoosiers would strike. They made it look easy, scoring four touchdowns on drives that lasted three plays or less.

How the guys on the sideline stayed positive is beyond me. How fans could continue to watch is a question I don't have an answer for either.

It got so bad Saturday night, Coach Tim Beckman ran the most ridiculous fake punt I've ever seen. Fake punts are, by nature, ridiculous. But Beckman felt so little confidence that his defense could get a stop that he thought having punter Justin DuVernois try to throw for a first down was a better option.

Remember, at that time the Illini trailed only by a touchdown with plenty of time left in the fourth quarter. Maybe the Illini could have banded together and made a stop. Perhaps Jonathan Brown, who had an interception earlier, could have huddled the boys together, given a Ray Lewis-type speech and made something happen.

We'll never know. The fake punt looked foolish. Indiana scored two plays later and the game was over.

So the streak remains, the defense again to blame. On the list of all the defenses in the country, the Illini rank 114 out of 123, allowing over 480 yards a game. That figure could climb. Next week Ohio State comes calling. Last year, the Buckeyes' ran all over the Illini. Carlos Hyde had three touchdowns. Braxton Miller had 299 total yards. They'll both be in Champaign Saturday. The Illini stand no chance of stopping those two. Therefore, the Illini stand no chance of winning.

Again I ask, what else is the offense supposed to do? If there's something more that group can provide, it better happen this week.

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