2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 6 - Illinois at Indiana
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Oct. 8 Illinois 41 … at Indiana 20
CFN Analysis: A.J. Jenkins is red hot, ripping up Northwestern last week and ripping off six catches for 182 yards and two touchdowns to get past the Hoosiers for the program’s first 6-0 start since 1961. The running game is still there, and the team can always fall back on it with Donovonn Young, Jason Ford, and Troy Pollard all taking turned and producing well, but over the last few weeks it’s been Jenkins and the passing game that’s made the attack complete. Whitney Mercilus continues to establish himself as one of the nation’s top pass rushers with three sacks against IU for 8.5 on the year. Ohio State might be struggling, but if Illinois wins next week, then it’ll really be time to get excited.
This was when the Hoosiers needed a running game that wasn’t there. The secondary hasn’t been bad this season, but it ended up getting burned a few times to put the game out of reach, but the Hoosiers were in the game early and just needed to control the clock and the game a bit. The ground game couldn’t do it with the O line getting blown up by the Illini pass rush. The offense gets to see what Tre Roberson can do after Dusty Kiel hurt his ankle and with Edward Wright–Baker out. Roberson wasn’t bad, completed 11-of-17 passes for 148 yards with a pick, and he ran 14 times for 36 yards and a score. At 1-5 and with Wisconsin up next on the road, Roberson could be the one X factor the team needs to give the offense an edge.
(AP) BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A.J. Jenkins blew right past Indiana's busted coverage. Twice.
Nathan Scheelhaase made the right read and the perfect throw -- both times.
The big-play tandem hooked up for scoring passes of 77 and 67 yards in the first half Saturday, rallying No. 19 Illinois from an early 10-point deficit to a 41-20 victory.
"We had to take advantage of that and whenever the defense messes up, you want to take advantage, so that one was a little surprising," Scheelhaase said. "The other one was just a great route by him getting off press coverage and making a great play."
This was not just another weekly test for Illinois (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten).
The Illini needed to prove they could win on the road, stay among the shrinking unbeaten ranks and prove that those last three 3-point victories were the aberration, not the norm.
They accomplished all three three by making the Hoosiers (1-5, 0-2) pay for three big mistakes -- on the two TD passes from Scheelhaase to Jenkins and a 66-yard fumble recovery for a score that changed the game.
Scheelhaase finished 12 of 22 for 210 yards with three TDs. Jenkins, the Big Ten's top receiver, had six receptions for 182 yards and two scores.
The victory puts Illinois in position to match the 7-0 start of the 1951 team next week when Ohio State visits Champaign.
"That's where we wanted to be," Scheelhaase said. "We wanted to be 6-0 going into this game. We're excited about the point we've gotten to right now, and we're looking forward to going back home and playing Ohio State."
Illinois' success came as no surprise to Indiana coach Kevin Wilson, who had warned his players all week that the Illini would convert mistakes into scores.
The Hoosiers have now lost three straight overall and 13 in a row against ranked opponents, dating to a 31-28 victory over then No. 13 Iowa on Oct. 14, 2006. Now they'll hit the road for back-to-back road games at No. 4 Wisconsin and Iowa with a still unsettled quarterback rotation.
The original starter, Edward Wright-Baker, missed his second straight game with an ankle injury. Nicked up Dusty Kiel started for the second straight week, but was replaced by true freshman Tre Roberson after hurting his ankle in the second half. Kiel was 6 of 19 for 71 yards with one lost fumble. Roberson finished 11 of 17 for 148 yards with one interception and led Indiana to a late touchdown, the only offensive TD of the day.
"It wasn't a battlefield demotion as much, I think Dusty was a little nicked and couldn't put some mustard on the ball. It was nice to see Tre make a few plays," Wilson said. "Good team, tough loss, same story."
This one was wild and wacky, though.
Hoosiers freshman Shane Wynn took the opening kickoff at the 1-yard line, found a hole up the middle and sprinted 99 yards for a TD to make it 7-0 just 12 seconds into the game.
On Illinois' second series, Donovonn Young dropped a handoff near midfield. Brandon McGhee recovered for Indiana and six plays later, Mitch Ewald made a 44-yard field goal to give Indiana a 10-0 lead.
Illinois then took matters into its own hands.
The Illini picked up an all-out blitz, giving Scheelhaase just enough time to loft a pass to the wide open Jenkins, who caught the ball, turned inside of one defender and had nobody else to beat en route to the 77-yard play that made it 10-7.
The Hoosiers were back in field-goal range again on their next series, only this time, Whitney Mercilus stripped the ball from Kiel on a sack, and Tavon Wilson scooped it up and raced 66 yards to give Illinois a 14-10 lead. The Illini never trailed again, even holding the Hoosiers to a field goal after they recovered a fumble at the Illinois 3.
"They got 21 points off of three plays, one's a busted coverage when a guy blitzes that shouldn't and that's going to happen some," Wilson said. "Another's on a scoop and score when we bust a maximum protection, and the last one they make a nice competitive one-on-one play to a good receiver on a guy that's playing good for us."
Then the Illini poured it on.
Scheelhaase found Jon Davis for a 3-yard score midway through the second quarter, and put a pass perfectly on the fingertips of Jenkins, who went 67 yards down the right sideline to make it 27-13 late in the first half.
Scheelhaase sealed the win with a 9-yard TD run late in the third quarter, and all the Hoosiers could muster was a 2-yard TD run from Roberson with 5:29 left in the game.
"We're a good team," coach Ron Zook said. "But as I told them to be a great team, we've got to do a lot more."
Illinois (5-0) at Indiana (1-4) Oct. 8, 2:30, BTN
Here’s The Deal … This is the game Illinois has to show up for.
The Illini is off to its best start since 1951, managing to fight through close wins over Arizona State, Western Michigan, and Northwestern all by three points, and now the goal isn’t to beat Indiana, it’s not lookahead to Ohio State and the possibility of a 7-0 start before going on the road to face Purdue. Last year, Illinois braincramped at home in a loss to Minnesota. Two years ago, with the season spiraling down, they lost to Indiana, and while they won last year’s matchup 43-13, they have to keep improving and keep pressing against a Hoosier team that might be starting to put some of the pieces together.
The defense made strides, keeping Penn State under wraps last week, and the passing game hasn’t been awful, but the only win this year came against South Carolina State – and that was a bit of a fight. As bad as things have been for the start of the Kevin Wilson era, the four losses all came by seven points or fewer. IU had its chances in all four losses, and at some point it’ll get the right breaks against an unfocused team. Illinois under Ron Zook qualifies.
Why Illinois Might Win: If you can’t get into the Illinois backfield, you can’t stop the Illinois offense. Even when defenses are able to apply pressure, it doesn’t necessarily matter. Northwestern got to quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase time and again, but the Illinois passing game still worked every time it absolutely had to. Indiana hasn’t dealt with many passing quarterbacks, but Ball State’s Keith Wenning managed to complete 23-of-29 passes for 173 yards and two scores and Penn State’s sad attack cranked out 271 passing yards.
Indiana can’t win a close game and Illinois can’t lose one. The Illini are more talented and have far better weapons and a terrific pass rush, but more than anything else, they have confidence and they’re playing like it. The Hoosiers keep pressing, but they don’t know how to come through in the clutch, while the Illini have done it time and again.
Why Indiana Might Win: The passing game is starting to work better and it should be able to keep pressing against the Illini secondary. Illinois has been able to hide its mediocre defensive backs a bit with a terrific pass rush, but if the IU quarterbacks – whether it’s Dusty Kiel or Edward Baker-Wright – get a little bit of time, they should be able to crank out yards. Western Michigan’s Alex Carder threw for 306 yards and Dan Persa threw four touchdown passes.
The Illinois special teams have been lousy, ranking dead last in the Big Ten in punting, punt returns, and kickoff returns. Field position has been an ongoing problem, and it has been for Indiana, too. Finally, the Hoosiers are playing someone their own size on special teams.
What To Watch Out For: Who’s Indiana’s quarterback going forward? Sophomore Edward Wright-Baker did what he could over the first four games throwing for 200 yards or more three of the first four games while running for 88 yards, and he kept the mistakes to a minimum with four touchdown passes and just two picks. He wasn’t leading the way to wins or on enough good drives, and Wilson handed the reins over to Keil against Penn State. The son of former Notre Dame starter Blair Keil threw for just 184 yards on 45 attempts with a touchdown and a pick, and now there might be a mix of the two quarterbacks to find the hot hand, or arm, at the right time.
Illinois senior A.J. Jenkins caught 11 balls for 148 yards and a touchdown against Arkansas State and cranked out 103 yards and a score against Arizona State, but he might have changed the Illinois season against Northwestern with 12 catches for 268 yards and three touchdowns from 14, 33, and 50 yards out. Now teams have to worry about the Illinois passing game more than ever, and the offense can do what it really wants to and run, run, run.
What Will Happen: Indiana will bomb away against an unfocused Illini in a much tighter game than many will expect. IU won’t run the ball a lick and the defensive front won’t get to Scheelhaase, but it’ll get a strong game out of Damarlo Belcher to make this just interesting enough for another close loss.
CFN Prediction: Illinois 31 … Indiana 24
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Illinois -14 O/U: 52.5
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