As I write this, there is a Purdue fan on TV dancing with joy. The game's not over, they just started the 4th quarter, but it's over. The Illini have been about as-- Purdue just scored again. It's 38-27.
Tim Beckman stands on the sideline with a blank face -- he doesn't look confused, angry, downtrodden, or at work trying to make a comeback -- his face is just blank. Does he hear the death knoll toll?
The offense is driving down the field, trying to make it seem like they're the better team. Wes Lunt goes down with some kind of leg injury. He's been fighting through it for most of the second half. I do commend him for the game he's produced. Not only has he fought through an injury, but he's thrown 332 yards and 2 touchdowns and the Illini do still have a chance to win. But there not necessari-- What?!? A blocked field goal?! What else can possibly go wrong?
This defense has been atrocious all day, so bad that it almost seems blatant. There are multiple wide-open running lanes for Purdue's running back Akeem Hunt and quarterback Austin Appleby, who is starting his first career game. They both ran all over the Illini defense, who looked overmatched from the start -- unwilling to make a tackle or even get in the way (except Mason Monheim, I partially excuse him). They allowed 8.7 -- EIGHT POINT FREAKING SEVEN -- yards per rush, 349 total rushing yards and 4 touchdowns to a team that previously ranked 89th nationally in rushing offense. Add on 202 yards of passing and the Illini have given up 551 total yards.
Illinois can't. They just can't. Can't what? Can't anything.
Ok, that's slight overkill. Absolute devastation is making me say things I probably shouldn't. (I even blamed Tom Fornelli for making me a Tim Beckman believer.) There has been a shortage of bright spots today but they've only come on offense.
As previously mentioned, Lunt had a pretty good day. He still has that arm that makes long throws look easy, yet he sometimes can't make the short throws. In the third quarter, the Illini offense made it into the redzone and immediately threw an incomplete backwards pass, aka: a fumble, which was recovered by Purdue. I'm not sure I've ever seen a college quarterback who can throw beautiful deep bombs like Lunt, but there are dozens of quarterbacks who can throw better short throws.
The thickest layer of the silver lining is Mike Dudek, the freshman receiver who catches all. He made 8 catches for 200 yards. He continues to impress beyond what any of us could've hoped. But the powers of Lunt and Dudek and the rest of the offense cannot raise enough hope to offset the gloom of Illinois' football future. Today marks the last moment of faith in head coach Tim Beckman.
He is a dead man walking.
He's had two and a half years to rebuild this program, and with it he's produced a single B1G win with little to no improvement whatsoever. The team is flat and unprepared every week. Illinois has been in a holding pattern of futility for years, waiting for Beckman to make a step forward. He hasn't. The waiting is over, we restart from here.
I doubt Athletic Director Mike Thomas will make any changes in the middle of the season. We'll have to wait another two months, but you can be sure it will happen. It's going to be a long two months but it will have a payoff at the end.
I don't usually like the phrase, but in this case it applies:
When does basketball start?