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Update at Illinois

Tim Beckman is 5-16 in two seasons at Illinois, and is still looking to win his first Big Ten game.

After going 2-10 last season, Illinois started year two under Beckman with a 3-1 September record, averaging nearly 46 points in wins over Southern Illinois, Cincinnati and Miami (Ohio) sandwiched around a respectable loss to Washington. Since then, though, the Illini have dropped five straight while allowing 42.6 points per game. Illinois ranks 10th or worse in the Big Ten in total defense, scoring defense, rush defense, pass defense and pass efficiency defense. 

Still in search of its first conference victory under Beckman, Illinois held a 17-14 lead at Penn State on Nov. 2 deep into the fourth quarter, but lost 24-17 in overtime. On Saturday, Illinois was tied with Indiana 35-35 in the fourth quarter, but lost 52-35. Illinois has now lost 19 straight Big Ten games. 

Following a season in which the Fighting Illini never scored more than 24 points after Sept. 15, Beckman replaced co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Chris Beatty with former Western Michigan head coach Bill Cubit and co-offensive coordinator / receivers coach Billy Gonzalez with Mike Bellamy. After ranking 12th in the Big Ten in total offense and scoring offense, Illinois has seen its scoring average jump 13 points per game and its offense improve by 129 yards per game.

Beckman was hired away from Toledo to replace Ron Zook, who was let go after six seasons in Champaign. Zook guided the Illini to the Rose Bowl in 2007, but then followed that up by going 5-7 and 3-9 in 2008 and '09. Illinois went 7-6 and won the Texas Bowl in 2010, but Zook was let go after Illinois closed the 2011 regular season with six straight losses following a 6-0 start.

With the team 3-6 and on a five game losing streak, Chicago Sun-Times beat writer Steve Greenberg spoke with Illinois athletics director Mike Thomas recently. A few excerpts:

Illinois has three games remaining this season: a home date with Ohio State on Saturday (12 p.m. ET, ESPN), a trip to Purdue on Nov. 23 and the season finale versus Northwestern on Nov. 30. This season, both the Purdue and the Northwestern games should be "winnable" games for the Illini. Word in the profession the past few weeks has been that as long as the Illini play to their potential these last few games that Beckman is expected to return (although most expect some form of changes on the defensive side of the ball). However, that was all predicated on being able to retain and build upon the offensive improvement that has come with the addition of Cubit...

There are three important football games left to be played this season and its important for this program to show improvement (and to post some conference wins). As always, we'll keep you posted.  

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