Illinois has much to prove on both sides of ball
BY HERB GOULD email@example.com September 14, 2012 8:22PM
Reilly O’Toole (4), getting sacked by Arizona State safety Chris Young last Saturday, will start again for Illinois. | Matt York~AP
The facts: 11 a.m., BTN, 560-AM.
Updated: October 16, 2012 6:13AM
It’s not clear who has more to prove after that bumpy 45-14 loss at Arizona State — Illinois’ defense or offense.
Both units are determined to prove their performance in the desert was a mirage Saturday against Charleston Southern.
‘‘The whole thing is, you want to get back on the horse,’’ said co-offensive coordinator Chris Beatty, invoking the standard back-to-work order. ‘‘It’s 24 hours when you win, and 24 hours when you lose. You know what you have to correct, and you move on to the next opponent. That’s part of coaching, That’s part of life.’’
Eliminating the three turnovers that spelled disaster for the offense will be a big point of emphasis.
Quarterback Reilly O’Toole will make his second consecutive start, a team spokesman said Friday. Third-year starter Nate Scheelhaase (sprained left ankle) will not play, another source said.
A second backup, Miles Osei, also could see playing time against the Bucs, an FBS school facing a Big Ten opponent for the first time.
‘‘The three turnovers is what you think about,’’ coach Tim Beckman said. ‘‘Those are definitely things we can’t do and be successful.’’
The offense was expected to be a work in progress, and the absence of Scheelhaase meant a scaled-down playbook against the Sun Devils.
The poor play on defense, which is expected to do big things this fall, is the bigger surprise.
Cutting through a unit that supposedly features several NFL prospects like the proverbial hot knife through butter, Arizona State led 28-7 at the half and easily could have had another touchdown or two.
‘‘We still feel like we’re a top defense in this country,’’ end Michael Buchanan said. ‘‘We just didn’t play like it for one week. We want to show the world again that we are a top defense, that we do have a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball.’’
Charleston Southern runs the option, which means the Illini will be focused on playing assignment football. They also will be focused on tackling better than they did against the Sun Devils.
Beyond beating the Bucs, the Illini hope to regain their swagger for the next two weeks, when Louisiana Tech and Penn State come to Champaign.