Rout of winless Miami affords Illini the chance to have fun
By Steve Greenberg firstname.lastname@example.org September 28, 2013 2:24PM
Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase (2) looks to throw a pass against Miami (Ohio) during the first half of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill. (AP Photo/Jeff Haynes)
Updated: September 28, 2013 8:19PM
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — They played this one to the end, a 50-14 Illinois victory, because, well, those are the rules.
But it certainly was over by halftime, when the Illini (3-1) led Miami (Ohio) 36-0. It probably was a done deal even sooner than that, come to think of it.
Early in the second quarter, quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase found tight end Evan Wilson for a leaping touchdown grab that gave the Illini a 13-0 lead. That’s when coach Tim Beckman and offensive coordinator Bill Cubit injected some extra fun into the game, as they’ve done often this season.
A two-point conversion pass from holder Tim Russell to tight end Jon Davis made it 15-0. Just like that, Illinois had more points than the RedHawks’ season high of 14 coming into this game. Miami (0-4), owner of the bottom-ranked offense in college football, scraped together those two touchdowns a 52-14 loss at Marshall.
But Beckman and staff weren’t done. Next came an onside kick successfully recovered by tight end Matt LaCosse, who also caught a pair of touchdown passes from Scheelhaase.
Four plays and 1:33 left after the surprise move, the score was 22-0 and the blowout was on.
The obvious question: Will Illinois, which has looked surprisingly good through four non-conference games, be able to keep it up once Big Ten play begins next weekend at Nebraska?
There are many who doubt the Illini are good enough to climb more than a step or so out of the Big Ten basement. It’s certainly reasonable to be skeptical that what we’ve seen from this team is real.
But it isn’t naïve to think Beckman’s second team is capable of winning a few league games and even reaching a lower-tier bowl game. What’s naïve is thinking the Big Ten is too big, strong and bad to allow such a thing to happen.
Scheelhaase bounced back from a difficult outing against Washington with a huge first half, throwing for 256 yards and five touchdowns (with an interception) in building a 36-point lead that could’ve been even larger if not for a drop by Ryan Lankford in the end zone.
Illinois’ 394 yards gained in the opening 30 minutes was its most in a first half in 30 years.