Beckman, Hope try to weather storm

A five-game losing streak isn't the weight-loss plan Illinois coach Tim Beckman had envisioned.

"How do I look? I've lost 22 pounds," the first-year Illini boss revealed this week. "You think I like losing?"

Beckman joked Tuesday that he needed to lose the weight, and that his wife is pleased. But a rough initial campaign in Champaign seems to be taking a toll on Beckman, who also had the sideline chewing-tobacco incident earlier this month.

Keep in mind Beckman's Toledo teams won eight games in each of the past two seasons. He previously had served as an assistant for successful teams at Oklahoma State, Ohio State and Bowling Green. So this isn't exactly familiar territory.

"You want to win, and you're in this profession to win," Beckman said. "I am proud of the way that our players have handled this, but again, they want to win, too. ... I have not been involved in it that much, the losing aspect. I want to win. That's as easily as I can say it."

Beckman and Purdue coach Danny Hope both are dealing with plenty of disappointment this season. Beckman took over an Illinois team that, while flat-lining late last season, had won bowl games in each of the past two years. Purdue also won its bowl game in 2011, and returned the most starters in the Big Ten to a team Hope consistently touted as his best in West Lafayette.

Yet halfway through the conference campaign, both Illinois and Purdue sit at 0-4. One team is guaranteed to win a league game -- Purdue visits Illinois on Nov. 17 -- but both programs are struggling and both coaches are feeling the heat.

Hope, whose typically sunny outlook annoys some Purdue fans, isn't wavering despite the losses, saying Tuesday, "I am positive, not staying positive. There's a big difference."

"You hope that you surrounded yourself with the right coaches and players that can do something besides just being ordinary when you're going through tough times," he continued. "This is a time for extraordinary people, not ordinary people. I believe we have enough extraordinary people around us to still manufacture a good season. There is still a lot to be played for or to play for. There are four games left -- a third of the season. We can still win seven regular-season ballgames. I believe there are only 25 times in the history of Purdue football we've won seven games or more."

Even if Illinois loses out, Beckman is expected to return for his second season in 2013. Hope's situation, meanwhile, is shakier, even though he received a two-year contract extension in December.

Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke, in response to requests for comment about Hope's status, issued a statement Monday about the football program, in which he echoed some of what Hope said about one-third of the season left to play but never mentioned Hope by name.

"I read it, but didn't pay a whole lot of attention to it, or didn't try to read between the lines any," Hope said. "I think it's a pretty generic statement."

If things don't turn around soon, Burke could be making a more specific statement about Hope, one Donald Trump has popularized. Purdue has been pummeled in three of its four Big Ten games, twice on its home field. Hope thought his team had gained confidence after nearly upsetting Ohio State on Oct. 20 in Columbus, but Purdue fell behind 44-7 at Minnesota.

The Boilers hope Robert Marve -- the quarterback most Purdue fans have wanted to see all season -- can provide a spark for the home stretch this week against Penn State. Illinois will need much more to beat Ohio State on the road as 27-point underdogs.

"This football team's going into every game to win," Beckman said. "They've been practicing as hard as we've asked them to. It's just, we've got to win a football game."