The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Sports

September 3, 2013

Illini looking to build

CHAMPAIGN — Illinois football fans were not the only ones disappointed in Saturday’s hard-fought 42-34 win over Southern Illinois at Memorial Stadium.

Senior linebacker Jonathan Brown and his roommate, junior safety Earnest Thomas, spent their Saturday night watching the game.

“I wasn’t satisfied. I felt like we have things that we have to improve on,’’ said Brown. “We saw a couple of mental errors, little things that we can improve on like fitting better on defense. Overall, nothing too big. Everything I saw can be corrected.’’

But was it easier watching the film after a victory, the first for the Illini since a 44-0 win over Charleston Southern on Sept. 15, 2012?

“It’s definitely easier,’’ he said. “It might not have been the prettiest win, but it was a win. So it’s something you can build on. The morale around here is whole lot better. It’s always easier to watch the film after a win.’’

The Illinois defense, which will face a very talented Cincinnati team this week, gave up 17 points in the final 17 minutes, 48 seconds, and Illinois coach Tim Beckman pointed out that six sophomores or freshmen played in the defensive secondary for the Illini.

“We’re very, very young back there,’’ he said. “I’ve mentioned that from the start. I was real happy with the way we played in the first half. Now the second half is a whole another question.

“There are definitely things that we can learn from each W that we get. This program is about winning and we have to learn how to win.’’

And while the defensive secondary allowed 341 passing yards against Southern Illinois, an FCS school, Beckman said the entire unit needs improvement.

“Defensively, we gave up the long ball too much,’’ he said. “Experience, again, shows that we are going to have to improve that each and every week. Because, people are going to attack you off the things you didn’t do so well in your first game.

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