CHAMPIAGN, Ill. – Illinois will need to exorcise the dark mood that set in after Saturday's loss to Purdue.
That may be a tough assignment.
The Illini (3-3, 0-2 Big Ten) came into the game expecting a win over the Boilermakers and instead carried away a 38-27 defeat. And Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt left the game in the fourth quarter with a calf injury, the severity of which isn't yet known.
Add to that the date Saturday with a Wisconsin team coming off an upset loss to Northwestern, and Illinois will be challenged to avoid letting the Purdue loss become the domino that sets others tumbling.
"It's over, it's done with," offensive coordinator Bill Cubit first insisted before admitting he wasn't quite ready to let go. "I'm sure I'll be thinking about it. I'll lie in bed and not get much sleep."
Linebacker Mason Monheim said Illinois expected the Purdue game to be win No. 4. He said the team won't fold but in the aftermath he didn't sound like he knew yet how to move on, either.
"It just hurts, I don't really have an answer for you," he said.
Illinois will start with an evaluation of Lunt.
The redshirt sophomore left the game early in the fourth quarter after a big hit, but said hits over the course of the game aggravated a calf injury suffered weeks earlier against Washington.
"It's like a contusion in my calf. It's really tight, hard to put pressure on it so we'll get an X-ray and see what's going on with it," Lunt said.
The injury is the second this season that's cost him playing time. The other, to his right knee, kept him out of the Nebraska game.
The Illini need Lunt healthy. The passing game without him isn't nearly as dangerous as it is with him, and Illinois' run game is limited. The Illini ran for just 65 yards on 25 carries against the Boilermakers Saturday.
The bigger problem continues to be the defense.
Purdue had 551 total yards, 349 of them on the ground. That's from a team that came into the game averaging 312 total yards.
"You work so hard," a subdued Tim Banks, the Illinois defensive coordinator, said. "We knew coming into the game that those guys wanted to run the football."
It won't get easier with Wisconsin (3-2, 0-1). Even in the Northwestern loss, Melvin Gordon ran for 259 yards.
A chorus of Illini fans called on Twitter in the hours after the game for the ouster of Illinois coach Tim Beckman, with some throwing Banks' name in, too.
Beckman, who has coached under pressure since his team won two games in his first season in Champaign, said there's still time for his team to turn its season around.
"We've got to regroup, knowing that we have six football games left," he said.
Follow David Mercer on Twitter: https://twitter.com/davidmercerap.