Season Report Card: Illinois Fighting Illini
Illinois doubled its win total from the previous year, but still struggled to stay competitive in what was widely considered a lacking Big Ten Conference.
Here is the Illini’s final report card as it heads into yet another offseason in rebuilding mode:
It’s quite remarkable what first-year offensive coordinator Bill Culbit was able to do with what was a train wreck of an offense in 2012. With a healthy Nathan Scheelhaase under center, he was able to transform one of the Big Ten’s least impressive units into something dangerous. Illinois was somewhat inconsistent at times, but was able to put up 45 points on a stingy Cincinnati defense, 32 against always-strong Wisconsin, and 35 on Ohio State. There's plenty room for growth, but it was an impressive turnaround for an offense that scored a putrid 16.7 points per game the year before.
This is the area that could end up costing Beckman his job in 2014 if significant progress isn’t made. Illinois conceded 481 yards and 35.4 points per contest, giving it the second-worst defense in the Big Ten behind Indiana—and you might as well call it co-worst. The Illini allowed 35 points or more in six games, including 56 to Wisconsin, 42 to Michigan State, 52 to the Hoosiers and 60 to Ohio State. It was a very young group of kids that should only get better, but they definitely couldn’t get much worse.
Illinois was outscored by an average of 18.1 points in each of its eight losses this season, struggling to keep up with premier Big Ten opponents. Beckman is 1-15 in conference play, with his one win being a sloppy 20-16 finish against 1-11 Purdue.
When the highlight of your season is beating the American Athletic Conference’s third-best team in Week 2, there’s not much else to say other than changes must be made. We’ll see if Illinois can take another step forward in 2014—but this one might have to be more of a jumping leap for the Illini to avoid making a switch at head coach.
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