Scheelin’ Alright

Illini quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase had started 27 consecutive games before sitting out this past Saturday against Arizona State.

“I was hoping there would be an ounce of a chance that it would start getting better at some point, that maybe the adrenaline would get going in pregame and I would feel good and it would feel fine,” Scheelhaase said. “It just never came around. It was frustrating.”

The junior quarterback watched the game from the sidelines wearing a headset and offering advice to his replacements, Reilly O’Toole and Miles Osei. They played just like that, replacements.

Scheelhaase likened their performance to his first start against Missouri. His teammates combined for 101 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions while in his first start he threw for 81 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions.

As usual, Tim Beckman was quiet and vague about how his star quarterback was feeling. “He was doing all right,” Beckman said. “He’s getting back. He’s definitely not full speed yet.” Beckman has never been one to help opponents by revealing too much information to the media, a ploy that didn’t work too well last week. Arizona State prepared for all three of the Illini quarterbacks and although they only saw two, they didn’t miss the one who watched from the sidelines.

Scheelhaase has been sharing reps with Osei and O’Toole during practice this week, but expects to play this coming Saturday against Charleston Southern. When asked whether or not he’ll be ready to go for the second home game of the season Scheelhaase explained, “I expect to play until I’m told differently….The treatment has gone well. It was hard enough not being able to contribute at all last week, so I expect to be able to get out there this week.”

As a colleague at Midway Madness pointed out earlier this week, it would have been an interesting strategy to have Scheelhaase play last week even if he wasn’t 100% and have him sit this week against a Charleston Southern team who put up a goose egg in the win column last year. Even if Scheelhaase does get the nod, it’s likely that he wont need to play more than the first half.

Looking forward to next week, the Illini need to address more than just their situation at quarterback. Their defense, which is a unit that was supposed to be one of the best in the nation, let up 45 points in an embarrassing loss. What’s even worse is that the game was on prime time television and the world has no doubt now that the Illini aren’t who some thought they were.

The newest concern for the Illini should be preparing their quarterback, defense, and the supporting cast for Big Ten play, two and a half weeks from now. They have two more games before squaring off against Penn State at Memorial Stadium on Sept. 29. This should be plenty of time to get things in order and make a push for the division title. With a Wisconsin loss last week (showing they aren’t as good as we all thought) and OSU/PSU ineligible for post season play, Illinois still has a legitimate shot to be conference title contenders. Most importantly will Nathan Scheel up to the challenge?

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