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Tim Beckman to injured Illini: Get well soon

Updated: October 17, 2012 6:49AM

CHAMPAIGN — Like most coaches, Tim Beckman doesn’t like to talk about injuries before games. That’s why center Graham Pocic (knee), tailback Josh Ferguson (concussion) and middle linebacker Houston Bates (ankle) were surprise non-starters Saturday.

After games, it’s a different story.

‘‘We have to get healthy,’’ Beckman said when asked to assess his chances against stouter competition. ‘‘It’ll be a challenge unless we’re healthy. It’s amazing. I’ve never been around anything like this.’’

Pocic is expected to be back for Louisiana Tech on Saturday. Quarterback Nate Scheelhaase (ankle), Ferguson and Bates haven’t been ruled out.

Youth movement

Filling in for Bates, true freshman Mason Monheim responded with an interception and 20-yard return that set up Illinois’ first touchdown.

And with Reilly O’Toole having a field day while Illinois was looking for help on offense, two true freshmen — Justin Hardee (five catches, 99 yards) and Dami Ayoola (55 yards on eight carries, including a 28-yard touchdown) — had big days.

‘‘That’s what this program’s going to need,’’ Beckman said. ‘‘It’s going to be about a lot of young players playing. We don’t have a bunch of depth.’’

2-point question

When Illinois went for a two-point conversion that resulted in an incomplete pass after its opening touchdown, some might have been wondering if Ron Zook had returned.

Not so. Always looking for an edge, Beckman said he went for two points with Illinois leading 6-0 and 10:28 left in the first quarter to send a message that opponents need to be on guard.

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