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Illinois 42, Southern Illinois 34 — FINAL

CHAMPAIGN — Good health and a new offensive coordinator seems to have done Nathan Scheelhaase some good. The Illinois fifth-year senior quarterback threw for a career-high 416 yards, completing 28 of 36 passes with a pair of touchdowns in Illinois’ season-opening 42-34 too-close-for-comfort win against FCS Southern Illinois on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

The Illinois defense, however, needs some work. SIU quarterback Kory Faulkner went 25 for 40 for 312 yards and three TDs and the visitors from Carbondale were inside the Illini 5 with less than a minute remaining trailing by eight.

Scheelhaase, whose previous career-high was 391 yards against Northwestern in 2011, completed passes to 10 different receivers. He’s the first Illinois quarterback to throw for more than 400 yards since Juice Williams threw for 462 against Minnesota in 2008.

Scheelhaaase opened the day completing a 52-yard pass to Ryan Lankford (six receptions, 115 yards) on the first play from scrimmage.

Josh Ferguson caught four passes for 103 yards, including a 53-yard swing pass for a touchdown.

Cornerback V’Angelo Bentley added a 100-yard kickoff return for a score and freshman quarterback Aaron Baily carried the ball twice for 6 yards, including a 2-yard TD.

The win snapped a nine-game losing streak for the Illini, whose last win was a 44-0 win against FCS opponent Charleston Southern in Week 3 last season.

Illinois 39, Southern Illinois 24: 5:End of third quarter

Third-quarter star: V’Angelo Bentley, Illinois

The sophomore cornerback returned a kickoff 99 yards (They’re calling it 100 for some reason) for a touchdown and was the first Illini to return a kick for a TD since A.J. Jenkins did against Indiana in 2008.

Third-quarter goat: V’Angelo Bentley, Illinois

A few plays after the touchdown, Bentley was back at corner and got burned by SIU’s John Lantz for a 35-yard touchdown catch. Hard to blame Bentley, though, dude had to be gassed. Blame Tim Banks, or whichever coach thought it was a good idea to have him back out there so soon. He covered about 200 yards on the kick return.

What we’re thinking: It’s going to be Steaks and Cakes for the Illini this weekend after the big win. Nathan Scheelhaasse has made a statement today and I don’t care who the opponent is. He’s completed 27 of 34 passes for a career-high 407 yards and two TDs. He’s the first Illinois QB to surpass 400 yards since Juice Williams threw for 462 against Minnesota in 2008. Also, Josh Ferguson has to get more carries. He’s got 50 yards on six carries. Oh, and Spencer Harris is always open, but never gets the ball.

Illinois 39, Southern Illinois 14: 5:30 third quarter

V’Angelo Bentley just rolled through the SIU kickoff team like, well, a Bentley. It was a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, but he ran about 200 yards. He flat out-ran a bunch of guys in white jerseys and then put another dude on skates with a sick juke move.

The special teams have been on point today. They’re returning punts for actual yards and now they’re returning kicks. 

Illinois 32, Southern Illinois 14: 8:48 third quarter

Poor Tim Clary, the H-Back was on his way to a 35-yard touchdown reception when Southern Illinois’ D.J. Cameron stuck his leg out and tripped Clary at the 2. The officials missed it. It was clear as day.

But, it allowed freshman Aaron Bailey to enter the game at quarterback and punch it in from the 2, much to the delight of the fans who remain. Those folks are among the best people this world has to offer because there is no way I’d be sitting out there watching this rout. The heat index is 101 and there isn’t a cloud in the sky.

Air conditioning, high-definition TV and ice-cold beer would be my friend today.

Illinois 25, Southern Illinois 14: 12:04 third quarter

So, the halftime practice thing must not have gone well. Illinois gives up a 60-yard kickoff return, Nathan Scheelhaase gets intercepted and then the Salukis score a couple plays later. You think Illinois can petition the NCAA to not make them stop the game after 30 minutes?

No big deal, the offense just has to get them back on track, that’s probably going to be the strength of the team this season. It does, however, have to be troubling that they can’t move the ball on the ground against an FCS opponent. Illinois is at minus 22 rushing yards as we speak. That isn’t going to cut it against Cincinnati, Washington or anyone in the Big Ten.

Illinois 25, Southern Illinois 7: HALFTIME

How about that for some fireworks? Big-time offensive explosion for the Illini in the second half to distance themselves from the Egyptian Dogs.

Let's see how the halftime practice works out for the Illini. I've seen a lot of people make fun of the move by Tim Beckman to incorporate a halftime into the team's scrimmage. I think it was a very good move. If he felt that was something his team needed to experience to improve, then go for it. If John Groce had done the same thing, the same people making fun of Beckman would be calling it a genius move. Just my opinion.

Second-quarter star: Nathan Scheelhaase, Illinois

The fifth-year senior quarterback is playing like one. He’s poised and he’s been steady throughout and didn’t try to force anything when things looks dire early. He’s over 200 yards for the first time since the Big Ten opener last season and when he’s healthy, he can be a real asset. He’s over 300 yards for the first time since the Northwestern game in 2011. He’s 22 for 28 for 340 and two TDs.

Second-quarter goat: Teko Powell, Illinois

The defensive lineman extended a Southern Illinois possession with a roughing-the-passer penalty on third down late in the half. In stead of getting the ball with plenty of time to move the ball to score, the Illini got it with less than a minute remaining and it took a Scheelhaase bomb to Steve Hull to get them in scoring position.

What we’re thinking: I told you all to be patient with the Illini, particularly the offense. They’ve got it rolling now and the Salukis just don’t have the man power to keep up anymore. Great to see Steve Hull in a position where he can contribute and not continuously injure himself. It’s got to feel like it’s 200 degrees out there, how are these people sitting out there?

Bill Cubit for mayor!

Remember, for full stats, click the link above.

Illinois 10, Southern Illinois 7: 9:31 second quarter

WAKE UP! The offense certainly did and Josh Ferguson took a short pass 53 yards to the house to wake the fans up, too. I’m told Ferguson was really good in Rantoul. I love his skill set. When he’s healthy, he can be really good. A good complement to Donovonn Young when Young is running well.

Nathan Scheelhaase is 12 for 18 for 217 yards. That’s his first 200-yard passing game since the Big Ten opener last year against Penn State.

You’ve got to think at some point the Illini are going to wear down the Salukis. Just too many bodies for the FCS squad.

BTW, Leron Black has left the game.

Southern Illinois 7, Illinois 3: End of first quarter

Goodness, this looks all too familiar, but I have a feeling the Illini will get it turned around. Nathan Scheelhaase has been solid for the most part. He had one touchdown pass dropped and another one called back for holding. He’s 9 for 15 for 149 yards.

The Illini can’t run the ball worth a darn. They’re at minus-6 yards for the quarter.

Oh, and Aaron Bailey entered the game for the final play of the quarter and rushed 4 yards for a first down.

Remember, for full stats, click the link above.

Here are some more thoughts from the first 15 minutes of the Illinois season.

First-quarter star: John Lantz/Mika’il McCall, Southern Illinois

Lantz, the receiver from Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin, made a nice catch with earnest Thomas bearing down on him at the 1 to set up a touchdown. McCall, the Iowa transfer, ran roughshod over and through the Illini defense. His first name, however, is a nightmare to type. So I’ll probably only refer to him as McCall from here on out.

First-quarter goat: Donovonn Young/Ryan Lankford

Young struggled running the ball early, racking up minus-1 yards on his first four carries. He also struggled to protect his quarterback, whiffing on a pair of blocks leading to sacks. Lankford opened the game, catching a pass for 52 yards, but he dropped a sure touchdown later in the drive and the Illini had to settle for a field goal.

What we’re thinking: Umm, what happens if they lose to SIU? Didn’t think it was a realistic possibility, but holy smokes, it looks like it might happen.

Southern Illinois 7, Illinois 3: 8:01 First quarter

Be serious, how nervous are you all right now? I didn’t think the Salukis would have the lead today at any point. Kory Faulkner hooked up with Springfield product John Lantz for a 39-yard pass to the 1 and Mika’il McCall punched it in after that.

There are some nervous folks baking out in the blazing sun right now. Let’s see how the Illini answer.

Nathan Scheelhaase and Co. need to get something going.

Donovonn Young has been bad, so far. A couple of missed blocks in pass protection and three carries for 0 yards. Not the start the junior was hoping for.

Illinois 3, Southern Illinois 0: 11:38 First quarter

Well, how about that for a Bill Cubit debut, the new offensive coordinator called a play-action bomb on the first play of the game and Nathan Scheelhaase hit Ryan Lankford for a 52-yard pass to open the season. Scheelhaase hit Lankford right between the 1 and 2 on his jersey streaking toward the end zone a couple plays later, but Lankford dropped it. Should be 7-0.

Taylor Zalewski split the uprights from 33 yards to get the Illini on the board.

Crowd’s not terrible. I expected worse. I know, I’m such an optimist.

Southern Illinois at Illinois — Kickoff

The Illini captains today were Nathan Scheelhaase, Miles Osei, Tim Kynard and Corey Lewis. They will vote every Thursday prior to games on captains. Those huys were all no-brainers.

Illinois won the toss and took the ball. That makes Bob Asmussen all warm and fuzzy on the inside when the team wins the toss and actually takes the ball.

It’s 85 degrees at kickoff with a heat index of 90. Wind is out of the south at about 8 mph.

We just had the National Anthem here. I’m told the Illini have practiced lining up for the Anthem. They did a good job, too. They were in the single-file line stretching 53 yards. They could have covered the width of the field. The folks coordinating the actual Anthem itself kind of erred. The color guard wasn’t on the field when the music started.

I’ll be back to check in with you soon.

Southern Illinois at Illinois — 15 minutes before kickoff

Marcus Jackson here and I’ll probably be with you the rest of the way, provided I can stay awake. That was a major struggle for me last year. I don’t have the luxury changing the channel like all of you folks at home.

The reason you’re all reading this is to find out what the heck is going on with Leron Black. He just walked through the press box with John Groce. Groce is wearing plaid golf shorts. Jeremey Werner termed them “funky”. Funky in a good way.

Leron will be here for at least half of the game with the Illinois coaching staff and some players. Say “Hi” to them all if you see them, they’d appreciate it.

The Block I is filling up and the band is taking the field. Rumor has it the Chief will not be dancing. Can’t get anyone to go on record with that, however.

Lou Henson also rolled through the press box before Groce and Black. Coach Henson wore his familiar smile while shaking hands with just about everyone up here. He’s nice like that.

We gave you the predictions from the folks up here. What say you guys? I think offensively that Illinois will be much improved. They are going to score some points, which will make staying awake a much more realistic task.

Matt and I will try to interact with you on Twitter today if possible. Make sure to check in with us (@mdaniels_NG and @MarcusJ_NG) throughout the day.

SIU has a guy on their team so short (he’s listed at a very, very generous 5-8) that you can’t see his full number. He’s No. 18, Tay Willis. Yes, his name is Tay.

I’m going to watch the band. I’ll be back just before the kick.

30 minutes until kickoff
Time for some much-anticipated game predictions from the assembled media. All, to the shock of almost no one, went with Illinois. Although there are some close ones.

I've got Illinois winning 38-17. Loren Tate, not a big fan of predictions, predicts a game will be played today.

Marcus Jackson, The News-Gazette: Illinois 45-17

Jamal Collier, Springfield State Journal-Register: Illinois 38-10

Fletcher Page, Illinois 45-20

Taylor Rooks, Illinois 31-17

Doug Buschon, Illinois 31-13

Todd Hefferman, The Southern Illinoisan: Illinois 28-21

Jeremy Werner, ESPN C-U: Illinois 31-17

Steve Greenberg, Chicago Sun-Times: Illinois 37-17

Vaugh McClure, Chicago Tribune: Illinois 55-0

Robert Rosenthal, Illinois 37-23

Mark Tupper, Decatur Herald & Review: Illinois 27-22

Lou Henson in the press box right now, decked out in a white Illinois polo (no orange jacket). Marcus Jackson was able to catch up with him.

Henson will be featured on WILL-TV this Thursday in "Illinois Pioneers," with retired WILL-AM host David Inge interviewing the coaching legend. Show airs at 7:30 p.m.

Henson, the all-time Illinois leader in men's basketball victories, is slated to talk about, among other topics, his early life on a farm, his relationship with former Indiana University basketball coach Bob Knight, overcoming health problems, why he started wearing his trademark orange blazer and whether it irritated him that TV sportscaster Dick Vitale made fun of his hair, dubbed the "Lou 'do."

Back to football, both teams out on the field going through drills and stretching right now. Crowd, 30 minutes before kickoff, is not great at all. I'd imagine 30,000 for the actual number of people in the seats, although paid attendance will probably be in the 40,000 to 45,000-range.

I'm signing off now for the in-game report. Marcus Jackson will take over at kickoff and will update the in-game report once a quarter. He'll also update if something interesting happens. We'll see if it does.

And a reminder, follow along on Twitter (@mdaniels_NG, MarcusJ_NG).

60 minutes until kickoff
Illinois specialists came out on the field at 9:50 a.m. for the first look at their jerseys. Will go with orange tops and white pants look, along with the new orange helmets with the navy blue Block I. Read about the new helmets here

Some of the Block I filtered in around 9:40 a.m. They'll be situated in the north end zone.

In the south end zone is the new scoreboard. That is all. Seriously, nothing else compares to the sight of that massive board. It dwarfs the old one, by far.

And the new ribbon boards on each balcony are flashing the logos of both Illinois and Southern Illinois. The stadium is ready to go. We'll have to wait and see if the team is.

Saw a few Mason Monheim jerseys walking into the stadium this morning. Not sure if they're related to the linebacker from Orrville, Ohio, who led all Big Ten freshmen in tackles last year. If you want to get familiarized more with Monheim, here you go

Monheim, a healthy Jonathan Brown and Mike Svetina give Illinois a decided advantage at the linebacker spot. Read what Loren Tate has to say about the position Illinois has right here

Going to go around and get some picks from various media members that are here. Solid media contingent here with Steve Greenberg from the Chicago Sun-Times, Jamal Collier, covering the Springfield State Journal-Register, Mark Tupper from Decatur Herald & Review and many others.

90 minutes until kickoff
Leron Black is set to watch at least the first half of today's game. The highly-coveted five-star power foward from Memphis, Tenn., is on an official visit in a big recruiting weekend for John Groce's program.

Marcus Jackson was able to catch up with Black before his visit, and you can check that out here

Michael Finke, the lone high school player who has committed to Groce in the Class of 2014, weighed in on Black right here

We'll keep you updated on Black if we learn anything about his visit. Marcus, our Illinois men's basketball beat writer who does a superb job, can provide some more details later on, as he'll likely have half his attention on the football game and whether Black commits. 

Illinois football will have a number of recruits on hand for today from the Classes of 2014, 2015 and 2016. Fourteen expected to attend in total, including Class of 2014 commit Austin Roberts from Rice Lake (Wis.), whose team shut out New Richmond (Wis.) 41-0 last night and are now 2-0 on the season.

Another top Illinois target expected to be here is Class of 2015 cornerback Kei Beckham from Trotwood-Madison (Ohio) High School. Not too sure if New Lenox Providence Catholic wide receiver Miles Boykin, a Class of 2015 wide receiver who the Illinois coaches are high on, will be in attendance.

He was expected to, but Providence's game at Joliet Catholic was postponed last night because of storms that swept through the Chicago area. Providence and Joliet Catholic, which features guard JB Butler and wide receiver Jordan Jones (both are players Illinois has not offered but are interested in), are slated to play at 6 p.m. today.

Jimmy Fitzgerald, a Class of 2015 quarterback from nearby Champaigin Centennial with an Illinois offer, had quite a game last night in Centennial's 28-7 home win against Decatur Eisenhower. He might be on hand today.

Not quite the debut Tim Beckman or his son Alex wanted last night in Urbana High School's season opener. Beckman's son, a sophomore, is the starting quarterback for Urbana. Find out how his night went here

SIU had some of its specialists and skill players come out on the field around 9:10 a.m. Looks like the Salukis will wear white jersey tops and white pants. Illinios appears it will go with white pants, but not sure yet on what color jersey top Tim Beckman's team will wear.

Illinois specialists sauntered out on the field around 9:05 a.m., with more skill players coming out shortly thereafter.

Speaking of specialists for Illinois, Justin DuVernois will handle the punting duties, with Taylor Zalewski taking care of place-kicking and kickoffs. Ryan Frain is the backup for both spots.

Two hours until kickoff
Good morning college football fans.

Matt Daniels here at the start of our in-game live report. I'll be joined later on by Marcus Jackson, with Bob Asmussen and Loren Tate here as well.

Follow along here throughout the game as we'll provide updates every 30 minutes prior to kickoff, and then updates throughout each quarter. I'll also be providing updates on Twitter (@mdaniels_NG) and so will Marcus (@MarcusJ_NG). We're still working on getting Tate on Twitter.

Here's some early-morning reading material to get you filled in before the 11 a.m. kickoff against the Salukis.

-Read more about Nathan Scheelhaase and his path to marriage here

-Some notes from Friday evening right here

-A Q&A with personable Donovonn Young here

Illinois cheerleaders arrived inside Memorial Stadium around 8:40 a.m., and the Illinois players walked into the stadium after making the Illini Walk shortly before 8:45 a.m.

Saw J Leman ride up to Memorial Stadium this morning on a golf cart. The former Illinois linebacker is providing his expert analysis as BTN calls the game. Read that here

Loren Tate and Jim Turpin are on WDWS 1400 AM right now breaking down the game. Steve Kelly is stationed outside the stadium and should start his pregame report on WDWS 1400 AM after Tate and Turpin are done.

Illinois spent last night at the Hawthorn Suites after a two-hour walkthrough inside Memorial Stadium. SIU was at the Holiday Inn in Urbana, and walked through Memorial Stadium for about a half hour around 7 p.m.

This is SIU's fourth trip to Memorial Stadium, and first since 2010 when Illinois beat Dale Lennon's Salukis 35-3.

Talked to Mike Reis, SIU's radio play-by-play man a bit this morning, and he wasn't that surprised North Dakota State pulled off the upset of the season so far with a 24-21 win at Kansas State last night. The Bison are the two-time defending FCS national champion, and as Reis put it, "are in a different world."

Don't know if it's a good omen or not, but Kansas State's starting quarterback, Jake Waters, played last year at Iowa Western Community College, the same place Illinois wide receiver Martize Barr (who should contribute today) played at and backup Illinois offensive linemen Dallas Hinkhouse played at. Class of 2014 commit Geronimo Allison is another Iowa Western product.

I'll be back with another update in 30 minutes.

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Moonpie wrote on August 31, 2013 at 2:08 pm

What a crap win. Soon the Lazy Gazoo will cheerlead this as somehow a Rose Bowl win. They struggled against SIU. That's all one meeds to know. And Sir Tate Legend will jump any fan who dares suggest this wasn't a historic victory. Who, again, takes them to the mat next week?

Bwp 5P wrote on August 31, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Moonpie......Yes it was ugly..........but try to remember........thsse are young Men......and I'm sure they thought they played hard on a really hot day. Was I satisfied? No......but I thought they played hard.....if not always smart.

Don't be such a Nanny naysayer. You're "supposedly" a Fan?

azfan wrote on August 31, 2013 at 4:08 pm

There is no way Cowpie is a Illini fan. By the way Cowpie how did Little Nathan do?