Bittersweet day for Brasic

Illinois quarterback Tim Brasic releases a pass just before getting tackled by an Indiana defender Saturday in Bloomington, Ind. Peter Hoffman

Illinois quarterback Tim Brasic releases a pass just before getting tackled by an Indiana defender Saturday in Bloomington, Ind. Peter Hoffman

By Derek Barichello

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – It was a bittersweet day for quarterback Tim Brasic.

On one hand, he was 22 of 39 passing for 230 yards and a touchdown, gaining 34 yards on the ground. On the other hand, it was two interceptions and a fumble that led to 21 Indiana points and an Illinois loss.

Brasic said the fumble was the turning point of the game.

With 10:38 left in the fourth quarter, the Illini were at midfield driving for the tie. On third-and-six, Brasic was unable to find an open receiver, so he decided to scramble. After getting what appeared to be a first down, rather than sliding to the turf, Brasic attempted to gain more yards. That gamble proved to be fatal, as he was hit by one Indiana defender and then another, causing the ball to come flying out and into the hands of the Hoosiers.

“I’m at a loss for words,” Brasic said. “We had the momentum going. I gave them the ball and you can’t do that. You can’t do that on the road, you can’t do that in a situation like that, and I’m going to hold myself responsible.”

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The Hoosiers capitalized quickly on the costly fumble, going 57 yards on five plays, ending with an 18-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Blake Powers to Marcus Thigpen.

“The fumble was a turning point, I believe,” Brasic said. “That really hurt the team.”

Brasic’s first interception came with 51 seconds left in the first half in Illini territory that led to an Indiana touchdown, giving the Hoosiers a 21-10 lead.

“My arm got hit,” Brasic said. “I had a post out open on the strong side of the field. That stuff happens.”

The second interception came in the fourth quarter when the Illini were already down and out. With 3:46 left in the game, Brasic threw an interception at their own 23-yard line, setting up another Indiana touchdown.

Offensive coordinator Mike Locksley did not excuse Brasic’s miscues, but said he was not the only one to blame.

“Unfortunately, our pass protection is not giving him a whole bunch of time,” Locksley said. “We need to keep coaching up, and demand catching the ball and executing at a higher level.”

Brasic, who had his finest day statistically since coming to Illinois, said he felt more comfortable in the pocket on Saturday.

“I feel like I’m getting better and better with every play,” Brasic said.

Brasic said that although it was a frustrating performance, he is staying positive.

“We still believe we are winners,” Brasic said. “I’m going to keep my head up and continue playing hard.”

Locksley, who has been part of rebuilding process at other schools, said it is never easy.

“Rebuilding is always a painful process,” Locksley said. “Sometimes you show flashes of brilliance, then other teams you beat yourself with a lack of execution.”