Illinois remains off the rails after a 23-point loss against Minnesota on Saturday.
This week, Lovie Smith started off his weekly presser with his usual, “Of course, disappointing. Sometimes we just don’t have it, for whatever reason. Just didn’t play well.”
Well there was a reason the Illini didn’t have it, and that reason is poor coaching. And no Illinois fan is sure how this team can improve while Lovie Smith remains the head coach.
But Smith isn’t the only coach that needs work. Offensive coordinator Rod Smith took responsibility by saying he thought the Illini were ready for Minnesota.
“We didn’t coach well enough to put them in the right situations and execute like they should have,” Rod Smith said. “We’ve got to do better, have to coach better.”
The coaching staff has had plenty of time to figure this team out and how to play them — Illinois has plenty of talent to be more than just a 2-3 team going into the most challenging time of the season.
The ball game was not controlled on Saturday, and the Illini’s defense isn’t as equipped to stay on the field for as long as they do — something that the coaching staff also knows.
“We’re a running football team,” Lovie Smith said. “A running football team has to be able to run the ball.”
The ball needs to be run more and the offense needs to be more controlled as far as time on the field.
According to linebacker Jake Hansen, he thinks the biggest issue defensively is the tackling.
“In some spots we have to be more aggressive,” Hansen said. “I think a lot of it is the tackling problem and that gets fixed in practice.”
Illinois doesn’t tackle too much in practice, mostly to avoid injuries, and although it has helped avoid injuries, it seems to have hurt the Illini on the field.
Reggie Corbin said he takes the every loss on his shoulders.
“They’re all painful,” he said. “No loss is worse than the other.”
Corbin didn’t find the same success against Minnesota as he did last year, rushing for just 68 yards on 14 carries.
Three losses in a row are disheartening for the Illini. It raises the question of where the Illini go from here, and when it’s clear what mistakes are being made, what more will it take for the program to improve?
“After a loss you have to question a lot of different things,” Hansen said. “But at the end of the day you still have to come back to work and have confidence in what you’re doing and keep working hard.”