When you leave the soda on the shelf too long, it simply becomes flat. That was exactly the case with Illinois’ quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. After sitting out the past two games, Scheelhaase was named the started against Lousiana Tech, but could not provide the fizz that the Illini needed. “You can’t turn the football over against good football teams,” said Tim Beckman
After reading the final number of plays ran by each team, one might assume that the Illini came out victorious. Surprisingly, the Illini ran more plays than the Bulldogs, but still came up ridiculously short.
The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs came out of the gates smoking and not a single person was surprised…except for the Fighting Illini defense. Last week, Louisiana Tech ran over 100 plays and this week they came to Champaign and tried to match that epic number. They barely eclipsed half that number as they still went on to stomp the Illini 52-24.
The Illini started their captain and injured first-string quarterback, Nathan Scheelhaase. He looked slow and clearly not as healthy as head coach Tim Beckman would have liked. After one quarter, his offense had surrendered 3 turnovers and Scheelhaase appeared slower than normal.
After just one quarter, the Illini defense had given up three touchdowns, but held their ground through the rest of the first half. After what appeared to be a comeback in the making, the Illini let up a 78-yard bomb when La. Tech’s QB Colby Cameron connected with WR Quinton Patton down the right hash mark for a backbreaking touchdown.
The Illini merely looked stunned by Louisiana Tech’s speed and efficiency. They failed to match the big plays of La. Tech by calling a ridiculous amount of draw plays and inside runs. The Bulldogs made big play after big play and rushed to the line after each conversion. They continued to link up for huge plays down the field and although they couldn’t match their average of over 600 yards of total offense, the Bulldogs netted nearly 400 yards of offense.
After one abysmal first quarter, Nathan Scheelhaase was yanked for backup Reilly O’Toole. O’Toole made an impressive start last week with over 300 yards and 5 touchdowns. Unfortunately, his record-breaking performance could not be repeated and the gazelle type offense of the Louisana Tech Bulldogs made the Illini defense look like a bunch of sluggish sloths.
Quinton Patton hauled in another touchdown early in the third quarter to increase the lead to 18. He finished the game with a whopping 6 receptions for 164 yards and 2 touchdowns. He torched the Illini defense, drive after drive. Scheelhaase would not return to the game while O’Toole recorded 19 completions for 126 yards and no interceptions.
With just about five minutes remaining in the third quarter the Illini hoped to salvage the game with a scoring drive. Alas, that drive never got started because Justin Green fumbled a punt on the 5-yard line and Antonio Mitchum recovered it for a touchdown.
It wouldn’t be long before Mitchum’s name was called again as he recovered another fumble (lost by freshman RB Dami Ayoola) on Illinois own 33 yard line.
The Bulldogs didn’t look back as they scored the next 24 points and flat out embarrassed a struggling Illinois football team.
“It’s inexcusable and we got to get better. We’re going to work to get better. It’s disappointing and I know the Illini fans feel the same way we do as a football team,” said the visibly distraught coach Beckman.
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