Illinois defense: Louisiana Tech’s pace didn’t cause problems

The Illinois football team trailed Louisiana Tech by just four points going into halftime Saturday, but the momentum didn’t last long because the Bulldogs needed just 45 seconds to extend the lead to 11.

Illinois quarterback Colby Cameron hit Louisiana Tech wide receiver Quinton Patton for a 78-yard strike on the second play from scrimmage, silencing the Illini home crowd of 46,539. The Bulldogs offense was able to strike quickly against Illinois all night long en route to a 52-24 victory. During the game, Louisiana Tech scored on four drives of five plays or fewer.

Louisiana Tech runs a “high-tempo offense”:, but the Illini didn’t think it was the speed of the Bulldogs that caused problems.

“We prepared for that all week,” defensive end Michael Buchanan said. “I wouldn’t say that was the problem. (It was) poor tackling and guys not being where they’re supposed to be.”

Linebacker Jonathan Brown put it simply: “It wasn’t the tempo — it was us.”

Louisiana Tech has had seven scoring drives of one minute or less through three games this season, including the two against Illinois on Saturday. Bulldogs wide receiver Quinton Patton eluded the Illini defense for six receptions, 164 yards and two touchdowns.

Illinois’ secondary struggled to cover Louisiana Tech, surrendering four passes of 20 or more yards.

“They put (us) in a situation sometimes where it’s one-on-one because (we’re) trying to stop the run game,” head coach Tim Beckman said. “They ended up being good football players that ended up making some big plays.”

Illinois defensive coordinator Tim Banks said the Illini were confident in their one-on-one abilities but were simply beat by a good team. Patton blew by Illinois’ Terry Hawthorne for his third-quarter touchdown, and once the ball was in his hands, Hawthorne had no chance of catching him.

“I was telling coach that I can win on the post,” Patton said of the play. “We tried it earlier in the game, and Colby got a little pressure up front. It was there, but we had to go back to it. We finally hooked up for a big play.”

Patton said shutting up Memorial Stadium on that play was the best feeling in the world.

The Illini’s six turnovers didn’t give their defense much of a chance to rest. Quarterback Reilly O’Toole said the offense’s giveaways provided the Bulldogs with a short field.

Louisiana Tech hasn’t started 3-0 since 1997 and has scored 50 or more points in three straight games for the first time in program history.

“We played a good team today,” Banks said. “I don’t think they’re 52 points good, but at the end of the day, that’s what happened.”

The Bulldogs scored 31 consecutive points in the second half, sending much of the crowd to the exits early. The Illini had won four straight night games at Memorial Stadium. The mood in the home locker room after the game was rightfully subdued.

“We get embarrassed on our own field in front of our fans and in the night game,” Buchanan said. “I’m pretty sure that I can speak for the rest of my teammates: We’re very embarrassed about this loss, and we’ve got to get things fixed.”

Sean can be reached at [email protected] and @sean_hammond.