2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 3 - Arizona State at Illinois
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Sept. 17 at Illinois 17 ... Arizona State 14
CFN Analysis: COMING
(AP) CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Nathan Scheelhaase threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Jenkins with less than 10 minutes left, and Illinois sacked Arizona State's Brock Osweiler six times in a 17-14 win over the No. 22 Sun Devils on Saturday night.
With Illinois trailing 14-10, defensive end Whitney Mercilus hit Osweiler in the back and knocked the ball loose to linebacker Ian Thomas. Four plays later, Scheelhaase found Jenkins for the winning score.
Scheelhaase was 11 of 15 for 135 yards for Illinois (3-0). He threw one interception but also ran for 67 yards. Jenkins had six catches for 103 yards.
The Sun Devils (2-1) outgained Illinois 362-239. Each team had three turnovers.
Osweiler completed 25 of 45 passes for 256 yards. He ran for a touchdown and threw for another, but also tossed two interceptions.
Mercilus had two sacks, and Jonathan Brown had an interception and a sack that led to another interception.
After two quarters of mistakes, the game turned on two drives in the second half.
With Osweiler under pressure, and the Sun Devils failing to get anything from two drives that started in Illini territory, they decided to keep it on the ground late in the third quarter. Arizona State started at the Illinois 45 after the defense stuffed the Illini at their own 4.
Cameron Marshall, who spent much of the second quarter on the bench because of a leg injury, bounced outside to the right for 16 yards. Two plays later, he carried 265-pound defensive end Whitney Mercilus for 7 yards up the middle.
That set up Osweiler with a first down at the 15.
The quarterback dropped back and then ran through an opening on a draw. No one touched him until he bounced off Illinois cornerback Tavon Wilson one yard deep in the end zone. That gave the Sun Devils their first lead, 14-10, with 14:54 left in the game.
But, after the Sun Devils held the Illini and got the ball back, Illinois' turned the quarterback pressure on again.
On second and 13 at the Arizona State 41, Mercilus delivered a hit to Osweiler's back and the ball to Thomas at the Sun Devil 41.
Scheelhaase then connected with Jenkins for the winning score. The ball was behind Jenkins who stopped to catch it, then spun to his left around a quickly closing defensive back before tiptoeing three yards down the sideline and into the end zone.
The game had more than its share of big plays, big mistakes and near misses.
With The Sun Devils trailing 10-7, but driving deep in Illini territory late in the first quarter, Illinois forced Osweiler into an interception when linebacker blind-sided the 6-foot-8 quarterback in the back as he threw to his right.
The wobbly pass bounced off the back of offensive lineman Dan Knapp and fell into the hands of defensive tackle Glen Foster. No one was more surprised than Foster, and the threat ended.
Illinois returned the favor just over three minutes later when freshman running back Donovonn Young coughed up the ball at the 50. Bo Moos recovered at the Sun Devil 47.
Late in the second quarter, Arizona State had a first down at the Illini 15, but after a close call on a catch in the end zone was ruled incomplete, the Sun Devils were forced to try a 32-yard field goal. Alex Garroutte missed wide left.
With about five minutes to go in the third quarter, Ryan Lankford tried to field a punt by Josh Hubner at his 36 but missed it entirely. The ball bounced off the front of his helmet and right into the hands of Chris Coyle.
But the Sun Devils failed to move the ball and punted after a sack by Thomas.
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Arizona State (2-0) at Illinois (2-0) Sept. 17, 7:00, Big Ten Network
Here’s The Deal … By beating Missouri, 37-30, late last Friday night, Arizona State has helped make this week’s trip to Champaign a whole lot more interesting and meaningful for a national audience. The Sun Devils quieted a bunch of their critics by getting to 2-0 and handling a quality opponent. Now that Dennis Erickson’s program is steadily climbing up the polls and attracting more eyeballs, it’ll need to show it can handle prosperity … outside of Tempe.
Illinois is also unbeaten, but other than it can handle lesser opponents, what has anyone learned about the program? The Sun Devils had their statement win a week ago. The Illini gets its chance on Saturday evening. With a victory over a ranked team, Illinois could supplant Arizona State at the tail end of the Top 25, while helping brush up a Big Ten image that was tarnished a bit in Week 2.
Why Arizona State Might Win: Against a solid Mizzou D, the Sun Devils flashed plenty of speed and big plays last week. The Illini defense has yet to be pushed, but that’ll change this Saturday. QB Brock Osweiler is going off a breakout effort in which he went 24-of-32 for 353 yards, three touchdowns and no picks. His corps of receivers is on the rise, especially Aaron Pflugrad who was able to get behind the Tigers secondary. When Arizona State chooses to soften an average Illinois front seven, it’ll hammer away with 225-pound RB Cameron Marshall. Even the Sun Devils O-line is playing with the confidence that comes with allowing just one sack through the first two games.
Why Illinois Might Win: Last week, Arizona State was unable to contain an athletic quarterback, Missouri’s James Franklin, who threw for 319 yards and ran for 84 more. It gets a second chance this week versus Illini dual-threat Nathan Scheelhaase. The sophomore channeled his athletic side in Week 2, rushing for 93 yards and two scores as part of a 364-yard, six-touchdown outburst on the ground. Led by T Jeff Allen and C Graham Pocic, Illinois is home to a physical offensive line that’ll work to the whistle to create space for Scheelhaase and top backs Jason Ford, Troy Pollard and impressive rookie Donovonn Young.
What To Watch Out For: There’ll be something poetic about Arizona State LB Vontaze Burfict being in Champaign, where Hall of Famer Dick Butkus played his college career. Burfict operates on the field a lot like Butkus did, intimidating opponents with vicious hits and maximum ferocity. Illinois has no interest in comparisons or generational symmetry; it just wants to figure out a way to stop No. 7 from getting into the backfield and increasing his Pac-12 high sack total. If the Illini running game sputters, it’ll pressure Scheelhaase into going up top more than he’s accustomed.
What Will Happen: The Sun Devils turned the corner with last week’s win over Missouri, picking up a bunch of supporters along the way. This is a more confident team that now believes in its ability to defeat quality opponents. Illinois will certainly provide a blockade to a 3-0 start, but Arizona State will get over it with its offensive speed and its defensive headhunter. Burfict, who plays as if he belongs in a Big Ten or AFC North uniform, will dominate a close game from his side of the ball with an MVP-type performance.
CFN Prediction: Arizona State 30 … Illinois 24
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Illinois -1 O/U: 58.5
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