CHAMPAIGN — Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.
That’s what coaches preach to their players all of the time.
On Saturday afternoon, winning wasn’t good enough for a handful of fans behind the University of Illinois bench at Memorial Stadium.
They could be heard yelling at Illinois coach Tim Beckman right after the Fighting Illini survived with a 42-34 win over the Football Championship Subdivision Southern Illinois Salukis.
“I gathered the team up when the game was done, although it was not the most glorious win, I was proud of the way the team fought and did some things today,’’ Beckman said. “It’s a W. This team needs to learn how to win and how to feel after a W.
“I’m pleased with all of them. Ws are hard to come by and that’s what I told this team. We are going to cherish these Ws and we are going to get ready for Cincinnati.’’
Beckman acknowledged that it wasn’t acceptable for the Fighting Illini (1-0) to be outscored 17-3 in the final 17 minutes, 48 seconds.
“These things have to get corrected,’’ he said.
But, it is the first win for Illinois since a 44-0 victory over Charleston Southern on Sept. 15, 2012.
“It wasn’t a perfect win,’’ said Illinois senior wide receiver Ryan Lankford, who had six receptions for 115 yards. “There are plenty of things that we could have done better in all phases of the game. We will grade the film and work on those corrections.’’
Surprisingly, one thing that should grade out very well for the Illini is senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, who threw for a career-high 416 yards and two touchdowns.
“You saw Nathan Scheelhaase have an outstanding game,’’ Beckman said.
But Scheelhaase, as he typically will do, didn’t want to talk just about his success.