- Associated Press - Sunday, August 10, 2014

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - Veteran University of Illinois football players and head coach Tim Beckman said Sunday their goal is to reach a bowl game this season after missing out the last two years.

Senior offensive lineman Michael Heitz spent a portion of the Fighting Illini media day reminiscing about the team’s 20-14 win against UCLA in the 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.

“The older guys, we know what the bowl games are like and how they go,” Heitz said. “We know what we’re missing out on. The younger kids haven’t had a taste of it yet to know how hard it is in December when you’re going home.”

The (Champaign) News-Gazette reports (http://bit.ly/1kUzSEz ) that Heitz is one on the few left on the roster to have such a memory. He’s one of two starters who played in the bowl game against UCLA.

Reaching a bowl game may also be vital for coach Beckman to keep his job.

Illinois’ five previous coaches each saw their teams make at least one bowl game appearance by their third season.

Beckman was hired in December 2011. Of 13 Big Ten schools eligible for bowl games in 2012 and 2013, Illinois is one of two teams that haven’t played in postseason games.

Beckman, who is 6-18 in his first two seasons at Illinois, said he wants the experience for his players.

“To me, the reward is opportunities to go to bowl games. It’s not about getting a backpack or something like that. It’s an opportunity to go somewhere in this country that a lot of them have never been. Whatever we can do to make sure that we can reward their heart that they’ve given us.”

___

Information from: The News-Gazette, http://www.news-gazette.com