MarQueis Gray powers Minnesota past slumping Illinois(Week 13)
MINNEAPOLIS -- MarQueis Gray rushed for 167 yards and two touchdowns and threw for another score, guiding Minnesota past backsliding Illinois 27-7 on Saturday in the season finale and sending the Fighting Illini to their sixth straight defeat. Gray took off 27 times to break the single-season rushing record for a Golden Gophers quarterback, giving him 966 yards. Billy Cockerham had 831 yards rushing in 1999. Troy Pollard's 11-yard touchdown run in the third quarter was the only highlight for the Illini (6-6, 2-6 Big Ten), who wasted their best start in 60 years and put coach Ron Zook's job in obvious danger. Nathan Scheelhaase, who was 4 for 6 for 15 yards in a time share with Reilly O'Toole, lost a costly fumble on one of his five sacks. Illinois held an opponent under 100 yards passing for the fifth time this season -- Gray went 7 for 14 for 85 yards -- but couldn't stop him from scrambling and converting critical first downs. Jordan Wettstein kicked field goals of 43 and 51 yards for the Gophers (3-9, 2-6), who have won nine of their last 12 games against the Illini. They held Illinois to 18 yards on 23 plays in the first half and a season-low 160 yards on 59 plays for the game, by far the best performance of the year for a defense playing with a lot more speed and confidence than during that 58-0 loss at Michigan on Oct. 1. This was the first time Minnesota led from start to finish since winning 17-6 at Purdue on Oct. 25, 2008. The Gophers posted their largest margin of victory since beating Florida Atlantic 37-3 on Sept. 20, 2008, and their biggest in a conference game since a 63-26 win over Indiana on Nov. 4, 2006. They appeared to want this one more than the Illini, who looked defeated and lethargic except for a first-down run by freshman O'Toole, who jumped up and pumped his fist to fire up the sideline in the third quarter. That drive was extended by a successful fake-punt run by Jay Prosch and capped by Pollard's score, but the Gophers were unfazed. They danced on the sideline between the third and fourth quarters and kept up their sure tackling throughout the final minutes. The outcome -- and perhaps Zook's dismissal -- was sealed when sixth-year senior free safety Kim Royston sacked Scheelhaase for a 7-yard loss on fourth-and-goal to give the Gophers the ball back at the 5-minute mark. The Gophers punted on their first four possessions, but they got their first break early in the second quarter when Scheelhaase was sacked and stripped of the ball by Ra'Shede Hageman. Michael Amaefula recovered at the 16-yard line, and Gray slipped out of Steve Hull's tackle on the next play on his way to an easy touchdown run. Gray owned the next drive, too, finding Da'Jon McKnight for a pair of first downs and a wide-open John Rabe from 8 yards out on third down to stretch the lead to 14-0. Wettstein, the walk-on who took over four games ago when Chris Hawthorne got hurt, nailed a couple of kicks before the end of the half, and the Gophers took a 20-point lead to the locker room. They padded it on their first possession of the third quarter after a 21-yard punt by Ryan Lankford gave them the ball at their 43. Gray finished the possession with a 14-yard touchdown run, putting a slick juke on DeJazz Woods at the line of scrimmage to jog into the end zone untouched. The Illini, who beat Baylor in the Texas Bowl last year, have never won bowl games in consecutive seasons. There's no guarantee they'll get invited this time, with more eligible Big Ten teams than assigned slots.
Zook, 57, is 34-51 in seven seasons, a winning percentage that ranks 11th among the 13 Illini coaches who've coached more than one season.
Illini become the first team in College Football history to lose their last six games after starting 6-0.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP)—Illinois coach Ron Zook was fired Sunday after the Illini followed a 6-0 start to this season with a six-game losing streak. Zook and the Illini finished off their collapse with a 27-7 defeat at Minnesota on Saturday. “I believe we need new leadership to take the program to the level to compete for championships on a consistent basis,” Illinois Athletic Director Mike Thomas said in a statement released by the university. “This is an extremely competitive conference, and we are determined to go head-to-head with the very best.”
Thomas said the defensive coordinator Vic Koenning will take over as interim head coach while a search begins for Zook’s successor.
Zook wasn’t immediately available for comment but planned a press conference for late Sunday afternoon. Zook finished 34-51 at Illinois. He took the 2007 team to the Rose Bowl and lost to USC. Last season’s squad beat Baylor in the Texas Bowl. With six wins the Illini could still go to a bowl game. It would be their first back-to-back bowl appearances since 1991 and ’92. Zook came to Illinois in 2005 after being fired in his third season at Florida. He replaced Ron Turner, now an Indianapolis Colts assistant coach. The 2007 season was Zook’s high point at Illinois. The Illini were Big Ten runners-up and upset an undefeated Ohio State team in Columbus that was shooting for a perfect season and a national title. But only two of Zook’s Illinois teams finished with winning records, 2007’s 9-4 squad and last year’s 7-6 Texas Bowl team. Thomas praised Zook for the elevating Illinois—Zook took over after Turner produced four losing seasons in five years. But Thomas, who became AD just last summer, also alluded to Zook’s uneven tenure at Illinois. “It is imperative that our program shows some consistency and competes for championships, and I think a change in coaches can help us get there sooner. I wasn’t here seven years ago when Ron Zook took over as coach, but it’s clear the program is in better shape than what he inherited.” As word of his firing spread, some of Zook’s former players used social media to support their former coach. “Zook was a good coach and Man,” former Illini quarterback and current Oakland Raiders receiver Eddie McGee wrote on Twitter. “Great person who believed in his players. Would do anything for them. If you played for him you know that.” “I still love him as a coach and as a father figure,” current Illini tailback Jason Ford wrote. Zook went 2-9 in his first season at Illinois but Illini fans had the promise of better times ahead. Known as an extraordinary recruiter, Zook’s first signing class included highly regarded Chicago quarterback Juice Williams, who started most of the next four seasons. After another two-win year—Williams’ freshman season—Zook and the Illini delivered on that promise with the trip to the Rose Bowl. Illinois was blown out in Pasadena, 49-17 by USC, but fans thought good times were on the horizon. Illinois followed up that surprisingly good season, though, with two bad ones, defying high expectations to go 5-7 and, in 2009, 3-9. Zook kept his job amid speculation that he wouldn’t, but was forced to fire virtually his entire staff and hire offensive coordinator Paul Petrino and Koenning. With their help Illinois went 7-6 in 2010. This season, though, left fans with even deeper doubts. Illinois took advantage of an early schedule that included five home dates and opponents such as Arkansas State and South Dakota State to roll to 6-0. Then came the losses. While the defense mostly held up well the offense struggled. Illinois at one point went three games without scoring a first-half point. The Illini averaged less than 15 points a game through the losing streak after putting almost 35 a game through the unbeaten start. And Illinois’ special teams—a point of emphasis for Zook, who has been an NFL special teams coach—were often bad. The Illini were last in the Big Ten this season in both kickoff and punt returns and near the bottom of the conference in both kickoff and punt coverage. Zook brought both that NFL pedigree and the reputation as a tireless worker and recruiter to Illinois. He peppered his press conferences with references to coaches like Steve Spurrier with whom he’d worked, and once told a reporter, “Can you imagine how much you could get done if you didn’t have to eat or sleep?” But he also brought baggage with him from Florida. Gator fans were never sold on him as the replacement for Spurrier. Zook won in each of his three seasons in Gainesville, but never enough, going 8-5, 8-5 and 7-4. And he had the distinction of being perhaps the first target of a serious Internet campaign to fire a coach. The Web site Fireronzook.com went up shortly after he got the job. He also reportedly got into a shouting match during the 2004 season on the Florida campus with members of a fraternity after a fight between them and some of his players.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Tim Beckman has rebuilt a program before. He inherited a mess when he took over at Toledo, where the Rockets had finished three straight losing seasons and were in the middle of a point-shaving scandal. At Illinois, the 46-year-old Beckman isn't walking into a gambling crisis but there are steep hills ahead. The Illini are in the middle of a six-game losing streak that has given them an unwanted place in the record books. Much of an already unhappy fan base seemed initially underwhelmed by Beckman's hiring. And one university trustee complained the school missed a chance to hire its first black head football coach.
But Beckman, coming from a MAC school where resources are limited and the Rose Bowl isn't a possibility, insisted Friday that what's ahead of him isn't a rebuilding project. "It's not broken, it isn't," he told reporters after meeting with Illinois' players. "This is a gold mine. You can win at the University of Illinois." Beckman will be paid $9 million over five years plus potential bonuses for bowl appearances and other benchmarks. He replaces Ron Zook, who was fired last month by athletic director Mike Thomas after seven seasons. Illinois started this season 6-0, but carries that six-game losing streak into the Dec. 31 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl against UCLA. The Illini are the first FBS team to open the regular-season with six straight wins, and close it with six consecutive losses. Thomas said he hired Beckman from a field of five or six serious candidates -- he wouldn't name the others -- because he believes he can win Big Ten titles. The athletic director, answering questions about fans on local talk radio and Internet message boards who said Beckman wasn't a big enough name, said he heard much the same at the University of Cincinnati, where he hired a pair of MAC coaches that produced consistent winners, Brian Kelly, now at Notre Dame, and current Bearcats coach Butch Jones, whose team is 9-3 this season. "They all said `Who's Brian Kelly?' They all said `Who's Butch Jones.'" Thomas said. "I get that." Beckman said he agreed to come to Illinois only Friday morning. In three seasons at Toledo he was 21-16. The Rockets went 8-4 this season and will play in the Military Bowl against Air Force. Toledo offensive coordinator Matt Campbell will coach the Rockets pending a national search for Beckman's replacement. Rockets athletic director Mike O'Brien said Beckman's move to a Big Ten school didn't surprise him. "It's a credit to Tim Beckman," he said. "It's also a credit to the University of Toledo." Beckman was hired in Toledo in 2008. The school was in the middle of a point-shaving investigation involving football and basketball games from 2003-06. Three former football players pleaded guilty. One player admitted accepting $500 to fumble the ball in a 2005 bowl game. The Rockets were 5-7 in Beckman's first season but finished 8-5 in his second and earned a trip to the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. His Toledo teams have always been able to score; the Rockets averaged 42.3 points this season, best in the MAC and eighth nationally. They averaged better than 200 yards a game in both rushing and passing. Beckman said Friday he'll run a spread at Illinois. He added that he'll try to bring Campbell to Champaign, and has asked the NCAA for a waiver, like the one given to Ohio State, to allow him to add extra coaches to recruit while current assistants prepare for the bowl. He said he'll meet current staff members before deciding whether to try to keep any of them. Toledo also gave up big points under Beckman -- 30.9 a game this season. In back-to-back weeks in November, Northern Illinois and Western Michigan torched the Rockets for 63 points, though Toledo lost only one of those games. Beckman said his team was missing one defensive starter to injury and another to suspension for those games and lacked the depth to make up for it. "It was tough," he said. "We didn't tackle well." Beckman said he'll recruit the state of Illinois heavily, noting Toledo rosters had many players from Ohio. He is considered a strong recruiter, but has very little history in Illinois, Chicago-based recruiting expert Tom Lemming said. "They're much more comfortable recruiting Ohio and Detroit," Lemming said of Beckmann and his staff at Toledo. Beckman came to Toledo from Oklahoma State, where he spent two seasons as defensive coordinator. He's also been an assistant at Western Carolina, Elon, Bowling Green -- where he was Urban Meyer's defensive coordinator -- and Ohio State. Beckman coached the Buckeyes' cornerbacks in 2005 and `06. On Friday Beckman called Meyer a mentor, and said he looks forward to coaching against him. "I can't wait," he said. "Urban and I are great, great friends." When Zook was fired, university trustee James Montgomery said Friday that he'd hoped the school would hire its first black head football coach. "I'd hoped we would make a little history," said Montgomery, who is black. The field of reported candidates included at least one black coach, highly sought-after Houston coach Kevin Sumlin. Thomas said he hired Beckman from what he called "a very diverse pool." Zook was fired the day after a 27-7 loss at Minnesota. He came to Illinois in 2005 from Florida and went 34-51, finishing with two winning seasons; a win at the Fight Hunger Bowl would give Illinois its third in seven years. He took Illinois to the 2008 Rose Bowl, a loss to USC that came during the Illini's first trip to Pasadena since the 1980s, and to last year's Texas Bowl, where Illinois defeated Baylor. But Zook also barely survived the 2009 season, a three-win campaign that led to the firing of most of his staff. Special teams, which he personally coached, were often bad. Recruiting had fallen off the past couple of seasons. The bottom line, as Thomas pointed out just after he fired Zook: The Illini won just under a third of their Big Ten games under Zook, and had a winning conference record over that period against only Indiana. Illinois paid Zook $2.6 million for the two years left on his contract.
Definitely excited about the new hire. Welcome aboard Coach Beckman!
lol Little Bear, I could have told you that Ron Zook was going to get fired. Remember when I told you that you needed to hope and pray that it happens? You just got your wish, and you got the best thing that could possibly happen to you.
Now Ohio State has Urban Meyer, and I'm totally pumped. Maybe we can get this rivalry between the Buckeyes and the Fightin' Illini back to being a relevant game again.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Defensive coordinator and interim head coach Vic Koenning has turned down an offer to stay at Illinois. Koenning, a fan and player favorite after two seasons in which the defense was a strength for Illinois, declined an offer to remain coordinator for new head coach Tim Beckman.
"After a great deal of prayer and discussion with my family, I feel it is best to explore other opportunities," Koenning said Wednesday in a statement, not specifying where he's headed. "Coach Beckman could not have been better during the process." He will leave after coaching the Illini in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl against UCLA on Dec. 31. Beckman, who was hired from Toledo last week to replace Ron Zook, praised Koenning's work during his time at Illinois. "We wish Vic nothing but the best as he decides the next destination in his career," Beckman said. "He was given the opportunity to remain at Illinois as defensive coordinator, where he has done a fabulous job over the last two seasons." Koenning said earlier this week as he considered Illinois' offer that he had other opportunities but said he'd never received more fan support than he had at Illinois. Illinois (6-6) finished the regular season with six straight losses, a run that led to Zook's firing last month. The Illini offense all but shut down over that stretch, scoring 11 points a game. But Koenning's high-pressure defense finished the season ranked seventh in the country overall, fourth against the pass and 21st in scoring defense. Koenning, who came to Illinois from Kansas State, was also credited with helping develop defensive end Whitney Mercilus, a first-team AP All American who leads the country in sacks with 14½. Koenning's announcement follows the exit last week of offensive coordinator Paul Petrino, who returned to the staff at Arkansas. Beckman said Wednesday that defensive line coach Keith Gilmore will stay at Illinois. There is no set timeline to find new staff members, Beckman said this week. Toledo offensive coordinator Tim Campbell passed up a chance to join Beckman at Illinois and was named the new Rockets head coach this week.
Illinois stops UCLA to win Fight Hunger Bowl, end 6-game slide
SAN FRANCISCO -- Waiting 12 weeks between wins was hard enough for Illinois. Terry Hawthorne and a stingy defense made sure the Illini didn't have to wait an entire offseason as well. Hawthorne returned an interception 39 yards for Illinois' first touchdown late in the third quarter and the Illini snapped a six-game losing streak by beating UCLA 20-14 in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. "It's definitely a relief," said All-American defensive end Whitney Mercilus, who tied Simeon Rice's school record for sacks in a season with 16. "We've been pent up with a lot of anxiety, a little bit of anger with what happened throughout the season and what went wrong. ... It's a great feeling overall. I'm just ecstatic right now."
Nathan Scheelhaase added a 60-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Jenkins midway through the fourth quarter to seal the first victory for Illinois (7-6) since beating Indiana on Oct. 8. It also gave the Illini bowl wins in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history. The players celebrated it by dumping Gatorade on interim coach Vic Koenning during a postgame celebration. "It feels great to come out with a win. It's why we came here," Scheelhaase said. "Coach Vic said the first night out here, we came here to win. We've been through some tough times but we have an amazing belief in our locker room in each other." The game between two six-win teams who have already fired their head coaches matched the underwhelming expectations as there was little excitement before Hawthorne's third-quarter touchdown that gave Illinois its first lead. UCLA (6-8) was held to 18 yards rushing in its third straight loss. Kevin Prince threw two TD passes, including one in the closing minute to Nelson Rosario after the game had been decided. "This is not the way we wanted to go out, to send our seniors out," tight end Joseph Fauria said. "I guess there's some sort of relief for guys that have another year and looking forward to new beginnings. At the same time, this is going to be a bad taste in our mouth for these next six months or something. But we're excited for new beginnings." It was an earlier pass by Prince that proved decisive. Three plays after Derek Dimke missed a 37-yard field goal for Illinois, Prince dropped back and threw to his left looking for Shaquelle Evans. Hawthorne read the play perfectly and stepped in front of the throw for the interception and had a clear path to the end zone for the score that gave the Illini a 10-7 lead. "The corner just jumped it," Prince said. "'It was a little hitch route. I was anticipating him playing in the quarters-type look, where he's going to be off, cover-two look. And he just picked the ball off. Good play by him, and brain fart by me." Dimke added a 37-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter and Scheelhaase and Jenkins combined on their big play to make it 20-7 with 5:36 to go. Scheelhaase finished 18 for 30 for 139 yards with 110 yards rushing to lead the Illinois offense. Prince completed just 14 for 29 for 201 yards and the Bruins were held to a season-low in rushing, well below their 190.7 yard per game average, by the stout Illini front. The matchup between Big Ten and Pac-12 teams on New Year's weekend at a picturesque setting in California conjures up memories of Rose Bowls past. But this game was played on San Francisco's waterfront instead of with the San Gabriel Mountains in the background in Pasadena and was between two teams that had little to celebrate this season. Both teams fired their coaches after disappointing regular seasons with Ron Zook getting let go by Illinois after losing six straight games to end the season and Rick Neuheisel getting run out at UCLA after a 50-0 loss to rival Southern California in the regular season finale. Neuheisel coached the Bruins when they lost the Pac-12 title game at Oregon, leaving them as the first team to go to a bowl with a losing record since North Texas in 2001. With their head coaches gone and new coaches Tim Beckman at Illinois and Jim Mora at UCLA not set to take over until January, interim coaches Koenning and Mike Johnson ran the Illini and Bruins respectively. There was so much turmoil that Koenning did not know if his offensive assistants would take part in the game until seeing interim offensive coordinator Jeff Brohm at breakfast before the game. "I wasn't worried about that," Koenning said. "If I came up to that bridge and there wasn't a bridge there, then I'd worry about how to get across it. There are so many other things to worry about." The Illini opened up the playbook in the first half but still trailed 7-3 at the break. They called a throwback pass to Scheelhaase, a reverse, a fake field goal and went for it on fourth-and-1 from their own territory. UCLA stuffed Donovonn Young for a loss on that run from the Illinois 45, setting up Prince's 16-yard TD pass to Taylor Embree for the first score of the game. The game, which is sponsored by Kraft, generated three meals for local food banks for each of the 29,878 tickets sold. Officials used an Oreo cookie for the opening coin toss.
Nice win, defense was impressive. Great way to end the year, especially beating UCLA. I am really going to miss VK! Great DC, great man of character! I am hoping the D doesn't fall off in the upcoming years.
Illinois wins opener, overcomes injury to Nathan Scheelhaase (Week 1)
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- With quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase injured, Ashante Williams returned an interception 60 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown to help Illinois and new coach Tim Beckman hang on for a 24-7 win Saturday over Western Michigan in the season opener for both teams. The Illini opened up a 17-0 lead but their offense stalled when Scheelhaase left the game with an ankle injury late in the third quarter. Illinois struggled to move the ball after that and the Broncos came to life, scoring on an 8-yard touchdown from Alex Carder to Jaime Wilson to make it 17-7 just before the end of the quarter.
Western Michigan reached the Illinois 46 when Carder looked for Wilson again, but Williams stepped in front of the receiver and raced to the end zone. The win was Beckman's first at Illinois after he was hired from Toledo to replace Ron Zook. Scheelhaase was 11 of 18 for 126 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He also ran for a touchdown. Carder finished 26 of 43 for 239 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions. In last season's game between the teams, Carder threw for more than 300 yards in Illinois' 23-20 victory. Illinois got a look at the limits of its offense without Scheelhaase. Before the junior left, the Illini had close to 240 yards of offense. They finished with 248 total yards. Sophomore Reilly O'Toole came in at quarterback and completed two of three attempts for just 7 yards. A year after Illinois' close call with Western Michigan, Scheelhaase looked to quickly end any suspense. He hit Ryan Lankford deep for a 64-yard touchdown pass 1:40 into the game for a 7-0 lead. Then, after Nick Immekus' field goal, Scheelhaase ran the ball in from 4 yards out midway through the second quarter to make it 17-0. Illinois' leading rusher was Jon Davis, a tight end lining up as an H-back. He carried the ball six times for 54 yards. But with the offense struggling, Illinois defense played tough. The Illini held the pass-heavy Broncos to 259 yards, including minus-6 yards on the ground. Defensive end Michael Buchanan and safety Earnest Thomas joined Williams with interceptions. Zook's Illini were 4-0 after last season's win over the Broncos, but his team won just twice more before losing six straight, a streak that cost him his job. Beckman's Rockets last season held on for a wild 66-63 win over the Broncos in the Mid-American Conference. The Illini travel next Saturday to Arizona State, while the Broncos will face Eastern Illinois at home.
KKelly helps Arizona State roll over Fighting Illini (Week 2)
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Taylor Kelly completed 18 of 24 passes for 249 yards and a touchdown, and Arizona State rolled past Illinois 45-14 on Saturday night to improve to 2-0 under new coach Todd Graham. Kelly's backup, Michael Eubank, was 5 of 5 passing for 69 yards and two touchdowns and ran 7 yards for a score. Chris Coyle matched a school record for tight ends with 10 catches, totaling 131 yards and two scores. He caught six passes for 73 yards all of last season. Illinois (1-1) was without quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase because of an ankle injury, but the Illini's biggest problem was on defense, especially against the pass. Illinois joined Nebraska (to UCLA) and Wisconsin (to Oregon State) as Big Ten teams to lose at Pac-12 schools on Saturday. Tim Beckman got his first loss as Illini coach after directing the team to a win in the Fight Hunger Bowl last season and last week's season opener against Western Michigan. Arizona State (2-0) could have won even bigger but fumbled the ball away twice inside the Illinois 10. Freshman Carlos Mendoza had two interceptions for Arizona State, which was without linebacker Brandon Magee because of a concussion. Both of Scheelhaase's replacements, Reilly O'Toole and Miles Osei, had their struggles, but neither plays defense, where the lion's share of the blame rests. The Sun Devils scored touchdowns on four of their six first-half possessions. It was almost five TDs, but Cameron Marshall lost a fumble at the Illinois 1. Arizona State completed its first 14 passes, 10 by Kelly and four by Eubank. The two quarterbacks combined to complete 16 of 18 passes to an array of wide-open receivers in the first half, building a 28-7 lead. Coyle had seven catches for 101 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. The Sun Devils took the opening kickoff and quickly drove from their 31-yard line to the Illini 3. But on first-and-goal, Marshall fumbled, and Patrick Nixon-Youman recovered at the Illini 1. Illinois moved the ball to its 24 before being forced to punt, and Arizona State bolted downfield on offense again. Kelly had passes of 20 yards to Coyle and 23 to D.J. Foster in an eight-play, 65-yard scoring drive. Kelly threw 5 yards to Ozier for the touchdown to make it 7-0. A second delay-of-game penalty on O'Toole and an Illinois three-and-out followed, then Arizona State zipped to another score. Kelly had passes of 19 and 30 yards to Coyle, and Marshall scored on a 2-yard run to make it 14-0 with 1:32 left in the first quarter. Osei replaced O'Toole and directed an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. Donovonn Young's 14-yard scoring run cut the lead to 14-7. But the Illini could not slow down, let alone stop, the Sun Devils. Eubank, Arizona State's touted redshirt freshman, came in and led a seven-play, 84-yard scoring drive that took just 2:29. He threw a 1-yard pass to Coyle for the touchdown to make it 21-7. Then things fell apart for Osei. His ill-advised pass was picked off by Mendoza at the Illinois 46. Four plays later, after Kelly threw 41 yards to Jamal Miles, Eubank tossed 3 yards to Coyle for another score, and the Sun Devils were up 28-7. Mendoza picked off Osei again on Illinois' next possession, and the Illini went back to O'Toole.
On the second play following the second-half kickoff, O'Toole's pass was intercepted by Alonzo Agwuenu, who returned it 34 yards to the Illinois 13. Kelly threw 12 yards to Foster, then Foster scored on a 1-yard run. and it was 35-7 just 1 minute, 15 seconds into the third quarter. With their 63-6 victory over Northern Arizona a week ago, the Sun Devils have outscored their opponents 108-20 in their first two games under Graham.
Reilly O'Toole throws for 5 TDs as Illinois blanks Charleston Southern (Week 3)
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Reilly O'Toole threw for 333 yards and five touchdowns and receiver Ryan Lankford had 97 yards and two scores to lead Illinois to a 44-0 win Saturday over Charleston Southern. The Illini (2-1) were missing a handful of starters who were injured, including quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, who has missed two games with a sprained ankle. O'Toole got the start and connected with Lankford twice in the first quarter for short touchdowns that gave the Illini a 13-0 lead, all they would need.
Illinois held Charleston Southern (0-3) to 125 yards of offense. It was the first game against a Big Ten team for the FCS Buccaneers. Even with O'Toole's big day, the most important play of the game for the Illini might have come from freshman running back Dami Ayoola. Illinois jumped ahead early 13-0 on a pair of 4-yard first-quarter touchdown passes from O'Toole to Lankford, but stalled offensively as the second quarter dragged on. Facing a fourth-and-1 at the Charleston Southern 28, the 5-10, 205-pound Ayoola got the ball and quickly pushed into the center of the Buccaneer line for the first down. But no one brought him down, and Ayoola popped out of the pile stumbling but still on his feet. He straightened himself out and sprinted to the end zone for a touchdown. With the extra point Illinois had a 20-0 lead that, even with 2:06 left to play in the first half, looked comfortable. The Buccaneers have yet to score more than 14 points in a game this season. Ayoola finished with eight carries for a game-high 55 yards. He played in place of starting back Josh Ferguson, who missed the game with a concussion. Even with Scheelhaase out, Illinois' defense came into Saturday's game knowing it was the primary problem in last week's loss at Arizona State. Players said they had trouble reading the play calls from the sideline, and the Sun Devils built a 28-0 halftime edge before going on to win 45-14. But Charleston Southern's option offense seldom troubled the Illini defense Saturday. The more limited Buccaneers managed just 125 yards of offense against the Illini. A rotating cast of quarterbacks were a combined 5 of 14 for 29 yards, including an early interception that set up Illinois' first touchdown. Freshman linebacker Mason Monheim intercepted Derek Hatcher deep in Buccaneer territory and returned the pass to the 7-yard line. Three plays later O'Toole hit Lankford from 4 yards out. Charleston Southern really threatened only once. Illinois led 13-0 midway through the second quarter when Buccaneers backup quarterback Briar Van Brunt kept the ball on the option and broke away from the Illinois defense for a 54-yard gain. V'Angelo Bentley and Justin Green caught him from behind at the Illinois 38. But the Buccaneers' first trip into Illini territory didn't last long. Two plays that went nowhere and a penalty for having 12 players on the field left Charleston Southern with a third-and-15 at the Illini 43. Quarterback Derek Hatcher's wobbly floater was too high for Corvaughn Archie to pull down, and the Buccaneers were forced to punt. Illinois went into the game missing three starters on each side of the ball. In addition to Scheelhaase and Ferguson, center Graham Pocic was held out with a leg injury. On defense, Illinois was missing safeties Steve Hull and Suppo Sanni and linebacker Houston Bates.
Louisiana Tech takes advantage of 6 Illini turnovers in win(Week 4)
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Louisiana Tech came to Illinois Saturday averaging 56 points a game. It's safe to say Bulldogs don't need much help finding the scoreboard. They got it anyway, from an Illinois team that couldn't hold onto the ball. The Bulldogs (3-0) turned six Illinois turnovers and four touchdown passes from quarterback Colby Cameron into a 52-24 road upset of the Illini (2-2).
And not just an upset for the Western Athletic Conference school, but a blowout. The Bulldogs led 21-7 at the end of the first quarter on Illinois' first three turnovers, and dominated the Illini, never trailing again. "I thought we played a lot more physical up front today than we have and made better plays on the football," Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes said. "I think we gained a lot of confidence in the first half just because we had a lead." Cameron's favorite target was Quinton Patton who caught six balls for 164 yards and two touchdowns for the Bulldogs. Cameron and Patton connected on a pair of early third-quarter touchdowns that put the Bulldogs up for good, 35-17. "Regardless of who you're playing you're not going to win football games if you turn the football over and give up big strikes," Illinois coach Tim Beckman said. "I credit Louisiana Tech -- I think Louisiana Tech's got a good football team. But we still have to play much better." After missing the past two games with a sprained ankle, Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase was ineffective and left the game in the first quarter. Reilly O'Toole was 19 of 25 for 120 yards in his place. The Bulldog defense sacked Illinois' quarterbacks five times. Illinois climbed back into the game in the second quarter, turning a 21-7 deficit to a manageable 21-17 while holding the Bulldogs to three yards of offense. The Bulldogs doused whatever spark the Illini felt as they came out of the locker room for the third quarter. And, like everything else Louisiana Tech did, it happened fast. On the quarter's second play Cameron hit Patton deep down the right sideline for a 78-yard touchdown and a 28-17 lead that silenced a chilly Memorial Stadium crowd. Patton caught the ball well behind cornerback Terry Hawthorne, one of Illinois' fastest players. And any helped he might have hoped for from his safeties never materialized. After a three-and-out from Illinois and O'Toole, the Bulldogs turned in a nine-play, 73-yard drive that, it weren't for their no-huddle offense, might have chewed up four or five minutes. As it was, Cameron wrapped up the drive in well under three minutes, again finding Patton for a 21-yard touchdown. Patton again ran by Hawthorne as he cut across the middle of the field and caught the ball near the goal line. "We've got to try to create some more pressure on the quarterback and we've got to cover better," Beckman said. "I mean, you saw it." For all of Louisiana Tech's quick-strike offensive ability, one special teams play summed a night of mistakes for Illinois. Trailing 35-17, the Illini forced a punt and were about to get the ball back, but the punt bounced off the back of blocker Justin Green inside his own 5-yard line and into the end zone. The Bulldogs' Antonio Mitchum fell on the ball and, at 42-17 with more than four minutes left in the third quarter, the game was over. "We talked in the past few weeks about finishing and that's what we worked on tonight. I think we decided to capitalize on that in the third quarter," Mitchum said. Illinois' first three turnovers cost the Illini dearly. All in the first quarter, they staked Louisiana Tech to a 21-7 lead. The last of those three was, for the Illini, the ugliest. Scheelhaase ran away from heavy pressure but was caught as he headed for the sideline by linebacker Rufus Porter who punched the ball loose. Defensive end Vontarrius Dora grabbed the fumble at the Illinois 38 and returned it to the Illinois 23-yard line King again turned the Illini mistake into points, scrambling in from the 5, hitting the goal line and losing the ball as he did. Illinois challenged the touchdown call but, like much of what the Illini tried in the first quarter, it didn't work. Officials upheld the call. Scheelhaase left the game after his fumble. He hadn't played since late in the opener against Western Michigan almost three weeks ago after spraining his left ankle. "We weren't moving the ball so we decided as coaching staff, myself, that we'd give Reilly a chance," Beckman said, saying only that Scheelhaase looked Rusty. O'Toole -- along with a mistake from the Bulldogs -- helped Illinois claw its way back into the game. First Illinois turned a fumbled punt return by Craig Johnson deep in Bulldog territory into a 26-yard field goal by Taylor Zalewski to cut the gap to 21-10 with 12:14 left in the second quarter. Then O'Toole led Illinois on a methodical 13-play, 57 yard drive -- overcoming a holding penalty that wiped out a 25-yard gain -- that ended with a 1-yard touchdown by Donovonn Young. Illinois was back in the game, somehow down just four, 21-17, at the half.
Matt McGloin shines as Penn State cruises in Big Ten opener (Week 5)
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Matt McGloin threw for 211 yards and a touchdown and ran for two more scores to lead Penn State to a 35-7 win over Illinois Saturday in the schools' Big Ten opener.
Sophomore running back Zach Zwinak added 101 yards and two touchdowns for Penn State (3-2) and the Nittany Lions forced three turnovers and held the Illini (2-3) scoreless for the first 34 minutes.
After starting the season amid turmoil with two losses, Penn State has won three straight.
Linebacker Mike Mauti, one of the most vocal critics last summer of Illinois for its efforts to recruit Penn State players after the child-sex scandal and NCAA sanctions, intercepted Illini quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase twice.
The second came near midfield late in the third quarter as Scheelhaase tried to rally the Illini. Mauti's pick instead set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Zwinak with 14:03 left in the game that sealed the win.
The Nittany Lions must still be wondering how they didn't turn the senior linebacker's first interception into points.
With just seconds left in the half. Illinois was desperately trying to put its first points on the scoreboard, and was in position to do it with a fourth-and-goal from the Penn State 7.
Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase saw receiver Ryan Lankford crossing the field at the goal line but Mauti stepped in front of the pass, picking it off and charging to his left and the home sideline.
Mauti followed his blockers, running through traffic deep into Illini territory. But he was also running out of gas with Illinois' Miles Osei on his tail.
Osei, the officials ruled after reviewing the play, got just enough of Mauti to force one of his knees to the turf before the linebacker fell across the goal line. But the review also showed one second left on the clock. Sam Ficken lined up for a chip-shot field goal that Illinois' V'Angelo Bentley blocked, keeping the game at 21-0 at the half.
Illinois finally found the scoreboard early in the third quarter, but it took a combination of special teams, defense and little offensive sleight of hand to do it.
Illini punter Justin Duvernois pinned the Nittany Lions on their own 1 with a 57-yard punt and Illinois' defense held. After a punt the Illini took over at the Nittany Lion 42.
After moving to the Penn State 22, Illini running back Josh Ferguson took the ball from Scheelhaase and passed deep to wide receiver Spencer Harris in the Nittany Lion end zone to cut the gap to 21-7.
But Illinois struggled to move the ball from that point on.
Scheelhaase finished with 270 passing yards, going 28 of 46. Lankford had seven catches for a game-high 104 yards.
Illinois quite literally handed the Nittany Lions the first points of the game.
Less than two minutes into the game, Illini return man Tommy Davis fumbled Alex Butterworth's punt at the Illinois 26. Penn State's Michael Fuhrman recovered at the Illinois 26.
Penn State drove to the Illinois 7 and was stopped there. But Bentley was flagged for grazing Ficken's kicking leg, giving Penn State a first down. Zwinak plowed into the end zone from a yard out for a 7-0 lead with 10:41 left in the first quarter.
Penn State added another touchdown four minutes later on a 1-yard run by McGloin to go up 14-0.
The hard feelings between the teams were sometimes clear.
Players exchanged words as they crossed paths on the way to the locker rooms at halftime and had to be separated by officials and staff members from each team.
And Illinois safety Earnest Thomas was ejected from the game after a hard helmet-to-helmet hit on Matt Lehman in the end zone as the tight end caught a second-quarter touchdown. Penn State staff led the groggy Lehman off the field but he returned and finished with five catches for 70 yards.
Joel Stave throws 2 TDs as Wisconsin gets back on track in Big Ten(Week 6)
MADISON, Wis. -- Joel Stave threw two touchdown passes and Wisconsin's running game showed signs of life as the Badgers defeated Illinois 31-14 on Saturday. Stave threw for 254 yards for the Badgers (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten), who rushed for 173 yards -- 96 in the fourth quarter. The offensive struggles of the Illini (2-4, 0-2) continued, with quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase the only positive. He finished with 178 yards passing and 84 rushing as Illinois gained 287 yards overall. Scheelhaase ran for a 5-yard touchdown in the first quarter and threw for an 8-yard touchdown to Ryan Lankford to make it 24-14 late in the game.
But Jared Abbrederis fielded the ensuing onside kick, and Montee Ball scored his second touchdown of the game to snuff any hopes of an Illinois comeback. Ball has 69 rushing TDs in his career, four shy of tying the FBS record held by Travis Prentice of Miami of Ohio from 1996-99. He finished with 19 carries for 116 yards. Abbrederis caught Stave's 59-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter that put Wisconsin up 24-7 and gave him his third consecutive game with more than 100 receiving yards since returning from an injury. He finished with seven catches for 117 yards. The Badgers capitalized on a pair of Illinois miscues for their other second-half points. With the game tied at 7-7, Stave hit Derek Watt for 26 yards, and Illinois defensive back Terry Hawthorne was called for a personal foul on the hit, putting the ball at the Illinois 33. Following the collision, Hawthorne lay motionless on the field and was put on a stretcher and taken off in an ambulance, giving a thumbs up as he was loaded into the vehicle. The drive ended when Kyle French made a 46-yard field goal. Illinois' next drive stalled near midfield, and a shanked 10-yard punt by Justin DuVernois gave Wisconsin good field position. James White had a 22-yard run, Stave hit Abbrederis for 15 yards, and Ball ran it in from 9 yards out to put Wisconsin up 17-7. As Wisconsin's offense has struggled, coach Bret Bielema has gone back and forth between Stave and Danny O'Brien at quarterback. Stave started the game, but Bielema went to a third option at the end of the first quarter, bringing in Curt Phillips. Phillips has had multiple surgeries on his right knee, has thrown just 13 passes in his career and hadn't played since the 2009 regular season finale at Hawaii. He handed off to end the first quarter, kept the ball for a 2-yard loss to open the second and gave way to Stave on third down. The juggling didn't work. Stave was picked off, with Steve Hull returning the ball to the Wisconsin 28. Scheelhaase completed a pass for 23 yards to give the Illini first-and-goal at the 5 before running it in on the next play. Stave hit James White for a 62-yard touchdown on a screen pass.
Last edited by little bear; 10-07-2012 at 12:28 PM.