Beckman’s job security in question

Illinois’ head coach Tim Beckman speaks to the officials during the homecoming game against Minnesota at Memorial Stadium on Oct. 25. The Illini must win their final two games to make a bowl game.

By Sean Neumann

Illinois head coach Tim Beckman said Monday he has been given no assurances by athletic director Mike Thomas regarding his job security for next season.

“It’s about winning and I understand that,” Beckman said.

The Illini are 4-6 (1-5 Big Ten) this season and have been 10-24 (2-20) in the past three seasons under the head coach.

Beckman said he and Thomas meet in the coach’s office every Wednesday morning to discuss what they can do to improve the Illini football program.

“He’s a phenomenal athletic director,” Beckman said. “He’s always asking me, ‘What can we do to help build this program?’”

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There’s been speculation on Beckman’s firing since an early October loss to Purdue at home. The team has lost six of its last eight games.

“I’ve been around winning my whole life,” Beckman said. “This isn’t something that I enjoy by any means.”

Facing the possibility of his third consecutive losing season at Illinois, Beckman has focused on the team’s improvements — increasing the number of wins each year and still fighting for bowl eligibility heading into the final two games this season.

“I want to win for these kids,” Beckman said. “I want nothing but for these kids to experience what it’s like to change something.”

Injuries on the offensive line

Illinois’ offense struggled to get anything going against Iowa on Saturday, gaining a season-low 235 yards of total offense.

Two starting offensive linemen — junior guard Ted Karras and senior tackle Simon Cvijanovic — were absent with injuries against the Hawkeyes, leaving jumbled protection for quarterback Wes Lunt. 

Karras will be out for the rest of the season after tearing his ACL and MCL in his knee in a 55-14 loss to Ohio State.

Cvijanovic suffered a left shoulder injury against the Buckeyes. Beckman would not comment on the nature of the injury but said the senior is day-to-day and a decision will be made Thursday if he will play against Penn State.

Offensive coordinator Bill Cubit said redshirt freshman Christian DiLauro and junior Chris O’Connor were impressive while filling in Saturday.

“We have to figure out what we want to do with the center and the guard,” Cubit said. “With Joe (Spencer) and Alex (Hill), is Joe a better center? If Joe plays center, is Alex better there? Who knows with those guys there, so we’ll fool around with that.”

The Illini will need to be strong up front against Penn State with pass protection and opening lanes rushing the ball, going up against the third-ranked defense in the country of the Nittany Lions.

Offensive mistakes

 Illinois’ mental lapses on offense were costly in the loss to Iowa.

Lunt threw for a season-low 102 yards and completed a season-low 56 percent of his passes in his first game since early October.

“There’s going to be a higher intensity this week just knowing we have to win these last two,” Lunt said.

Illinois had eight penalties against Iowa, while the Hawkeyes had one. It was the biggest difference between Illinois and its opponent this season, and the mistakes proved costly, stalling drives, taking away first down conversions and setting the team back 59 yards in total.

And when talking about fixing those mistakes, Cubit echoed a sentiment about the Illini players that applies to the mood of the program all around.

“It’s not lack of effort,” Cubit said. “It’s just sometimes you’ve got to be almost perfect.”

Sean can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @neumannthehuman.