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Indiana capitalizes on Illinois’ mistakes, making homecoming a downer

Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase is surrounded before being sacked. The Hoosiers got him seven times. | Seth Perlman~AP

Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase is surrounded before being sacked. The Hoosiers got to him seven times. | Seth Perlman~AP

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Updated: November 29, 2012 6:50AM

CHAMPAIGN — After Indiana had ruined Illinois’ homecoming Saturday by taking a two-touchdown lead with 5:48 left in the game, the Marching ­Illini broke into a rousing rendition of ‘‘In the Mood’’ while the crowd headed for the exits.

Nice timing, huh?

Everything that can go wrong continued to go wrong for the Illini, who lost 31-17 to the struggling Hoosiers.

How is embattled coach Tim Beckman holding up?

‘‘I’m doing awesome. How do I look?’’ said the Illini coach, who’s paddling like crazy in a sea of mounting losses and hostility from Illini Nation. ‘‘I’ve lost 22 pounds. Do you think I like losing? I haven’t been around it. I hate it. We’ll just continue to go, plug forward. I’ve learned a lot. But I don’t like losing. I hate it.’’

This is what the Illinois job does to grown men.

The Illini (2-6, 0-4 Big Ten) played harder and better than they had lately. Donovonn Young ran for a career-high 124 yards. Darius Millines caught five passes for 80 yards. Nathan Scheelhaase fought off seven sacks to pass for 176 yards.

But the defense and special teams made some horribly timed mistakes, leaving Illinois saddled with its 10th consecutive Big Ten loss.

Indiana (3-5, 1-3), which snapped a five-game losing streak, converted Illinois’ two turnovers into 10 points while not giving up points on its lone giveaway.

Hoosiers backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld, the 6-5 freshman who came in after sophomore Cameron Coffman threw an ill-advised pass that was picked off, also benefitted from a couple of critical mistakes among Illinois’ eight penalties for 81 yards.

On one, Illini defensive end Justin Staples was whistled for a hit out of bounds on Sudfeld. Instead of going three-and-out, the Hoosiers kept alive a drive that allowed them to tie the score at 14.

On Indiana’s next possession, Tommy Davis fumbled the punt return, giving the Hoosiers the ball at the Illini 22-yard line. Then defensive tackle Glenn Foster jumped offside on fourth-and-one at the 13. On the next play, Indiana took a 21-14 lead.

Nice timing, huh?

Early in the third quarter, Young fumbled trying to eke out extra yardage, giving the Hoosiers a gift field goal.

‘‘We came out and did some things that we thought were good,’’ Beckman said. ‘‘We had 372 yards of offense. We held them to 292 yards of offense. That ain’t good enough. The scoreboard is what counts.’’

Coming off a bye week, Illinois was intent on accomplishing something at its 102nd homecoming. Beckman, who loves slogans and parables, put up ‘‘Own the Day: 10.27.12’’ posters in Illinois’ squad rooms.

‘‘We’re all pressing too much, trying to do too much,’’ defensive end Michael Buchanan said. ‘‘Glenn didn’t mean to go offside. He wanted to make a play. Stapes didn’t mean to knock the guy out of bounds. He just wanted to make a play.’’

The problem is, timing is ­everything. And timing is one of the many things Illinois doesn’t have.

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