CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — The plays were different but the reactions from Illinois offensive and defensive coordinators Barry Lunney Jr. and Ryan Walters, respectively, were the same on Monday: “Wish we could have had that one back.” The two coaches were in unison about two separate big moments in the Illini’s 23-20 loss at Indiana Friday night. First a goal line stand from the Hoosiers early in the fourth quarter that played a critical role in the outcome. With 1st and Goal from the Indiana six-yard line, the Illini couldn’t punch it in the end zone, electing to go for it on fourth down and Chase Brown getting stuffed behind the line of scrimmage.
“It kind of got in that awkward area where you’re so close to the goal line but you’re still like a yard and a half and I didn’t put our guys in a position to succeed and that’s something that I’ve got to own and certainly have and will and learn from it,” Lunney Jr. said. “The next opportunity I have to be better prepared for our guys to punch the ball in the end zone, that’s the bottom line.”
The second segment of plays leaving the Illini in search of a second chance came later in the fourth quarter. The Illinois defense had only allowed 70 yards of total offense in the second half before Indiana orchestrated a 12-play, 75-yard drive that took less than two minutes to complete. It ended up being the game winning score, leaving Walters asking what could have been on Monday during his first media availability since the game.
“I thought we got a little bit tentative, a little bit cautious and some of the techniques we play with was uncharacteristic there,” said Walters. “I’ve got to do a better job though of calming us down in those situations but they executed and we didn’t. Wish we could have that one back for sure.”
Penalties, mental errors and turnovers were the main issues for Illinois head coach Bret Bielema in the team’s first loss of the season. The Illini committed five more penalties than the Hoosiers, with eight flags totaling 81 yards. The team was also minus-two in the turnover battle, losing three fumbles and throwing an interception. Combine those with mental mistakes and it all adds up to leaving Bloomington with a loss. For Bielema, it’s all part of correcting the mistakes and the process of building a program.
“Here at Illinois we haven’t done a lot of great things right, in the last 15-20 years,” Bielema said. “There’s been moments, moments of flash and positivity but it’s kind of us against everyone. When you’re in a position that we are at right now, we have to not only beat our opponent but beat everybody that we face. We have to preform at a level that’s above the expectation for us to get the respect that we want to get so we not only have a chip on our left shoulder, we probably have one on our right shoulder.”
Bielema announced on Monday freshman wide receiver Shawn Miller will miss the remainder of the season with an injury, and will undergo surgery. Other injury notes: Danville native Julian Pearl got hurt last Thursday, the day before the Indiana game, and wasn’t able to go. Bielema says he “should be good to go” for this Saturday’s game against Virginia.
Illinois hosts Virginia at 3 p.m. on ESPNU Saturday afternoon.