Updated: November 24, 2011 8:34AM
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Did the Illini get starry-eyed during their 6-0 start, and start playing tight when their assumptions became distractions? They wouldn’t be the first team team to do that.
“I wouldn’t say we’ve tightened up,” linebacker Jonathan Brown said. “But a lot of guys experienced something they’ve never experienced before. We were 6-0. We had a chance to make a run at the BCS national championship. Now people are starting to realize what’s at stake.”
And that would be. . . just playing the games and seeing where that leads.
“It could have been [a problem],” QB Nathan Scheelhaase said. “But last week, I know I was brought down [by Ohio State] to ground zero, for sure. If they didn’t get a slap in the face last week, today was.”
Outsiders who say Illinois is playing tight will have a lot of support on the recent tapes.
What about Nate?
It wasn’t the best day for Scheelhaase, who failed to throw a TD pass for the first time in nine Big Ten games. But the sophomore, who was sacked four times, would benefit from better play around him.
“I’m going to tell Nathan, ‘It isn’t all on you. You can’t put it on you’,” coach Ron Zook said.
Wonder if Zook is saying that to himself, too?
Even though it’s their shortest Big Ten trip, there’s something about Ross-Ade Stadium that doesn’t agree with Illinois. Two years ago, the Illini lost 24-14 here to fall to 1-6. At halftime, then-athletic director Ron Guenther answered pressure to fire Zook by saying, “There will be no changes at the top.”
This was the fourth straight loss at Ross-Ade for Illinois. All have been pretty humbling.