Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 10/22/14
Ohio-state-illinois
Illinois Football collected a win in their season opener this Saturday, pulling out a 42-34 victory over Southern Illinois University. Illinois struggled out of the gate, managing just 3 points on two attempted field goals by kicker Taylor Zalewski. After one quarter, the Fighting Illini trailed 7-3 but never relinquished the lead  after a 53-yard touchdown reception by sophomore tailback Josh Ferguson gave them a 10-7 lead. Illinois’s lead reached 25-7 by halftime after touchdowns by Donovonn Young and Jon Davis and a successful two-point attempt on a pass from tight end Tim Russell, the holder on the extra point team, to Matt LaCosse. SIU cut the lead down 15 in the third with help from a Nathan Scheelhaase interception, a blemish on an otherwise stellar day for the senior Illini quarterback, which set up a Saluki touchdown. As with every game, there were some positives and some negatives for each side. Let’s take a look at those from the Illini’s perspective: The Good 1. Nathan Scheelhaase: 28/36 416 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT Not much to fault Scheelhaase for, other than the one interception, as he started off his final season in Champaign with a huge day, throwing for over 400 yards, 340 of them in the first half. Scheelhaase was on target with most of his throws and kept plays alive by scrambling until he could find an open receiver or tucking the ball away and running when nothing else was available. He looked much better than the Scheelhaase of old who would be replaced in the middle of the game by Reilly O’Toole. Instead, Scheelhaase was replaced by O’Toole only after head coach Tim Beckman decided a two-touchdown lead was substantial enough to put in the second string. (O’Toole would fumble on his first drive, leading to an SIU touchdown.) After this afternoon’s performance, Nathan Scheelhaase looks poised to lead his team to a better record than last year. 2. Josh Ferguson: 4 Rec, 103 yds, 9 Car, 49 yds On an otherwise abysmal day for Illinois rushers, Ferguson made a huge impact out of the backfield with his 152 yards of total offense and the touchdown that put his team ahead for good in the second quarter. Ferguson, a sophomore, showed flashes of speed, vision, and some effective moves in the open field this afternoon, but is not a strong runner between the tackles. If Beckman can find a power rusher to compliment him, the Illini could develop a formidable ground game. 3. V’Angelo Bentley 2 Ret, 120 yds, TD Bentley not only impacted the game with a 100-yard kick return for a touchdown, but played well at safety, shedding blocks and sniffing out screen passes. Good performance by the fiery sophomore. 4. Defensive Line The defensive line of Illinois spent the day closing holes for Saluki backs and putting pressure on SIU quarterback Kory Faulkner, shutting down the running game and forcing the Salukis to pass, which turned out to work in SIU’s favor… The Bad 1. Donovonn Young: 8Car, 6yds Those stats speak for themselves. In case you don’t feel like doing the math in your head, that’s an average of 0.8 yards per carry. Granted, the offensive line didn’t exactly blow open a chasm for him every time, but he missed plenty of opportunities to cut upfield. After today’s game, I feel sorry for Young’s girlfriend… And I’ll leave that statement where it is for the time being. 2. The Secondary: 341 yds, 3 TD allowed The Fighting Illini DB’s are lucky those numbers aren’t bigger. The defensive secondary today relied mainly on drops by SIU receivers and got torched routinely. If they don’t improve quickly, it’s going to be a long fall for these guys chasing after Big Ten receivers. 3. The Offensive Line Illinois was in the red as far as rushing yards go until the third quarter. That’s not all on Donovonn Young. Also, Scheelhaase was feeling plenty of pressure on the pass rush all game. Overall, a win is a win, and Illinois will take any of those they can get right now, but when a game against a team like SIU isn’t decided until the last 40 seconds, it can be a pretty good indication of a long season ahead. For now, though, the University of Illinois Fighting Illini are undefeated and in first place.
PLAYERS: Nathan Scheelhaase
TEAMS:
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Robert Klemko given four-week suspension from The MMQB

Michael Vick: Percy Harvin won't be a monster here

Robert Griffin III 'guaranteed' to be back in Week 11

Urlacher: Cutler paid like elite QB, hasn’t produced like one

Hoyer doesn’t think about getting benched for Manziel

Cardinals kicker blew $1,500 signing bonus on headphones

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Ainge: Draft lottery reform would be 'better for the game'

Royals take Game 2 to even series with Giants

Report: Roger Goodell will have to testify in Ray Rice case

Blake Griffin accused of slapping man in Las Vegas club

Ronda Rousey to face Cat Zingano at UFC 182

Report: Zach Mettenberger to start for Titans over Locker

Jimmy Howard unveils pink mask for 'Hockey Fights Cancer'

Louisville Athletic Dept. asking for donations at gas pump

Falcons make huge mistake with London infographic

DeMarco Murry surprises Cowboys linemen with iMacs

Jimbo Fisher's son reps for Winston on 'Superhero Day'

WATCH: Steve Ballmer freaks out while shown on Jumbotron

AUDIO: Rex Ryan pranks Sammy Watkins on conference call

Top storyline for each Week 8 NFL game

WATCH: Giants pitcher yells at Salvador Perez after HR

Will Muschamp's head coaching job posted on Craigslist

Miss California USA would like to date Eric Hosmer

WATCH: Eric Bledsoe sends Clipper flying with sick move

Fighting Illini News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Brian Urlacher rips Jay Cutler

Top NFL storylines: Week 8

Kiffin's mom worried for son's safety

Report: Goodell will have to testify

Penguins do 'O Canada' following tragedy

UEFA Champions League midway report: Groups A – D

Porn star: No one parties like Janikowski

Report: Expect Florida to make a run at Bob Stoops

The San Francisco Giants are zombies

10 bold predictions for NFL Week 8

Pitcher's wife leaves generous tip

Nicklaus defends Jameis Winston

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.