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CFN Take: Illinois Outgunned By Northwestern
Illinois Fighting Illini 2013 ...
Head Coach: Tim Beckman
Illinois Fighting Illini
Northwestern 37, at Illinois 34
2013 Record: 4-8 |
8/31 Southern Illinois W 42-34
9/7 Cincinnati W 45-17
9/14 Washington L 34-24
9/21 OPEN DATE
9/28 Miami Univ. W 50-14
10/5 at Nebraska L 39-19
10/12 OPEN DATE
10/19 Wisconsin L 56-32
10/26 Michigan St L 45-3
11/2 at Penn St L 24-17 OT
11/9 at Indiana L 52-35
11/16 Ohio State L 60-35
11/23 at Purdue W 20-16
11/30 Northwestern L 37-34
Basically … Trevor Siemian threw four touchdown passes with Christian Jones catching two of them from 27 and seven yards away, and Rashad Lawrence caught a 23-yarder as the Wildcats scored 14 fourth quarter points on the way to a ten-point lead. Nathan Scheelhaase threw two touchdown passes for the Illini and Josh Ferguson scored from one and 55 yards away in the seesaw battle, but after pulling within three on an 11-yard Miles Osei touchdown catch, the Wildcats closed it out.
- Northwestern QB Trevor Siemian completed 31-of-44 passes for 414 yards and four scores. Christian Jones caught 13 passes for 182 yards and two scores.
- Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase completed 31-of-45 passes for 307 yards and two touchdowns and a pick, and he ran 13 times for 55 yards.
- Illinois WR Steve Hull caught 13 passes for 155 yards and a score.
- Northwestern held the ball for 36:23 and amassed 560 total yards
Illinois 20, at Purdue 16
Basically … Illinois overcame a slew of big mistakes and four turnovers with a huge day from Steve Hull, who caught touchdown passes from three and 30 yards out. Taylor Zalewski pushed the Illini ahead in the fourth quarter on two field goals, and Purdue’s offense couldn’t answer. The Boilermakers started out the scoring early on a 62-yard touchdown run from Akeem Hunt and an eight-yard Cameron Posey touchdown catch, but the O didn’t score after the first quarter.
- Illinois WR Steve Hull caught ten passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns.
- Purdue QB Danny Etling completed 20-of-29 passes for 163 yards and a score with a pick.
- Purdue was outgained 380 yards to 283, but it only turned it over once. Illinois turned it over four times.
- Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase completed 24-of-30 passes for 257 yards and two score with two picks, and he ran ten times for 19 yards.
Ohio State 60, at Illinois 35
Basically … Illinois provided more of a fight than the final score might indicate. Ohio State jumped out to a 21-0 first quarter lead on a 70-yard Braxton Miller touchdown run, an 18-yard Carlos Hyde touchdown catch, and a 63-yard pick six from Bradley Roby, and the rout appeared to be on when Miller threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Philly Brown for a 28-0 lead. Illinois fought back with a 67-yard V’Angelo Bentley punt return for a score and two Nathan Scheelhaase touchdown passes. Hyde ran for four scores including dashes from 51 and 55 yards out to pull away in the fourth.
- Ohio State outgained Illinois 591 yards to 420 with 441 yards coming on the ground.
- Ohio State QB Braxton Miller completed 13-of-29 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns and ran 16 times for 185 yards and a score. Carlos Hyde ran 24 times for 246 yards and four scores, and he caught two passes for 26 yards and a score.
- Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase completed 33-of-50 passes for 288 yards and two touchdowns with two picks.
- Illinois WR Steve Hull caught eight passes for 105 yards and a score.
at Indiana 52, Illinois 35
Basically … Illinois bombed away with Nathan Scheelhaase throwing for 450 yards with touchdown passes to Steve Hull from 60 and 54 yards away, but Indiana broke a 35-35 fourth quarter tie with 17 unanswered points on a 75-yard Tevin Coleman run, and two-yard Stephen Houston touchdown and a 22-yard Mitch Ewald field goal. Coleman also ripped off a 64-yard touchdown dash in the first quarter, and Houston ran for a first quarter two-yard score, but it was Cody Latimer who turned into the star with touchdown catches from 11, 41 and 50 yards away.
- Indiana RB Tevin Coleman ran 15 times for 215 yards and two scores, and receiver Cody Latimer caught 11 passes for 189 yards and three scores.
- Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase completed 38-of-57 passes for 450 yards and two scores with a pick, and he ran nine times for 45 yards and a touchdown.
- Illinois WR Steve Hull caught nine passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns.
- The two teams combined for 1,262 yards of total offense with Indiana gaining 650 yards and Illinois coming up with 612. Indiana was 3-for-3 on fourth downs, and Illinois is 0-for-3.
at Penn State 24, Illinois 17, Nov. 2
Basically … Christian Hackenberg connected with TE Kyle Carter for the go-ahead score in overtime, and Ryan Keiser picked off a tipped Nathan Scheelhaase throw to secure the Penn State win. The Nittany Lions led for most of the game, but Illinois rallied to take the lead on a Scheelhaase to Josh Ferguson flip with 5:30 left. Lion Sam Ficken sent the game to an extra session with a field goal with 41 seconds left in regulation.
- Hackenberg completed 20-of-32 passes for 240 yards and a touchdown.
- Scheelhaase finished 33-of-52 for 322 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, adding 35 yards rushing on eight carries.
- RB Bill Belton became the first Lion since 2002 to rush for more than 200 yards, turning 36 carries into 201 yards and a touchdown.
- Penn State WR Allen Robinson led all receivers with 11 receptions for 165 yards.
Michigan State 42, Illinois 3
Basically … Illinois scored first on a 31-yard field goal from Taylor Zalewski and took the lead into the second quarter. And then it was all Michigan State as Connor Cook hit 15-of-16 throws with three touchdown passes including a 29-yarder to Bennie Fowler and a 47-yard play to Keith Mumphrey. The defense didn’t allow a thing, and the offense took advantage with Jeremy Langford running for 104 yards and scores from one and seven yards out. Illinois finished with 128 total yards.
- Michigan State might have the nation’s best defense, but still, at home the Illini needed to find something to get the offense working. Nathan Scheelhaase completed 13-of-21 passes, but they didn’t go anywhere and he was stuffed way too often. The running game came up with one yard in the first half and finishes with 25 on the ground – this was never close after halftime.
- On a three game losing streak and with nothing happening in Big Ten play for a long, long time, now the Illini have to go on the road to face Penn State and Indiana before hosting Ohio State. There’s still time to turn things around, and the schedule gets easier after dealing with the Spartans and Badgers, but the run defense has been beaten up and battered.
Wisconsin 56, at Illinois 32
Basically … Wisconsin scored the first 21 points on touchdown runs from James White and Melvin Gordon, and after a recovered fumble, a two-yard scoring grab from Brian Wozniak. Illinois was able to move the ball on the Badger defense, and pulled within 28-17 going into halftime on one-yard runs from Josh Ferguson and Matt LaCosse, but it was all UW in the third quarter with White and Gordon each coming up with scores – each one scored three touchdowns on the day.
- Wisconsin has to tighten up in the secondary. The ground game worked as normal, and Joel Stave came up with a tight 16-of-21, 189-yard, two score day throwing the ball, but the defense was way too soft on the deep passes. Illinois hit too many big plays.
- Nathan Scheelhaase had a decent day, outside of a key fumble in the first quarter. He hit 20-of-27 passes for 249 yards, and while he only ran for 18 yards, he was able to buy a little bit of time with his feet. He kept pressing.
- After a physical game from the Wisconsin offense, now the Illini has to deal with the Michigan State defense. The Illini has to come out far sharper and has to find a way to score right away, because now it’s a critical time for bowl hopes. At 3-3, the MSU game is the last date before going on the road for three games in four and dealing with Ohio State at home.
- Melvin Gordon isn’t going to be in the Heisman chase, but he continues to be unstoppable. He makes something out of nothing with some of the quickest feet in college football running 17 times for 142 yards and three scores. James White also came up with some terrific moves, but Gordon is special.
at Nebraska 39, Illinois 19
Basically … Nebraska took over early with the running game and was never threatened. Ameer Abdullah ran for the first of two scores and Tommy Armstrong hit Quincy Enunwa for a four-yard score on the way to a 17-0 lead, and Abdullah put it away early in the third on a 43-yard scoring run to go along with a 37-yard Kenny Bell touchdown catch. Illinois got short scoring runs in the second half from Donovonn Young and Josh Ferguson, but the Huskers had the game well in hand.
- With Taylor Martinez out, the Nebraska running game stepped up its play with Ameer Abullah running for 225 yards and two scores. Give credit to the Husker offensive line that opened up big hole after big hole, helping the ground game average close to seven yards per pop. Tommy Armstrong and Ron Kellogg III combined to hit 11-of-19 passes for 186 yards and two scores with no picks.
- Nathan Scheelhaase was never able to get free. He only completed 13-of-26 passes for 135 yards with a pick, and while he broke out for one decent run, he wasn’t able to make things happen on the move. The running game worked fine, but the Illini needed to throw the ball to get back in the game.
- Are the Blackshirts back? Not quite, but the Nebraska defense swarmed into the Illinois backfield with 12 tackles for loss and constant push on Nathan Scheelhaase. The downfield passing game wasn’t there for the Illini because of the pressure.
- This has become a weekly thing now – Jonathan Brown deserves all-star consideration. He made 13 tackles with four tackles for loss, and while the Illini didn’t do much of anything against the run, Brown tried to make up for the problems up front.
at Illinois 50, Miami University 14
Basically … Nathan Scheelhaase threw five touchdown passes with two to Matt LaCosse on the way to a 36-0 first half lead for Illinois. The Illini got up 43-0 before Miami got on the board with two second half touchdowns from one-yard out, but the outcome had been long decided.
- If you’re Illinois, and you’re trying to step up and become an improved team overall, you have to rise up and drill a bad team like Miami University. Nathan Scheelhaase got time and was almost flawless, he threw a pick, completing 19-of-24 passes for 278 yards and five touchdowns.
- Miami actually committed more to the run this week, but it didn’t matter much. The running of quarterback Austin Gearing helped and provided a little bit of pop. Overall the RedHawks ran for 155 yards and a score on 41 carries. It’s not much, but compared to rest of the season so far, it’s a start.
- The Illini didn’t need much of a pass rush. They allowed MU to try its short passing game that hasn’t gone anywhere all season long, and it cleaned things up with good, sure stops. Jonathan Brown made nine tackles with a broken up pass.
- Illinois converted 10-of-14 third down chances, while Miami converted just 2-of-11 times.
Washington 34, at Illinois 24, Sept. 14
Basically … In Chicago, Bishop Sankey ran for 208 yards and a score, and Keith Price threw two touchdown passes including a 31-yarder to Sankey, but Illinois fought back. Down 31-10 after a nine-yard touchdown catch from Jaydon Mickens, Illinois responded with a 72-yard Ryan Lankford touchdown catch and a two-yard Aaron Bailey run to get within seven, but UW pulled away for good with a 32-yard Travis Coons field goal.
- Illinois hung around with a terrific team even though Nathan Scheelhaase had an awful game completing 9-of-25 passes for 156 yards and a score with a pick.
- The Washington skill players showed up. Bishop Sankey ripped off big run after big run, but he wasn’t alone with Jesse Callier coming up with a 39-yard scoring dash. Keith Price was brilliant, pushing the offense early and testing the Illini corners deep. He was razor sharp.
- How did the Huskies let the Illini back into the game? Mistakes. The 12 penalties for 104 yards were way too many, and the two fumbles were a problem.
- Illinois couldn’t do anything consistently well. Everything went wrong, and yet the game was still in doubt late. Last year’s Illinois team would’ve folded at 31-10.
at Illinois 45, Cincinnati 17, Sept. 7
Basically … Illinois came out hot scoring the first 21 points of the game on two Nathan Scheelhaase touchdown passes and a 29-yard run from Ryan Lankford. Cincinnati hung around, helped by a one-yard Max Morrison touchdown catch from Munchie Legaux, but Scheelhaase struck again in the third with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Steve Hull. The Illini scored the final 17 points of the game to pull away.
- Cincinnati QB Munchie Legaux threw for 237 yards and led the team with 52 rushing yards, but he got banged up and left the field in the fourth quarter with a leg injury.
- Nathan Scheelhaase looks like a night-and-day quarterback. He threw for 312 yards and four touchdowns, and ran for 24 yards, but most importantly, he’s in command and he’s making all the right decisions.
- All of a sudden, Illinois appears to be a bit of a factor. If Cincinnati isn’t the second best team in the AAC behind Louisville, it’s third, and the Illini came up with a whopper of a performance. By far, this is the biggest win yet under Tim Beckman.
- On this day, there might not be a better battle of linebackers. Cincinnati’s Greg Blair came up with 14 tackles with a broken up pass, while Illinois’ Jonathan Brown was fantastic with 14 tackles and a tackle for loss.
at Illinois 42, Southern Illinois 34, Aug. 31
Basically … Nathan Scheelhaase went crazy throwing for 416 yards and two scores, and V’Angelo Bentley returned a kickoff for a score as Illinois took control of the game in the second quarter and got up 42-24 for an apparently easy win. But SIU wouldn’t give up, scoring ten late points to make it interesting in the final few minutes.
- That’s what Nathan Scheelhaase is supposed to be able to do as a passer. He mixed it up a bit and had a nice game pushing the ball midrange and deep, and he was deadly accurate. Ten different Illini caught passes, and they needed to with the ground game struggling.
- The offensive line didn’t generate any sort of a push whatsoever. Scheelhaase wasn’t taking off as a runner, and it showed. The Illini ran for just 49 yards on 30 carries.
- Illinois got really, really loose. The defense didn’t tighten up in the last few minutes, making it more interesting than they should’ve been. Jonathan Brown had a nice game with nine tackles, but the defense wasn’t nearly good enough at getting into the backfield. SIU had too much time to work.
Why To Be Excited: In a positive way for Illini fans, there’s a major sense of urgency for head coach Tim Beckman coming off a disastrous 2-10 season. Nine starters are back on an offense that has the potential to be far, far better under new coordinator Bill Cubit – it can’t be worse – after finishing last in the Big Ten in total yards and scoring. It only seems like Nathan Scheelhaase is going into his 14th year as the starting quarterback, and with all the top skill players back he should grow into a much more efficient and effective playmaker. Defensively, once Jonathan Brown is back and healthy – which probably won’t be until fall after having shoulder and ankle problems – the Illini will have one of the Big Ten’s better linebacking corps.
Why To Be Grouchy: The lines need a ton of work, but for different reasons. The offensive front that was so miserable last season in pass protection and so soft for the running game loses tackle Hugh Thornton and center Graham Pocic, but it’s a young group overall that has to be better in time. The defensive line lost tackle Akeem Spence early to the NFL along with fellow interior defender Glenn Foster and end Michael Buchanan. This was a miserably underachieving group that was full of NFL talent, and now it’s going to be a thin and inexperienced front wall.
What Needs Working On: Turnover margin. The punt return game was among the worst in the nation and the offense was the second-worst in college football in both yards and scoring, but overall the team can’t get any better without figuring out how to generate turnovers. The offense gave it up 30 times and always seemed to shoot itself in the foot, but the defense was the bigger problem with a mere seven picks – and three of those coming in the opener against Western Michigan – and 11 fumble recoveries with just three in the last five games.
Non-Conference Games: Southern Illinois, Cincinnati, Washington (in Chicago), Miami University
Games Against The Legends: Michigan State, at Nebraska, Northwestern
Realistic Best Case Record: 7-5
Worst Case Record: 2-10
Likely Finish: 4-8
Pre-Preseason Projected Wins: Southern Illinois, Cincinnati, Miami University, at Purdue
Pre-Preseason Projected Losses: Washington, at Nebraska, Wisconsin, Michigan State, at Penn State, at Indiana, Ohio State, Northwestern
Schedule Analysis: The Illini will have to own Champaign and need to come up with a few splashy non-conference wins to have any real hope of going bowling. Southern Illinois and Miami University are the only games Illinois will be the sure-thing favorite even though Cincinnati is coming to Memorial Stadium and Washington will play in Soldier Field. A 3-1 start would do wonders considering the conference slate starts out with a few slugs in the gut.
If playing defending Legends champion Nebraska in Lincoln wasn’t a tough enough way to start, after a week off it’s a home date with Big Ten champion Wisconsin followed up with Michigan State and a trip to Penn State. Fortunately, getting the Badgers and Ohio State at home could help, but going on the road for the winnable games against Indiana and Purdue will be a problem. The Northwestern game in the regular season finale could be for a bowl.
Team Concerns For 2013: The Illini have to start playing up to their talent level. Ron Zook did a decent job of bringing in the athletes, but can they play? They couldn't in 2012 - or Tim Beckman couldn't coach them. The pressure is on for the nation's second-worst offense to start producing, but the defense and special teams need a major boost, too. The O is loaded with veterans, but the defensive front that got rocked has to replace three starters who'll likely find roles at the next level.
The 2013 Class Is Heavy On ... Defensive linemen. Gone are the days when Ron Zook was making everyone mad after getting top talent after top talent, but Tim Beckman is bringing in a nice big class with the defense getting the biggest boost. The secondary has a few nice prospects in corners Darius Mosely and Caleb Day, but the line has the bulk with Jarron Clements and Bryce Douglas future starters in teh interior and JUCO transfer Abens Cajuste brought in to see time right away. Quarterback Aaron Bailey is the near future, but never year's class will need to focus on getting him some weapons.
2012 CFN Recruiting Ranking:
71. That Class Was Heavy On ... Receivers. Tim Beckman is known for being a defensive coach, but his Toledo teams lived on a high-octane offense. It’s Illinois, so the passing game is going to get plenty of attention with the receiving corps getting new prospects to play around with. The defense is getting a few nice linebackers, and kicker Ryan Frain will get a shot at the job right away, but across the board this class pales in comparison to the monsters Ron Zook brought in when he first started up in Champaign.
2011 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 35. That Class Was Heavy On ... The passing game. The Illini defensive front got an influx of talent for the inside with Chris Jones and Clint Tucker two active big bodies who fit the team team perfectly. Ends Darrius Caldwell and Chris O’Connor are dangerous pass rushing prospects. While running backs Joshua Ferguson and Donovann Young going to shine, the offensive class is about the passing game with Reilly O’Toole the quarterback for three years from now and receivers Dondi Kirby and Kenny Wright two big, strong targets. The big coup was tight end Jon Davis, who turned down Notre Dame and UCLA.
2010 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 50. That Class Was
Heavy On ... The middle of the
defensive back seven. Quarterback Chandler Whitmer
is the star of the class and wide receiver Darius
Millines is a good one to step in and potentially
produce early on, but Illinois needed to do
something about its defense ... and now. Jonathan
Brown, Mark Wilson, and Jay Prosch are all built to
play inside linebacker, and they might provide
instant depth. Safety Earnest Thomas is the best
defensive prospect brought in, while JUCO transfer
Trulon Henry has to find a spot somewhere in the
2009 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 38. That Class Was
Heavy On ... defensive linemen. Lost in the Ron Zook era amidst the publicity around the offense has been a defense that’s been consistently strong. This year’s recruiting class helped the defensive front more than any other area with promising pass rushers Cornellius Carradine and Michael Buchanan for the outside with Lendell Buckner and Akeem Spence for the inside. Buckner has the body and the upside to be special.