CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Anyone listening to coach Tim Beckman before the season knew the Illinois defense might have some problems with the pass.
Last Saturday, the quarterback behind what is probably the most beatable team on Illinois' schedule highlighted just how big that problem might be.
Southern Illinois, led by quarterback Kory Faulkner, piled up 341 passing yards on the Illini (1-0) — 307 of them in the second half — before losing 42-34. That after Illinois led 25-7 at the half.
"I was happy, real happy with the way we played the first half," Beckman said. "The second half is whole other question."
Next on Illinois' schedule is Cincinnati (1-0) at home on Saturday. The Bearcats, who had 222 yards on the ground and 202 more in the air in a 42-7 win over Purdue last Saturday, could be a significantly bigger challenge.
SIU didn't hurt Illinois on the ground, with just 66 yards. But the Salukis didn't have to.
SIU's passing yards and Faulkner's three touchdown passes put Illinois awfully close to joining the list of Bowl Subdivision teams that lost to their little brothers from the Championship Subdivision over Labor Day weekend.
Worse, Beckman said, the game provided a blueprint for any team to follow if the Illini don't start fixing their problems.
"We gave up the long ball too much," he said. "Experience again shows that we're going to have to improve that each and every week because people are going to attack you off the things that you don't do so well every week."
Faulkner completed a 35-yard touchdown pass, plus 66- and 39-yard gains, and he caught a 29-yarder.
Illinois started a junior, two sophomores and a redshirt freshman in the secondary, and two more freshmen saw the field. Earnest Thomas, the junior who started at strong safety, is the only one with much experience.
Quarterback pressure was just as big of a problem.
The Illini never sacked Faulkner, and — with just two quarterback hurries — seldom pressured him.
Beckman credited the Salukis for getting the ball out of the backfield in a hurry. But he also acknowledged that Illinois will have to find a way to get to quarterbacks in the weeks ahead, and it starts with Houston Bates — who plays the Leo position, a hybrid defensive end and linebacker — and defensive end Tim Kynard.
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