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Watch now: Illinois captain Tony Adams Jr. looks inward after UTSA loss, plans to 'shake back' at Virginia

Watch now: Illinois captain Tony Adams Jr. looks inward after UTSA loss, plans to 'shake back' at Virginia

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Tony Adams Jr., Illinois

Fifth-year cornerback Tony Adams Jr. and the rest of Illinois' defensive secondary struggled against UTSA.

CHAMPAIGN — Tony Adams Jr. always takes things personally. He can't help it.

He doesn't do so in an arrogant or defensive manner, but rather from a place of honesty and humility. So before critiquing anyone else's performance in Illinois' 37-30 home loss to UTSA on Saturday, the Illini's fifth-year cornerback pointed the finger squarely at himself when he was asked about the Roadrunners' offensive success, particularly through the air.

"I'm not talking about anybody play except for my own," Adams said after the game. "I gave up some key third downs. I wasn't in the positions I needed to be. I didn't play up to the standard that I hold myself (to) and I need to play at. So I can't talk about anybody but myself."

UTSA, led by quarterback Frank Harris, converted 9 of 17 third downs, including five straight on back-to-back touchdown drives to take a 14-0 lead in the first half Saturday. Harris completed 20 of 32 passes for 280 yards and one score, and rushed for 33 yards and a TD to propel the Roadrunners to their second Power Five win in the program's 10-year history.

Zakhari Franklin was on the other end of Harris' lone touchdown pass and many other passes in the team's first matchup with a Big Ten opponent. The junior wide receiver had his way with Illinois' defensive secondary, recording eight catches for 123 yards in the first half and 10 catches for a career-high 155 yards in the game.

Adams, who is one of six team captains and the Illini's only captain among defensive backs, felt that his squad made it tougher on Franklin and the rest of UTSA's receivers after halftime. Instead of playing off of the Roadrunners and allowing them to run freely underneath, Illinois defensive coordinator Ryan Walters opted for more press coverage, forcing Harris to try to beat the team over the top.

"It was just getting up in they face," Adams said. "Earlier we were just letting them complete balls. When we got up in they face, it got better. But we still gotta do better.

"I gotta do better."

On Monday, Walters said he appreciates Adams' ability to look inward and that every player on the team must "swallow your pride" and own their mistakes.

First-year Illini coach Bret Bielema isn't surprised by Adams' willingness to do both of those things publicly with the media and privately among his peers.

"It's just kind of how Tony's wired," Bielema said Monday. "He's a guy that's been around a lot. He takes a lot of pride in how he plays, but also how he helps the younger guys. I think as the game went on he played a lot better himself on Saturday. He's a guy that is detail-oriented. As soon as I started talking to him when I tried to get him to come back (for a fifth season), you could tell everything you say to him he processes. Sometimes that is a very, very positive thing, and sometimes you gotta just let stuff go a little bit.

"I think everybody's gonna take a step forward after (film review) Sunday, and I'm sure Tony will as well."

Despite his self-proclaimed miscues, Adams finished with seven tackles and two pass breakups against UTSA. He is confident that it's not a matter of if he and his team will "shake back" but when. Illinois' first opportunity to do so is this upcoming Saturday at Virginia, which opened its season with a 43-0 home victory over William & Mary last week.

"Being a captain, (it's about) taking your losses how you take your wins. Take it on the chin and keep it pushing," Adams said. " ... We came out here, we gave a game up to a good football team. So I just gotta wear it on my shoulder and move on to the next game.

"You never enjoy losing. You hate it, but you gotta shake back. That's the only thing you can do, you feel me? Because a loss can kill you. It can kill your confidence, kill your spirit, so you can't let it do that."


Follow James Boyd on Twitter: @RomeovilleKid

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