FINAL — Indiana 31, Illinois 17
Nate Sudfeld came off Indiana’s bench to throw for two touchdowns and the Hoosiers defense throttled Illinois on Saturday in a 31-17 win.
The win ended a five-game losing streak for the Hoosiers (3-5, 1-3 Big Ten) that included tight losses to Ohio State, Navy and Michigan State. It also ended an 11-game Big Ten drought that dated to 2010.
Sudfeld took over after starting quarterback Cameron Coffman was benched following a first-quarter interception. His second scoring pass, a 17-yarder to Shane Wynn midway through the fourth quarter, put the Hoosiers up 31-17 and finished Illinois.
The Illini (2-6, 0-4) were led by Donovonn Young’s career-high 124 rushing yards. Illinois has lost five in a row.
Saturday was homecoming for Illinois, but as Memorial Stadium emptied, the Hoosiers did all of the celebrating. The team gathered in the southeast corner of the stadium with a few dozen red-clad fans who likely shared the team’s relief in finally getting a win.
Indiana’s Big Ten losing streak dated to October 2010, and this season’s losing skid included painful near-misses against Ohio State — 52-49 two weeks ago — and Navy. The Hoosiers looked to have last weekend’s 31-30 loss to Navy in hand until almost the end.
This week, the defense earned its share of the win.
Indiana entered the game with just 12 sacks in seven games. But on Saturday, Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase scrambled for his own safety. Scheelhaase finished 12 of 27 for 176 yards and was sacked seven times.
The last sack sealed the win. Down 31-17, Illinois stayed alive with a drive to the Hoosiers 4 with just over 2 minutes to play. On first down, defensive end Ryan Phillis punched through the Illinois line and put Scheelhaase on his back for an 11-yard loss. The Illini came no closer to the end zone and Indiana took over with nothing to do but drain the clock.
Sudfeld wasn’t asked to do much more than manage the game. He finished with 107 yards on 10-of-15 passing.
But his efficiency — combined with key Illinois mistakes — pulled the Hoosiers from a 14-7 deficit to a second-quarter lead they never gave up.
Illinois went up 14-7 early in the second on a 5-yard touchdown run by Scheelhaase and were set to stick Indiana with a three-and-out on the next series before Justin Staples was called for a late hit out of bounds on a third-and-3 play at the Hoosier 33. Sudfeld wasted no time, hitting Cody Latimer deep over the middle on the next play for 48 yards and a first-and-goal at the Illinois 6.
Two plays later, Stephen Houston took a screen pass from Sudfeld and dove into the end zone, squeezing just inside the right pylon. With the point after, the Hoosiers tied it at 14.
Indiana soon took its first lead on a pair of tough-to-justify mistakes by Illinois.
The first was return man Tommy Davis’ puzzling decision to sprint across the field to try to field a Nick Stoner punt that was angling out of bounds. The diving Davis got a hand on the ball as he went out of bounds, leaving it for Indiana’s Greg Heban to recover at the Illinois 22.
Three plays later, on third down, the Hoosiers used a long count to pull Illinois defensive tackle Glenn Foster offside, setting up a first-and goal at the 7. On the next play, Houston breezed around the left end for a touchdown and a 21-14 Indiana lead.
Illinois had eight penalties for 81 yards.
The penalties, sacks and turnovers were costly. The Illini had one of their best rushing days of the season with 196 yards, and had 23 first downs to Indiana’s 14.
Indiana 24, Illinois 17 — End of third quarter
Third-quarter star: Steve Hull, Illinois. The Illini safety is at risk of injuring his shoulder every time he makes contact and he knows it, yet he keep going out there and giving it all he’s got for a team that’s going absolutely nowhere. You’ve got to wonder how much longer he can keep this up.
Third-quarter goat: Donovonn Young, Illinois. He had a good drive toward the end of the quarter, but his fumble earlier in the period led to an Indiana field goal and gave the Hoosiers momentum early in the half.
What we’re thinking: Can’t wait to get over to the Assembly Hall tonight to watch John Groce’s debut in an exhibition against Lewis. The Illinois basketball team won’t be great this year, especially in a loaded Big Ten, but there’s hope for the future of that program. The same can’t be said about the football program right now.
By the numbers
116 — rushing yards for Donovonn Young. It’s the second 100-yard game of his career and his first since last year against Western Michigan.
96 — passing yards for Nathan Scheelhaase. The Illinois quarterback has completed 10 of 15 throws.
59 — rushing yards for Scheelhaase.
313 — total yards for the Illini. It’s the most since they had 366 against Penn State and only the third time they’ve had more than 300 against FBS opponents.
217 — rushing yards for the Illini. They came in last in the Big Ten, averaging 123.4.
71 — receiving yards for Darius Millines. That surpasses his season total coming in.
214 — total yards for the Hoosiers.
60 — rushing yards for Indiana
18 — first downs for the Illini
8 — penalties against the Illini. Illinois has been penalized for 81 yards.
Indiana 21, Illinois 14 — HALFTIME
Second-quarter star: Nate Sudfeld, Indiana. Look for the freshman from California to get the start next week after replacing the benched Chase Coffman admirably. He’s completed 6 of 7 passes for 73 yards, including a TD pass.
Second-quarter goat: Justin Staples, Illinois. His 15-yard late-hit penalty negated a third-down stop for the Illinois defense and the Hoosiers connected on a 48-yard pass on the next play and scored two plays after that. Instead of leading 14-7 with the ball, the Hoosiers tied the game.
Honorable mention: Tommy Davis, Illinois. He’s here to return punts and he muffed another one setting the Hoosiers up at the 22, leading to a touchdown.
By the numbers
5 — number of penalties against the Illini. It’s cost them 51 yards.
102 — total yards for Nathan Scheelhaase. The Illinois quarterback has 52 passing and 50 rushing.
74 — game-high rushing yards for Illinois’ Donovonn Young. He had 38 in the second quarter.
1 — passing yards for the Illini in the second quarter. Scheelhaase completed two passes in the frame.
207 — total yards for the Illini. It’s 73 more than they had in the entire game at Michigan.
174 — total yards for the Hoosiers. 76 of those yards came in the second quarter
2 — personal fouls on the Illini. One led directly to a Hoosier touchdown.
13 — First downs for the Illini. The Hoosiers have eight.
137 — passing yards for Indiana.
Indiana 7, Illinois 7: End of first quarter
First-quarter star: Steve Hull, Illinois. The oft-injured safety’s interception of Chase Coffman forced the Hoosiers to make a quarterback change and thwarted an opportunity for the high-octane Hoosiers to put more points on the scoreboard.
First-quarter goat: Chase Coffman, Indiana. It’s been rumored the Indiana staff doesn’t love its quarterback and the quick hook he got after that interception is verification of that. Coffman’s interception was a terrible throw across his body that he hung up in the wind.
What we’re thinking: At least it’s been competitive, so far. What looked like it was going to be a high-scoring affair after two touchdowns on the game’s first three drives has slowed down a bit and we’ve got ourselves a traditional Big Ten game here.
By the numbers
387 — number of days it had been since Illinois scored the first points in the first quarter of a Big Ten game. It was last year at Indiana.
125 — total yards for the Illini. They had 134 total their last time out.
98 — total yards for the Hoosiers
2 — Quarterbacks used by Indiana. Chase Coffman got benched.
82 — total yards for Nathan Scheelhaase. The Illini QB had 51 passing and 31 rushing.
74 — Rushing yards for the Illini. That’s more than half of what they average for a season.
27 — rushing yards for the Hoosiers.
43 — receiving yards for Darius Millines. He had 63 for the season coming in.
1 — Angry News-Gazette columnist after Tommy Davis let the last Indiana punt hit the turf.
Be back at halftime
Indiana at Illinois — Kickoff
There are a few more people in their seats, but not many. Gene Honda is back, that’s good news. We weren’t supposed to have Gene today because the Blackhawks were supposed to play at home today. That’s not happening.
The Illinois captains today are Michael Buchanan, Graham Pocic, Ted Karas and Zak Pedersen.
Illinois won the toss and elected to defer. Indiana will receive going north into the wind.
It’s 43 degrees at kickoff with wind out of the north at 18 mph.
I’ll be back at the end of the first quarter with an update.
Indiana at Illinois — 15 minutes before kickoff
The alumni band just took the field. Might be more band members on the field than fans in the stands. I should lay off the crowd. I’m starting to sound like Tate.
Made the rounds in the press box to get some predictions. Here’s what they say:
Jeremy Werner from ConnectFM picked Indiana 28-17
Bob Asmussen picked Illinois (shocking!) 31-30
Fletcher Page from Scout.com picked Indiana 28-14
Herb Gould from the Chicago Sun-Times picked Indiana 31-21
Dustin Dopirak from the Bloomington (Ind.) Herald Times picked the Hoosiers 31-24
I picked Indiana 31-21
Be back at kickoff with the game reset.
Indiana at Illinois — 30 minutes before kickoff
We’re not far from kickoff here and there are roughly 150 people in their seats. The combination of two bad teams and cold weather does not bode well for attendance. Even Bob, an eternal optimist, is amazed at how bad the turnout is so far.
Corey Lewis looks great in warm-ups. Really looking forward to seeing him out there on the field.
You know who else I feel sorry for? The BTN crew covering today’s game. Chris Martin, Kevin Kugler and Jon Jansen didn’t have many options today. The other game in the BTN was Minnesota-Purdue. At least they’re being paid.
While we get ready for the game, check out Jim Rossow’s Big Ten report .
How does Illinois fare after a week off? Not well. Read how bad it is here .
I’ll be back with predictions from the experts in a few.
Indiana at Illinois — 45 minutes before kickoff
Joining me today in the press box today is Bob Asmussen. Bob is doing much better after suffering a heart attack prior to the season opener. Everyone is excited to see Bob up here today. He’s a popular guy up here today. We’re easing him back in.
Speaking of Klee, today is his last day at The News-Gazette. He’s covering the exhibition basketball game tonight and he’s off to Denver to be a columnist covering the Broncos, Rockies and Nuggets for the Colorado Springs Gazette. It’s a great opportunity for Paul to get back home and he’s going to do great. He’s been great for us the last six years and we’ll miss him. You guys were lucky to have him.
Back to the action. Illinois has taken the field and the Illini will at least look great today. They’re wearing the blue helmet, blue jersey and blue pants.
Indiana is countering with an all white look.
Kicker Nick Immekus kicked field goals in the warm-ups and it appears he might resume his duties today. He hasn’t kicked since the Charleston Southern game. Immekus had an injured groin. I’d imagine that’s tough on a kicker.
We’ll be back soon with more.
Indiana at Illinois — 60 minutes before kickoff
Good morning, folks. Marcus Jackson joining you from a brisk Memorial Stadium. It’s homecoming in Champaign-Urbana, but from the looks of the tailgating lots, a good portion of alumni decided to stay home.
Hard to blame them. What we have here today is a game between programs looking for their first Big Ten win in more than a year. Illinois enters on a nine-game skid in league play with its last win coming Oct. 8, 2011 at Indiana. The Hoosiers have lost 11 straight in the league with their last win coming in the 2010 season finale against Purdue. Neither coach roaming the sidelines today has won a Big Ten game. Last I checked, there are no longer ties in college football, so someone is going to break through today.
This will be as healthy as Illinois has been all season. Terry Hawthorne and Nathan Scheelhaase are both back to full strength after suffering concussions. Jonathan Brown, a Butkus Award semifinalist, used the week off to rest that banged-up ankle he’s been playing on. Supo Sanni and Steve Hull are rested and the best news of the week was that offensive lineman Corey Lewis is expected to see his first game action since the 2009 season. Big Corey missed two and a half seasons with some serious knee injuries. Tim Beckman said earlier this week that Lewis won’t be limited at all when he takes the field.
Here’s some pregame reading to get you prepped for the game.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org  with questions or follow me on Twitter (@MarcusJ_NG) during the game for some updates and the ever-popular #TateTales.
I'll be back soon with another update.