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Illinois no match for Louisiana Tech in blowout loss

3-9-07 Staff mug shot Herb Gould. phoby Jean Lachat/Sun-Times

3-9-07 Staff mug shot of Herb Gould. photo by Jean Lachat/Sun-Times

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Updated: October 24, 2012 6:51AM

CHAMPAIGN — The good news is, the Big Ten is looking more and more wide-open, especially in the Leaders Division.

Preseason favorite Wisconsin continued to look mortal while surviving a 37-26 skirmish Satur-
day against UTEP. With Ohio State and Penn State — who aren’t so hot, either — banned from postseason play for gross misconduct, there seems to be an opportunity for a team that’s hungry and can get its act together.

The bad news is, Illinois sure doesn’t look like that team.

The Illini were roughed up by Louisiana Tech 52-24 on Saturday at Memorial Stadium. Attendance was announced at 46,539, but it sounded more like 539 in a moribund second half.

Give credit to the Bulldogs (3-0),
who entered the game averaging 56 points and lived up to their hype as the No. 3 scoring machine in the nation. And give Illinois (2-2)
a lot of homework to do, especially when it has the ball.

The Illini committed six turnovers (five lost fumbles and an interception). That meant Louisiana Tech, which lost three fumbles, won the turnover battle 6-3.

‘‘I’ll just start by saying how disappointed we are,’’ said Illinois coach Tim Beckman, who looked as though he had seen a ghost. ‘‘You can’t turn over the ball six times. That’s inexcusable. And you can’t give up long strikes in the passing game like we did.’’

Beckman, though, said he isn’t reading too much into this game or the 45-14 disaster Sept. 8 at Arizona State.

‘‘We still believe in what we
believe in,’’ Beckman said. ‘‘I haven’t been through many things like this one. We’re going to have to get back to the basics and do what we do and try to get ourselves better.’’

The Illini defense, which has some talented personnel, held up its end of the deal for a while. It might even do some good things in the Big Ten, where it won’t have to contend with offenses such as those of Louisiana Tech and Arizona State. But Illinois knows it wins and loses as a team.

‘‘We just didn’t play well in all three phases,’’ defensive end
Michael Buchanan said. ‘‘I can’t
really describe [the feeling]. I think I can speak for my teammates when I say we’re very embarrassed.’’

The offense has bigger issues. Quarterback Nate Scheelhaase, who was playing for the first time since he sprained his left ankle in the Illini’s season-opening victory against Western Michigan, played the first quarter.

Scheelhaase, who committed two turnovers, didn’t look like the aggressive competitor who started the first 27 games of his career.

‘‘I just have to get back to the point where I can run away from people,’’ Scheelhaase said. ‘‘[The ankle] was good enough to play. I’m just not as fast as I wish I was.’’

Reilly O’Toole replaced Scheelhaase at the end of the first quarter and played the last three quarters.

‘‘We put some good drives
together,’’ O’Toole said. ‘‘But you can’t turn the ball over, plain and simple.’’

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