Loren Tate: Wow!

Loren Tate: Wow!

Apologies for all the doubts you expressed about Nathan Scheelhaase will be accepted at the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics.

Tim Beckman will graciously forgive critics who questioned his coaching acumen.

And those of us who considered Illinois more than an eight-point underdog would like the crow served on rye bread ... with Dijon mustard.

What we saw at a less-than-boiling Memorial Stadium on Saturday was a 45-17 stunner, an upset of Cincinnati that assistant coach Alex Golesh earlier convinced me could be accomplished ... though questions clouded my mind after the Bearcats routed Purdue 42-7.

Credit Bill Cubit and a 9-for-15 success rate on third down. Oh, he wasn’t alone out there. But he had a magic touch in the play-calling box Saturday. He set the tone with sleight-of-hand trickeration, the likes of which Illinoisans haven’t witnessed in years. Scheelhaase used 11 receivers in a four-TD effort that featured no sacks, no interceptions, no drops and no lost fumbles, an efficiency report matching any you’ll ever see.

Cincinnati posed a serious aerial threat, but Illinois hogged the ball, possessing it for 13 more minutes than the visitors. Illinois scored so relentlessly that the Bearcats ultimately crumbled, running the ball into the line in the final two minutes.


Pressing on

Everyone knows the turning point. Tommy Tuberville’s travelers had seemingly rallied within 21-17 when the refs ruled QB Munchie Legaux scored from the 1-yard line. But a TV review showed a fumble inches from the goal line, and the recovery by Chris Moore in the end zone was not allowed. Long ago, a rule was installed to make it illegal for runners to fumble into the end zone, unless they recover it themselves. The ball was dead where Legaux dropped it on fourth down.

Illinois took over on the 1-foot line and broke the Bearcats’ back with a 99-yard TD march.

Against Southern Illinois a week earlier, the Illini built a 22-point lead and took their foot off the accelerator. Not Saturday. With most of the 43,031 hanging around, they blanked Cincinnati 17-0 in the fourth quarter. That ended a stretch of 10 games in which they had failed to outscore the opponent in the second half.

The outcome creates a new excitement and changes the nature of expectations surrounding the upcoming showdown against Washington (idle this weekend) in Chicago. Cincinnati, after all, was receiving votes for the Top 25, and the Washington Huskies are lodged in that elite group after devouring Boise State. If nothing else, this wipeout of the program formerly headed by UI athletic director Mike Thomas demonstrates what is possible ... and sales in Chicago should be boosted by curious fans wondering if these Illini are for real.


On the offensive

Cubit was too consistently successful with his calls to think he was merely lucky. He so bamboozled the Bearcats that they were back on their heels all day.

“Bill just called 500 yards (522) in offense,” Beckman said. “As an offensive mind, he’s as outstanding as any I’ve been around or played against.”

Count the ways:

(1) On the first play, as if to set the stage, he lined up most of the team to the left with the backs behind the center. The weird formation didn’t work, but it indicated that he was feeling his oats.

(2) On the second series, Josh Ferguson sprang out of a slot and slipped deep for a perfectly thrown 48-yard TD. Illinois up 7-0.

(3) Just after the quarter turn, faking fooled everybody as Ryan Lankford carried a reverse around left end, drew key blocks from Steve Hull and Ted Karras, and cut back for a 29-yard jaunt. Illinois up 14-0.

(4) The Bearcats were becoming frazzled, and the next exotics caught them with their pants at their ankles. To set it up, Scheelhaase hit four passes to the 31, then used two runs for 8 yards. On third and 2, Illinois bunched three backs behind the quarterback in a power formation, and tight end Evan Wilson slipped unnoticed into the end zone while the Bearcats bit on the fake. Wilson’s 23-yard reception made it 21-0.


On the block

Down by three TDs, it became an uphill climb for the favored visitors. They threw a scare into the band-day assemblage, but Cubit still had tricks up his sleeve ... especially on the 99-yard drive that featured another 12-yard reverse by Lankford, a tricky 24-yard run by receiver Martize Barr and a 22-yard TD pass to Hull on a crossing pattern from right to the left corner.

This rundown of well-conceived plays wouldn’t have been possible without effective protection by A.J. Ricker’s line, which remained intact — from left, Simon Cvijanovic, Michael Heitz, Alex Hill, Karras and Corey Lewis — until the result was assured. A late-column credit doesn’t do nearly enough in this regard and it must be emphasized: Scheelhaase wouldn’t get this kind of result (26 of 37 for 312 yards) unless the line provided the opportunity.


Loren Tate writes for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at ltate@news-gazette.com.


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DaisyJ wrote on September 08, 2013 at 2:09 pm

It was a great win. But, replay backfired for the Bearcats, it should have been 21-17 but instead they took away the true score. How big was that.

Now for Nathan, why did it take Bill Cubit to see what we all have seen, trying to run with Nate out of the shotgun was a big mistake. The less he does, the better he is.Golly, why could the coaches last year not see that a quick drop and look was all it took.

I am not a lover of our head coach but him running to the aid of the QB was pure class and sincerety.

As for the breaking of the knee by the QB. I am surprised this does not happen more and more. Add to the fact that the days are numbered for the rocking back and forth of the brain in the skull using useless helmets the playing of football by young kids is less and less. It took society a long time to understand tobacco, baseball a while to understand steroids, how long will it take to finally understand that trading in the screaming of "touchdown" vs. having a brain later in life is not worth it.


zyoungbl wrote on September 09, 2013 at 10:09 am

Nice to see everyone enjoying a much needed win like this.  However.....we are 2 games into the season.  This team still has a long way to go before the bandwagon gets pulled out of the barn.  Perspective people.  I'm eating crow like alot of people but am still highly skeptical this can continue.  The Big10 is a totally different ballgame and last year (and many years in the past) we've been the doormat.  Let's enjoy this win and build on it as I'm sure the players and coaches will do.  Now if we beat Washington this Saturday....you might wanna start greasing the axles on that bandwagon.  This is a stepping stone and it was really nice to see the guys having fun out there again.  GO ILLINI

Moonpie wrote on September 09, 2013 at 10:09 am

Exactly-it's only the second game and neither was a conference game -- neither Michigan or Ohio State or Nebraksa or Wisconsin et al. Yet, Sir Tate Legend and others at the Gazoo are crowing that Scheelhasse is now Joe Montana and Beckman is suddenly Vince Lombardi. After only one nice win and one that almost got away. And of course, Tate Legend opens by jabbing once again at fans. Naturally Sir Tate knew all along Illinois would win and the lousy fans should be deported for not being as smart as he is--a true legend in his own mind. Before we elevate this team to the NFL, let's see if they can handle Washington away from Memorial Stadium and whether they can steal a conference win or two.Real sportswriters no better than to crow until enough evidence supports it. I hope that the team proves its worth.

walker wrote on September 09, 2013 at 12:09 pm

wrong again moonpie.  Tate included himself along with everyone else who assumed Illinois would lose this game.  I got no sense that N.S. is being portrayed as Joe Montana or Beckman as Lombardi.  You read things into Tate that are rarely ever there.     

jdstieg wrote on September 09, 2013 at 3:09 pm

Moonpie you are so stupid. Really, really stupid.