TEMPE, Az. – Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase was in uniform before Saturday’s game against Arizona State, but there was never a possibility of him playing.
After Illinois’s 45-14 loss to ASU at Sun Devil Stadium, coach Tim Beckman said Scheelhaase hadn’t fully recovered from the sprained ankle he suffered against Western Michigan last week.
“He wasn’t ready,” Beckman said. “We’re not going to do anything that’s detrimental to him, and he was just not ready yet. That’s why we decided not to play Nathan.”
Scheelhaase’s absence crippled the Illinois offense. Backups Reilly O’Toole and Miles Osei were a combined 14 of 24 for 91 yards, with one touchdown and three interceptions. The Illini’s longest pass play was 17 yards.
Beckman, however, refused to use Scheelhaase’s injury as an excuse.
“Any time you lose a quarterback that’s won seven games back to back and is a proven leader for two years, there’s no question you’re going to miss somebody like that,” Beckman said. “But that’s not the reason we didn’t cover receivers and miss tackles and throw interceptions. It’s about a team and 22 guys playing.”
Asked if Scheelhaase would be ready for Saturday’s game against Charleston Southern, Beckman said, “I sure hope so. He’s progressed dramatically since the injury occurred.”
O’Toole said he found out Saturday morning that he would start in place of Scheelhause. He was effective on his first drive, moving Illinois from its 1-yard line to the 24, and he completed 10 of 14 passes. But the completions went for only 54 yards, and O’Toole threw a third-quarter interception that ASU turned into a touchdown.
Beckman said he thought both O’Toole and Osei “came in and performed, but we’ve got to perform on a more consistent basis. We did some good things, but not near enough. And you’ve got to be consistent to be successful.”
O’Toole said he felt calm but admitted he forced some throws trying to make a big play.
THE EYES HAVE IT
Arizona State rolled up 510 total yards against Illinois. Quarterbacks Taylor Kelly and Michael Eubank were a combined 23 of 29 for 318 yards and three touchdowns.
Beckman said the Illini defense became confused by ASU’s motion and had a lot of “eye violations.”
“We weren’t keying what we were supposed to key,” Beckman said. “As you saw there were some wide-open receivers at times … I just thought they had a good scheme, no question about it. They were very successful with what they did offensively.”
ONE BRIGHT SPOT
The Illini ran for 231 yards, and redshirt freshman running back Josh Ferguson had 101 yards on 14 carries.
Beckman said he wasn’t surprised by Ferguson’s performance, noting, “It’s nothing we haven’t seen since Day 1.”
Beckman did make a point to say Illinois has to do a better job of getting the ball into the hands of playmakers like Ferguson and Donovonn Young, who had 65 yards on 12 carries.
Safety Steve Hull re-injured his shoulder in the second quarter, and wide receiver Darius Millines left the game later in the period with an ankle injury. Beckman said he didn’t know the extent of the injuries or whether the players will be available against Charleston Southern.
- Scott Bordow