Illinois coach Tim Beckman said Monday that he won't know until midweek whether starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase will be ready to play Saturday at Arizona State after suffering an ankle injury in the season-opening win over Western Michigan.
And if he can't go, Illinois could be offensively challenged.
With Scheelhaase at quarterback, Illinois efficiently rolled up a 17-0 lead, amassed well over 200 yards of offense in two-and-a-half quarters and dominated the clock in the24-7 win over the Broncos.
After Scheelhaase left with an ankle injury, the offense barely reached double-digit yardage. The defense delivered the only points, closing out the win with a touchdown.
''I know Nathan's gonna' do whatever he can to be there on Saturday,'' Beckman said. ''I'm a firm believer in practice. You've got to go through some practice, at least Wednesday's practice.''
Beckman said Scheelhaase's left ankle injury wasn't a high-ankle sprain, which can be more problematic than a typical sprain.
The Illini (1-0) say they'll be ready to go without their starter if need be.
Illinois entered the season planning to play backup Reilly O'Toole on a regular basis, and O'Toole played in 10 games as a freshman. He was 40 of 67 for 270 yards, a touchdown and four interceptions last season.
His first snaps of the new season came under pressure Saturday as Scheelhaase headed to the bench and iced his ankle.
With what at the time was a 17-0 lead on a Broncos team that didn't look like much of a threat to come back, there wasn't much pressure to throw the ball, O'Toole said. But by his own admission, O'Toole's performance - 2 of 3 passing for 7 yards and five possessions that yielded just one first down - wasn't what he'd hoped for.
''Not too good,'' he said when asked to grade his game. ''I messed up some key plays, but at the same time, I took care of the ball and just a few plays here and there could have gone differently but I can do better for sure.''
O'Toole said that if the Illini need him Saturday he'll be ready.
''Hopefully next time, I can get some more plays and some first downs and be sure to get some points on the board,'' he said.
Illinois relied on its defense to put the game away against the Broncos. Western Michigan had pulled within 10 points with a touchdown and was driving again when Ashante Williams intercepted Alex Carder and returned it for a rally-killing touchdown.
Scheelhaase's injury, defensive end Michael Buchanan said, revved up the defense.
''We got fired up on the sideline and said we have to make a play, we have to make a play,'' said Buchanan, who had a sack and an interception Saturday.
Illinois stifled the Broncos both before and after the injury. Western Michigan finished with 259 yards, but the Broncos had minus-6 yards rushing.
Arizona State (1-0) figures to pose more of a challenge.
The Sun Devils breezed by Northern Arizona, a Football Championship Subdivision school, 63-6 last Thursday in new head coach Todd Graham's debut.
Arizona State had 554 yards, including 305 on the ground.
The Illini beat the Sun Devils in Champaign early last season, 17-14. Illinois' defense dominated that game with six sacks and two interceptions.
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