CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Illinois coach Tim Beckman isn't calling last weekend's 31-14 loss to Wisconsin a victory, moral or otherwise.
But the first-year head coach said Monday he saw at least some of what he needs to from the Illini (2-4, 0-2 Big Ten) in the first 45 minutes of the 31-14 loss in Madison.
"It was a four-quarter football game, I think we played three," Beckman said. "In the game of football you've got to finish."
Now as the Illini prepare for another tough road test at No. 25 Michigan (3-2, 1-0) Beckman says his team needs to learn how to finish games.
After suffering back-to-back blowout losses to Louisiana Tech and Penn State, Beckman and some Illini players say that even three solid quarters is an improvement.
Illinois trailed 10-7 at the end of the third quarter.
"I know definitely we did three quarters of very sound football," said safety Steve Hull, who posted an apology for the loss on Twitter after the game. "As a result we held them to very short run yardages. I think defensively we can build on those three quarters and put together a complete game."
"We were in that game," center Graham Pocic added. "If we score a little bit more in the red zone it might be a different game."
While it didn't actually waste any trips inside the Badgers' 20 on Saturday, Illinois did make two trips inside the Wisconsin 35 that didn't yield points — one ending in a Nathan Scheelhaase interception and the other with a missed field goal attempt by Taylor Zalewski.
And when the Illini made late mistakes, Wisconsin capitalized.