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Touchdown TIMES A publication of The Daily Illini | Friday, September 21, 2012

When he’s off the field, Scheelhaase still has faith

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Friday, September 21, 2012

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Editor’s note: This page is a place to run a photo each week that is relevant in some way to the upcoming game. The photo could be from last year’s matchup or the Illini’s game from the previous week — whatever. As long as it gets you ready for this week, it’ll be here. Illinois’ Dami Ayoola (22) erupts out of a pileup during the game against Charleston Southern at Memorial Stadium on Saturday. Ayoola would go on to score a touchdown.

While experiencing some success, the Illini’s rushing attack was relatively stagnant against Charleston Southern last Saturday. An improvement from Josh Ferguson and Donovonn Young will be crucial against Louisiana Tech. Follow the DI’s football coverage @DI_Sports and @DI_Football.


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Friday, September 21, 2012

Illinois prepares to face high-octane offense BY SEAN HAMMOND STAFF WRITER

If the Illinois football team thought the Arizona State offense moved quickly, it will have its work cut out for it under the lights Saturday. The same Illini defense that surrendered 45 points to the Sun Devils will have to stop a Louisiana Tech offense that has put up the fifth most yards per game (603.5) in the nation. The Bulldogs scored 56 points in each of their first two games. In its season opener, Louisiana Tech defeated Houston 56-49. The two teams combining to set a NCAA record with 209 plays from scrimmage, breaking a 41-year mark. The two teams totaled 1,291 yards, 87 completed passes and 14 touchdowns. Bulldogs quarterback Colby Cameron threw for 353 yards and three scores. “We feel like this is the game to go out and show everybody what type of defense we are,” STAR Ashante Williams said. “We want to redeem ourselves from our last night game (against Arizona State). We’re taking them like a serious challenge.” Against the Sun Devils two weeks ago, many blown coverages were because of miscommunication from the sideline. Following the 45-14 loss, Williams said the defense asked the coaches not to give signals when a team is running a hurry-up offense against the unit. Instead, starting with their game against Charleston Southern, the Illini implemented a system in which the coaches hold up color cards that communicate to the defense what type of formation to be in.

Williams also said the defense was focusing on not falling behind Louisiana Tech’s highoctane offense. “We’re working on conditioning this week,” he said. “Everybody’s getting around the ball, hustling to the ball, getting onto the field so that we know we can prepare for this challenge.” The Bulldogs have allowed a lot of points, but they have come in a blowout of Rice — a game that was essentially over by halftime — and to Houston — a team that has scored a lot of points in recent years. Co-offensive coordinator Chris Beatty is not letting the numbers fool him. “Every game they’re up big,” he said. “Last week at Rice, in the first quarter, (Rice) got one first down. Stats don’t always tell the truth.” After missing the last two games with a left ankle injury, head coach Tim Beckman said quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase was “nearly 100 percent” after practice Wednesday. He did not say who his starter would be this week. Backup Reilly O’Toole, who started the last two games, said all three quarterbacks were preparing as if they were going to start. “(Scheelhaase) has looked good on both Sundays,” Beckman said. “But we’re not going to put Nathan out there unless he can better this football team and he is feeling good about the way he’s capable of playing.” Whether Scheelhaase plays, Illinois will have to work on both sides of the ball to keep up with Louisiana Tech. Co-offensive coordinator Billy Gonzales said Illinois was not going to let the game become a “track race.”


Ashante Williams (25) makes a tackle against Charleston Southern at Memorial Stadium on Saturday. The Illini defense will be tested by the Bulldogs, who scored 56 points in each of their last two games. But the scene Saturday will likely be different from last season’s night game at Memorial Stadium, a 17-14 slugfest against Arizona State. After sparse crowds in the first two home games, the Illini are expecting a better turnout for the primetime game.

“I’m ready to see what the town of Champaign has to bring to the game,” Williams said.

Sean can be reached at and @sean_hammond.

Friday, September 21, 2012


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Friday, September 21, 2012




llinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase slid on his blue pants, pulled over his white No. 2 jersey, applied his eye black in the shape of a cross. He then sent a text, as usual, to his pastor before joining the team for warmups — business as usual in preparation for a football game.

But there was little chance an injured Scheelhaase would play as Illinois prepared to take on Arizona State. He was told he would only be available in emergency situations after being carted off the field a week before with an ankle injury. It was the first time in his entire life that he would have to sit out a game due to injury — quite the feat considering that a large part of Scheelhaase’s game comes from his rushing ability. His 27-game streak of consecutive starts was coming to an end, but if he felt any measure of doubt or disappointment, it never showed on his face. He never even mentioned a hint of feeling sorry for himself to any of his closet friends. “I’m sure it’s a lot harder on him than it shows,” backup quarterback Reilly O’Toole said. “He’s really handling it great,” said Illini wrestler B.J. Futrell, one of Scheelhaase’s best friends. “Probably a lot better than I would be handling the situation.” On the sidelines during that game and the Illini’s next game against Charleston Southern, an unknowing observer would never have mistaken him for the injured starting quarterback. Instead, they could’ve mistaken him for “Coach Scheelhaase,” as Illinois head coach Tim Beckman called him earlier this week. It was fitting, considering that during a time when Scheelhaase was not able to help the team physically, he did all he could to help his team off the field. He was often the first to greet quarterbacks O’Toole or Miles Osei with frantic questions: “What you see? What you see? I saw this.” O’Toole said Scheelhaase felt like another coach on the sidelines but someone who was more approachable than other coaches when he struggled. He didn’t stop at the quarterbacks — he was engaged with his receivers and with linemen staying in the game without being in the game. But has it been hard sitting out two consecutive weeks? “Well, this past week was a little easier — we win 44-0,” he said without hesitation or an inkling of insincerity. “That’s what matters, getting a win.” That kind of selflessness is part of Scheelhaase’s character. He is a devout Christian (just look at his Twitter account), and his religion has largely shaped his character. It helps him remain even-keeled about the game of football with perspective to the game of life. That’s why it doesn’t matter that two of his best friends on the team are O’Toole and Osei — the two people competing for his job. But Scheelhaase welcomes the competition. In fact, he relishes it.

The ultimate competitor It was a 2007 morning after Scheelhaase made his fi rst career start for Rockhurst High School in his hometown of Kansas City, Mo. The team was scheduled to meet that morning at 8:30 despite playing the previous night in Oklahoma — a 21-7 victory against Edmond Santa Fe High School — and hadn’t arrived home until after 1 a.m. When head coach Tony Severino, still exhausted, arrived at the field an hour before his team was scheduled to arrive, he was greeted with a surprise. Scheelhaase and his father were running 100-yard dashes. “Right there, I knew,” he said. “I said, ‘Man, we got a special guy here.’” Everyone who speaks about Scheelhaase uses the word competitive in describing his character and how much he doesn’t like to lose. A trait not uncommon for a Division-I athlete, but Scheelhaase just doesn’t like to lose — in anything. Football, basketball, sand volleyball, “Call of Duty,” “NCAA Football 13.” He doesn’t want anyone to outwork him or outlift him. Futrell joked that he wouldn’t even want to lose a gum-chewing contest.

O’Toole and wide receiver Ryan Lankford said they can tell even from another room when Scheelhaase and his biggest competitive rival, Osei, are playing video games — Osei said he usually wins — because of all the smack talk. For someone who is extremely competitive, it has to wear on him inside that he can’t be out there on the field. But Scheelhaase is willing to do whatever it takes to win. He’s never cared whether he’s had the best passing numbers, has had to use his legs or has had to help from the sidelines, as long as the Illini win. Scheelhaase has received his share of criticism during his two years as Illinois’ quarterback. His passing numbers improved from his first year, but the offense seems inept at times, especially during last season’s six-game losing streak. Illinois didn’t score more than two touchdowns at any point during that streak. And the offense’s struggles were highlighted during an abysmal performance against three-win Minnesota, a game in which Scheelhaase threw for just 15 yards. At times, Scheelhaase’s competitiveness has been one of his biggest downfalls. “Probably the biggest mistake that he’ll ever make is just ones that when he thinks he can make a play that nobody else can make, and he’s going to try it,” Severino said. “Now, I think what he’s learning is that sometimes you just got to know when to take your losses and throw the ball away or don’t take the hit. He’s always been one of those guys that can say, ‘Hey, I can get it done.’” He’s never let the negativity get it to him, much because of his strong faith in God. Scheelhaase said last year that he knows he’ll have to endure some persecution. After all, Jesus Christ had to endure the same.

A leader in Christ Last Sunday, Scheelhaase and Osei were baptized by water for the first time by Illini chaplain Jason Epperson. Baptism is a representation of a rebirth and cleansing of the soul. Scheelhaase makes no secrets about his relationship with God, as he posted the photo on Instagram and Twitter. As the quarterback of the football team, and arguably the most popular current Illinois athlete, he understands that everything he does is under scrutiny. “When you’re in a position of such high visibility, a lot of people are going to like you,” said Gary Grogan, pastor at Urbana’s Stone Creek Church, where Scheelhaase attends services every Sunday. “But there’s going to be other people that don’t like you, especially if you lose.” Grogan and Scheelhaase text each other usually before and after every football game, even though Grogan is usually in the stands right behind the Illini bench. And he is no stranger to Illini athletes, or quarterbacks for that matter. Former Illini Juice Williams and Eddie McGee both attended Stone Creek Church. But Grogan notices something different about Scheelhaase. “It just amazes me how steady he is he,” Grogan said. “He doesn’t get down emotionally like some athletes I’ve known over the years. He has a really well-balanced, mature perspective.” So when things go wrong — like a losing streak, or when he receives backlash from his Twitter followers about his religious tweets or an injury — it doesn’t faze him. Those qualities have made Scheelhaase the undoubted leader of the Illinois football team, the one players are always asking for reminders about meeting times and workouts and a player who is expected to get back on the field when the Illini face Louisiana Tech on Saturday. “Illinois has a special guy,” Severino said. But he quickly corrected himself. “No, Champaign has a special guy.”

Jamal can be reached at and @JamalCollier.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Daily Illini |


Louisiana Tech to test Illinois’ defense BY DAN WELIN FOOTBALL COLUMNIST








Colby Cameron has thrown seven touchdowns and 629 yards in the Bulldogs’ first two games. He has also completed nearly 70 percent of his passes without an interception and has some personnel at wide receiver the Illini can only dream of. (EDGE: LOUISIANA TECH)

The freshmen tandem of Tevin King and Kenneth Dixon has combined to rush for seven touchdowns and 519 yards — 59 yards more than the entire Illinois offense so far this season. Their differing size and speed make them perfect compliments to each other. (EDGE: LOUISIANA TECH)



OFFENSIVE LINE Going up against an experienced offensive line will test the Illinois defensive line, but with NFL-caliber defensive linemen in Michael Buchanan and Akeem Spence, the Illini need to be on their game to disrupt Cameron’s rhythm and slow down this offense.





Jonathan Brown and Ashante Williams have the skill set and athleticism necessary to feed off of the pressure their defensive linemen will create. (EDGE: ILLINOIS)

Louisiana Tech has a talented passing game, but it hasn’t seen a secondary like Illinois’ yet. Led by senior cornerback Terry Hawthorne, the experienced Illini defensive backs will be physical on the outside and bring this passing game back down to Earth. (EDGE: ILLINOIS)






SPECIAL TEAMS The Illini defense need to step up Saturday night. If they can adjust to Louisiana Tech’s tempo and keep the Bulldogs off the scoreboard — something they couldn’t do against Arizona State but have adjusted to in practice with colored cards — the offense might have a chance to keep up with the Bulldogs’ explosive offense. (EDGE: PUSH)

Dan is a senior in Media. He can be reached at and on Twitter @WELINandDEALIN.

Biletnikoff Award candidate Quinton Patton is dangerous enough by himself, but add in Hunter Lee and Myles White and this is quite the cast of receivers. Cameron’s 70 percent completion is no fluke, but these are the guys who make it happen.





This experienced group will have a tough time with the Illinois defensive line, but as evidence by Louisiana Tech’s two tailbacks — combining to surpass 500 yards in two games — it won’t need to hold too long for athletes to make things happen. (EDGE: LOUISIANA TECH)

They have yet to kick a field goal this season, but when you score 16 touchdowns in two games, it’s clear the offense never settles for field goals. What sets the Bulldogs’ unit apart from the Illini’s special teams is their punter, Ryan Allen. He is the kind of punter who affects a game with his big leg and ball placement.


Bulldogs’ head coach Sonny Dykes, like Tim Beckman, is the son of a college football coach, but has more familiarity with his program and players, as he’s been there for three years. (EDGE: LOUISIANA TECH)

Louisiana Tech’s offensive tempo will be the factor. As long as the Bulldogs establish the same rhythm they’ve had the last two weeks and continue their torrid pace of eight touchdowns a game, the lackluster Illinois offense will have trouble keeping up on the scoreboard. (EDGE: PUSH)

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Friday, September 21, 2012


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Missouri at No. 7 South Carolina

No . 18 Michigan at No. 11 Notre Dame

No. 15 Kansas State at No. 6 Oklahoma

No. 10 Clemson at No. 4 Florida State 35-24

Friday, September 21, 2012

Illini Drive

THREE AND OUT Illini Drive goes “three and out� every Monday on WPGU. Here are the highlights.

NATIONAL QUESTION — What do we make of the pseudo Notre Dame move to the ACC sans football?

Jamal Collier — Can someone make Notre Dame move in football? I’ve always just had a problem that Notre Dame gets to kind of do what they want. And they have this deal with the BCS where they’re halfway good (and the Irish get in). Until Notre Dame is forced to move in football, I don’t really care.

BIG TEN QUESTION — Who are you buying in this conference after Week Three?

Thomas Bruch — I’m going to say the most impressive team I’ve seen so far, maybe Ohio State, but Purdue. (The Boilermakers) went into South Bend against Notre Dame and essentially lost in the last second. ... When I watch that Purdue team, they have a tough defense. They have two quarterbacks that are seasoned and a pretty good running game.

ILLINI QUESTION — Who do the Illini need back from injury the most?

Max Tane — I’m going to say linebacker Houston Bates. I’m just going to say that for the purpose that La. Tech runs up-tempo, 100 plays per game, so to say. And you need everybody you can on defense.


Illinois faces toughest nonconference slate in Big Ten DAN WELIN Football columnist


he toughest nonconference schedule in the Big Ten for the last 10 years award goes to ... Illinois. From 2002 to 2011, Illinois’ nonconference opponents have had a 56.1 winning percentage, which is nearly 5 percent higher than Ohio State (51.6) and nearly 6 percent higher than Michigan (50.4) — two teams that consistently represent the Big Ten in BCS bowl games. Surprised? I was too when I came across the stat. Then I took a closer look at the schedules and understood why Illini fans have had to suffer through seasonlong misery quite often since 2002. Basically, the Illini aren’t giving themselves any chance for freebies. With teams like Purdue, Michigan State and Michigan scheduling Notre Dame every year and Ohio State playing USC and Texas in past years, it’s hard to believe the Illini would hold this title for the Big Ten. Illinois isn’t playing games of that historic-prestige caliber but rather has scheduled consistent winning programs over the last 10 years, including Missouri, UCLA, California, Western Michigan, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Arizona State and Louisiana Tech.



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To put those opponents in a more recent perspective, every nonconference FBS opponent the Illini have played in the last three seasons made a bowl game the season in which Illinois played the team. That stat appears headed toward making it four years in a row, as this season’s scheduled opponents — Western Michigan, Arizona State and Louisiana Tech — are projected to make bowl appearances. When you start a season against Missouri and Northern Illinois like Illinois did in 2010 or with Arkansas State, Arizona State and Western Michigan like it did in 2011, Illinois is putting itself in a position to play competitive games out of the gate instead of waiting around for conference play. Something that takes a little bit of the validity away from the nonconference opponents’ winning percentage the last decade is that Illinois hasn’t been at its best, failing to make a bowl game in seven of the last 10 seasons. But at the same time, competitive scheduling isn’t doing Illinois any favors, either. The other element that makes this even more intriguing is how the evergrowing money grab in college football has schools trying to line up as many home games as they can fit for the utmost revenue. Playing neutral site games don’t meet that current standard, and Illinois played Missouri in St. Louis six times to start six seasons since 2002 and never beat

the Tigers — sacrificing both revenue and a victory to get the exposure of a neutral site game. The other factor playing into competitive nonconference games is the constant expansion. Due to its abrupt joining of the Big 12, West Virginia backed out of an agreement with Florida State to play a home and home series in 2012 and 2013. With the changing conference landscape, it eventually seems the BCS teams will all be part of a few superconferences, and the increased competitive conferences will further diminish the frequency of watchable nonconference games. This week’s night game against Louisiana Tech is an end to another tough nonconference stretch for the Illini. But there’s no immediate end in sight as Illinois’ 2013 schedule starts with FCS opponent Southern Illinois before playing Cincinnati, Washington and Miami (Ohio) before a conference slate with a game in Nebraska and home contests against Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State. The future is vague for Illinois, as the nonconference schedules in 2014, 2015 and 2016 aren’t yet secured, but the Illini will travel to Seattle to play the Huskies in 2014 to return the favor of playing at Soldier Field in 2013.

Dan is a senior in Media. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ welinanddealin.

Touchdown Time: Sep. 21, 2012  

Friday, Sep. 21, 2012