Illinois’ O-line a silver lining
BY STEVE GREENBERG October 6, 2013 12:34AM
Updated: November 7, 2013 6:53AM
a silver lining
LINCOLN, Neb. — It’s easier said than done, but try for a moment to ignore the final score and the general one-sided nature of Illinois’ loss to Nebraska, and instead look at the one important positive that took place Saturday.
Simply put: The Illini offensive line had a great day.
There were three sacks allowed, but that was going to happen with the Huskers holding a big lead and blitzing Nathan Scheelhaase on every obvious passing down.
Illinois’ biggest negative offensively in September was its inability to establish a traditional, between-the-tackles running game. Against the Huskers, the line more than held its own, driving impressively off the ball and opening up some gaping holes as Josh Ferguson and Donovonn Young combined for 34 carries, 186 yards and two touchdowns.
“We ran the ball all over the field today,” guard Teddy Karras said. “That’s pretty encouraging.”
The opening coin flip might have been the biggest play of the day. Nebraska won it and elected to kick off, forcing the Illini offense to play into a ferocious wind. Without question, the wind was as big a reason as any that the Huskers raced out to a 14-0 first-quarter lead.
Accuracy was an issue for Scheelhaase, who lacks the giant arm it would’ve taken under such conditions.
Of course, the wind had nothing to do with the first-quarter fumble by Young that cost the Illini a chance to tie the game at 7. Young was stripped by Ciante Evans while being tackled at the Nebraska 31-yard line after a 21-yard gain.