CHAMPAIGN — For the first time since he started playing football in second grade, Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase missed a game because of injury. The Illinois junior signal-caller is hoping his absence in Saturday's loss to Arizona State was just a one-game hiatus.
The Illini (1-1) host Charleston Southern (0-2) on Saturday.
"I hope I'm ready. Treatment's been going well, I've been getting better and better every day. If I'm progressing like I am now, I should be ready," Scheelhaase said.
Scheelhaase met the media Tuesday for the first time since before the season opener against Western Michigan. In that game, he completed 11 of 18 passes for 126 with a touchdown and an interception before leaving the game in the third quarter with an injury to his left ankle.
"It's an ankle sprain. It rolled inside. I guess it's a little different than a regular ankle sprain, because I've had those before and I knew it was a little different just because I've never had to come out of a game before," Scheelhaase said. "I felt the injury, I felt it all throughout my left leg and as I got up I was worried about the next step, what I would feel. Was it my foot, Achilles, knee? I didn't know what it was. Once I took that step, I thought it was a normal sprain and I just tried to walk it off like I normally would, like I have countless times before. I couldn't really walk at all. I got off the field and they tried to re-tape me and I couldn't really put any pressure on it. I was a little worried at the time and was honestly glad that it was only a sprain."
Scheelhaase, who had started all 27 games in his career before missing Saturday's game, practiced in a green jersey Tuesday, meaning he was limited in what he was allowed to do.
"I'm definitely a lot better. Last Tuesday I really struggled really just walking and moving around," he said. "Today I was out there, I was able to take reps and things like that so I'm night and day better than I was and I've got to get a whole lot better for Saturday."
Without Scheelhaase against the Sun Devils, the Illinois offense struggled. Reilly O'Toole got the start and went 10 for 14 for 54 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He was sacked four times.
Backup Miles Osei threw two interceptions and was sacked twice.
"It's tough for Reilly, on those first two drives, we got behind the sticks and we hurt ourselves a little bit with some protection issues and some penalty things," Scheelhaase said. "I thought they remained confident throughout the game even through screw ups. I remember my first start ... I threw three interceptions. I didn't have the day I wanted to have, for sure. I thought they played better, honestly, than I played the first time at Missouri. I think they feel the same as the whole team, just didn't do enough to get it done."
If it's up to him, Scheelhaase said he'll return to the field Saturday.
"I expect to play until I'm told differently. I think the treatment's gone well. It's hard enough watching, not being able to contribute at all so I expect to be able to get out there this week for sure," he said. "My input is how well I practice, how well I look on the field. I think the coaches will see how I'm doing, what I'm able to do out there, then make a decision. In essence, I have 100-percent input, just by how I work out there."