Preview: Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech

Tomorrow, the Illini will host a team in Louisiana Tech that barely breathes between plays. They are a high-charged offense that ran 101 plays last week in their 56-49 victory over Houston. The Illini only ran 67 plays in their 44-0 win over Charleston Southern.

La Tech plays a similar style to the Arizona State team that left the Illini keeled over in the desert, begging for air. Tech comes into Champaign ranking No. 3 in the country in scoring offense, No. 5 in total offense and No. 9 in rushing offense. Their past two opponents have been Rice and Houston, but they still have averaged over 600 yards of total offense in those games.

Ashante Williams, who plays Tim Beckman’s ‘star’ position (linebacker/safety hybrid) said, “We’re real stoked for this week. We feel this is the week to come out and show everyone what kind of defense we are. We want to redeem ourselves from our last night game, so this is a big game for us.”

This time the Illini are poised to protect their house under the lights, but they know it won’t be easy. “It’s a lot faster,” Williams said. “We’re working on conditioning this week, running to the ball and everyone hustling on and off the field. We know they are a fast-paced offense. It’s going to be a challenge.”

Beckman and the other coaches attributed their loss at ASU to the fact that they were outcoached and had poor communication. Now, the players know they must improve their communication as well.

“It’s going to be really big to get our eyes to the sideline as quick as possible,” senior defensive end Michael Buchanan noted. “One of the biggest things is going to be how fast we can communicate and how fast we can read our keys and be ready to play. They go at such a fast tempo.

“We’ll be working on that all week and we’ll be ready to go on Saturday night.”

Beckman continues to be wise with his words in terms of revealing information about his starters. Six of them sat out last week, the most notable: Nathan Scheelhaase. Beckman alluded to the fact that Scheelhaase is near 100 percent. “He has progressed about the same as he did a week ago. He looked good on both Sundays, really. We won’t put him out there unless he can make this football team better,” said Beckman.

If Scheelhaase is a scratch, Reilly O’Toole will be under center again and will look to repeat his record-breaking performance of last week. Center Graham Pocic and running back Josh Ferguson, who had a break out game against Arizona, are also both questionable. Last week Beckman and the other coaches showed a lot of playing time to the freshmen in hopes to build depth and to focus on the future. If the starters remain on the bench, it’s likely that they will continue with this pattern.

“We’ve got to develop depth,’’ co-offensive coordinator Chris Beatty said. “That’s part of developing a program. I talked to our guys about being a program, not just a team.

Prediction: Illinois 20 Louisiana Tech 13

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