CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Heading into its second bye week of the season, Illinois finds itself staring at three serious defensive problems and a Big Ten schedule that doesn't relent.
Illinois (3-2, 0-1 Big Ten) emphasized one of the issues — poor tackling — during its first bye after the loss to Washington last month. The team's inability to create turnovers or get pressure on opposing quarterbacks is related, and also will get serious looks over the off week coach Tim Beckman said Tuesday.
Tackling, Beckman said, was a painful problem in Saturday's 39-19 loss at Nebraska.
"Defensively, again it comes down to tackling, especially in the open field," he said. "That's the glaring difficulty that we're having right now. ... We're going to work on doing a better job of open-field tackling."
That's essentially what Beckman and his players said after the loss to Washington. The Huskies rolled up more than 600 yards in the win.
Nebraska had 521 yards of offense. Running back Ameer Abdullah had a career day — 225 yards on 20 carries, including a 43-yarder, and two touchdowns.
The other problems, though, are becoming more glaring as Illinois moves through the tougher Big Ten season.
The Illini have forced just five turnovers this season, and only one interception. Their turnover margin, minus-2, is tied for 88th in the country. And that single interception is three less than Purdue, Indiana and Wisconsin, the only other Big Ten teams with fewer than five picks.
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