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Illinois’ rout of Charleston Southern doesn’t reveal much about team

Illinois quarterback Reilly O’Toole set school record by completing 83.9 percent his passes against CharlestSouthern. | Seth Perlman~AP

Illinois quarterback Reilly O’Toole set a school record by completing 83.9 percent of his passes against Charleston Southern. | Seth Perlman~AP

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Updated: October 17, 2012 6:49AM



CHAMPAIGN — Tim Beckman is playing football, not poker.

But thanks to the luck of the draw with the schedule and injuries, he’s still holding a lot of cards close to the vest.

Illinois did what it was supposed to do Saturday, whipping Charleston Southern 44-0.

Because Illinois did it with backup quarterback Reilly O’Toole having a monster day while starter Nate Scheelhaase (ankle), top lineman Graham Pocic (knee) and leading rusher Josh Ferguson (concussion) sat out, we don’t really know what the Illini have on offense.

More information will come the next two weeks, when Beckman plays out his hand against a pair of tricky opponents — wily WAC favorite Louisiana Tech and wounded but dangerous Penn State — at Memorial Stadium.

Meanwhile, the Illini (2-1) will take the victory over the hapless Buccaneers (0-3) and move along.

‘‘A win’s a win,’’ Beckman said. ‘‘You only have 12 opportunities. We’re going to cherish every one.’’

O’Toole led the surge, completing 26 of 31 passes for 333 yards and five touchdowns. Junior receiver Ryan Lankford, who caught seven balls for 97 yards and two touchdowns, was the chief beneficiary.

Despite a school-record 83.9 percent completion percentage, O’Toole wasn’t planning to go dancing.

‘‘I’m not much of a dancer,’’ said the stay-in-the-pocket sophomore from Wheaton Warrenville South, who planned to hang out with his parents and get ready for the uncertainty of another practice week.

‘‘It’ll be the same thing,’’ said O’Toole, who intends to be ready to play or cheer, depending on Scheelhaase’s ankle. ‘‘We’re preparing every week like we’re going to play. Nothing really changes.’’

Scheelhaase, sidelined by an ankle sprain the last two games after 27 consecutive starts, said last week he’s ready. So he’s looking like a hole card

‘‘You can’t lose your position due to an injury,’’ said Beckman, indicating that the players will decide by competing in practice. ‘‘Nathan’s won games, but Reilly keeps getting better. It’s about competition.’’

Chances are, Scheelhaase, if healthy, opens up more things. But Beckman will play that card when he’s ready.

The defense, humbled in a 45-14 rout at Arizona State last week, bounced back, posting Illinois’ first shutout since it beat Western Illinois 21-0 on Sept. 8, 2007.

Is the defense ready to do that against stiffer competition? That’s another wild card, but the Illini certainly are feeling good enough to keep rolling. Illini Nation may be fretting. The Illini, not so much.

‘‘We know what we can do,’’ linebacker Jonathan Brown said. ‘‘It’s a matter of going out and doing it. I wouldn’t say we’re curious, probably a little anxious to get rolling.’’

With so many questions swirling, it’s no wonder the Marching Illini began the halftime show, a Beatles tribute, with ‘‘Magical Mystery Tour.’’ The next two weeks will peel off some of the mystery of where the Illini are headed.



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