Last Saturday the Illini cruised to an easy second win on the season at the expense of Charleston Southern. The 44-0 victory was the highest winning margin since 1965 and the first shut out since 2007 for Illinois.
This week they’ll face a more formidable opponent in Louisiana Tech. Their coach, Sonny Dykes is in his third year at Louisiana Tech. He boasts a 15-12 record as their coach and led the Bulldogs to the 2011 WAC Championship and Poinsettia Bowl. La Tech will give the Illini a better look at what play in the Big Ten might be like. They don’t come from one of the country’s best conferences, but they challenge the big conferences with the best of them.
They’ll come into Champaign looking for a big upset under the lights. Once again, quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase is questionable with that ankle injury which has hampered him since the second half of the Western Michigan game. With Scheelhaase out, many thought the defense would have to put the team on its back. Not only did the defense step up in a huge way, but backup QB Reilly O’Toole had a record breaking day. He threw for 333 yards and five touchdowns on his way to breaking the school record for single game completion percentage (83.9). After his explosive day he now leads the Big Ten in passing efficiency (181.03).
Ryan Lankford, who Beckman has been expecting to contribute had a career game versus Charleston Southern. Lankford snagged seven receptions for 97 yards and two touchdowns. Lankford now leads the team with a total of 11 catches for 192 yards and three TDs.
It is now clear that the Illini have guys who can step up and take the reigns when their starters are out.
This weekend it will be vital that they repeat these performances, especially if Scheelhaase can’t go. The defense is back on their high horse after shutting out a high school team and look to have another big day this Saturday. Linebacker Jonathon Brown has been a huge reason the team has been so effective at stopping the run. He has been a beast with team-best totals of 20 stops, 3.5 tackles for loss, and one sack in three games. His ridiculous speed helped him lead the Big Ten in tackles for loss (14.5) last season.
Although he is very fast and is a strong tackler, many believe Brown is too undersized for the pro game. He is just a junior so with one more year under his belt he might have time to click it back a couple buckles. If he does gain some weight, we might see a team take a chance on him in the later rounds of the draft.
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