Despite a 90 percent chance of precipitation, the weather pulled an MJD and held out. The Illini debuted their new spread offense under Tim Beckman and showed everyone that they are adjusting quite well. After Nathan Scheelhaase scrambled to convert on 3rd and 5 he launched a 64-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Ryan Lankford. Lankford strode down the middle of the field, caught the pass in stride and was gone without being touched.
The Illini added three points on a 43 yard field goal by Nick Immekus and six more on a 4 yard touchdown run by Scheelhaase. The Illini ended the first half with a 72 yard boot by punter Justin DuVernois. It looks like Beckman’s focus on special teams has really paid off. Both Immekus and Duvernois have huge legs, but do struggle with inconsistency.
When asked about his special teams, Beckman responded, “I was happy with the way Justin punted. Averaging 43 yards per punt. Our placement is something we need to get better with. We ask our punters to place the ball.”
Tommy Davis, a transfer from NIU was on punt return duty today and looked extremely confident fielding punts on the run and not shying away from contact. The Illini backfield showcased a plethora of talent highlighted by Josh Ferguson and Donovonn Young. Ferguson being the more consistent runner while Young looked to be one of Scheelhaase’s favorite targets, hauling in a team high six catches.
Jon Davis is listed at tight end, but was used more effectively as a running back today. He busted off runs of 14 yards, 17 yards, and had a total of 54 yards on 6 carries (9 ypc).
Reilly O’Toole took over at quarterback towards the end of the 3rd quarter while the training staff evaluated a Scheelhaase ankle injury. O’Toole did not gel with the offense going 2-3 with 7 yards and failed to complete a first down. Scheelhaase never returned and the injury is being reported as simply an ankle injury.
Illinois had been completely stagnant in the second half and the Broncos were working their way down the field when Ashante Williams picked off Alex Carder and took it 60 yards to the house. That was the final score of the game and the board read 24-7 after 4 quarters of play.
Miles Osei relieved O’Toole around the seven-minute mark in the third, but didn’t have much room to work with in a series that started on the Illinois’ 2 yd line and resulted in a three and out.
Michael Buchanan was a human highlight reel recording a sack, 2 tackles for a loss, 1 broken up pass, 2 QB hurrys, and he pulled a page out of Julius Peppers’ book by tipping a ball in the air and coming down with it for an interception.
The main concern of the game is clearly Scheelhaase’s ankle. If he can’t go next week it will be up to Reilly O’Toole and Miles Osei to lead the team. Arizona State will be a tough competitor and with Scheelhaase on the bench they could prove to be too much for the Illini.
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