In the grand scheme of things ...
College football writer and longtime AP Top 25 voter Bob Asmussen’s assessment after the 14th week of the season — and a season-ending Illinois loss
— You won’t hear the school’s new career total offense leader brag about his feat. Ever.
But Nathan Scheelhaase’s teammates will do it for him.
“I blocked for Juice (Williams), too,” senior offensive lineman Corey Lewis said. “They were both great players. I love Nate to death. I’m just thankful that he got it. We took pride in it all week. We knew what we had to do in order to get him those yards.”
“I think it’s a huge reflection of his career here and the work that he put in,” receiver Steve Hull said. “Nate really wasn’t thinking about that. He was doing as much as he could for the team. It just so happened that that came about. He’s a fierce competitor.”
“I think it’s a great accomplishment for Nate,” receiver Miles Osei said. “I don’t think Nate will care. (Saturday) he wanted to win. I remember Juice when I was in high school and middle school. That’s awesome that he’s in the record book. It takes everybody.”
Maybe later, Scheelhaase will do a little back-patting. But not after an emotional loss to a bitter rival.
“Obviously, after losing, it’s hard to really take in what all that means,” Scheelhaase said. “With that many yards as a quarterback, you’re not doing a lot of that yourself. You’re surrounded by a bunch of guys who are helping out. To go in the record book at a school like this with a record like that is an amazing feat. It’s something I really can’t wrap my head around quite yet.”
Scheelhaase moved past Williams with a 362-yard day.
The school’s No. 1 and No. 2 offensive leaders were back-to-back starters. Both were recruited by Ron Zook. Both had big ups and downs.
Williams led the Illini to the 2007 Rose Bowl, but his career fell off toward the end. Scheelhaase took the team to consecutive bowl wins but struggled in Tim Beckman’s first year as coach.
Scheelhaase was reborn as a senior with Bill Cubit as offensive coordinator. After Braxton Miller, you can make a case for Scheelhaase as the Big Ten’s next-best quarterback. Good company to keep.
In five, 10 years, Scheelhaase’s career is going to be remembered more fondly at Illinois. If he had one more bowl game you could argue he was the best ever. The two bowl wins are significant.
— Four wins. Beats a kick in the teeth. Or the football equivalent: two wins.
Double the win total of 2012. A good way to woo recruits: “Well, we are two games from being bowl eligible.”
Nobody in college football brags about “our glorious four-win teams.”
The rebuilding of Illinois football isn’t going to be Auburn fast. It is going to take time.
The good news for Beckman is he knows he has more of it. Four wins meant his return for another season. And maybe more.
His team doesn’t have the nation’s longest conference losing streak. And it isn’t the worst team in the Big Ten. That honor belongs to Purdue.
— This game should have been played Thursday. That would have meant a near-home game for St. Joseph-Ogden and maybe better work by the officials (they will talk about the non-fumble call for years).
The state finals need to be in C-U every year. No offense to the fine people of DeKalb. But no kid grows up in the state dreaming of playing at Huskie Stadium. That will never change. They took basketball away from C-U. But football needs to be back here full time.
Actual attendance for Illinois-Northwestern couldn’t possibly be hurt by playing on Thanksgiving. The students are going to stay away no matter what day they play. Hard to blame them. Wouldn’t you rather be home than bundling up at an empty Memorial Stadium? Of course you would.
To move the game permanently to Thanksgiving Day will take cooperation from the Big Ten, Illinois and Northwestern. The final piece is TV. Hard to imagine ESPN objecting to a chance to replace the Egg Bowl with a Big Ten game.
— Why would you ever defer after winning the coin toss?
Take the ball. Show your offense you have faith it will score. Take an early lead and force the opponent to play from behind.
It seems as if the Illinois opponents score about 90 percent of the time when they get the gift of the first possession. And it is a gift.
You win the toss and have the right to say, “Give me the darned ball.” But for some reason, coaches tend to defer. Beckman isn’t the only one. They all crave the idea of getting the ball to start the second half. It holds some sort of magical qualities. A football potion, if you will.
For future reference, when the official says, “Kick or receive?” the latter is always the right answer.
On the Big Ten
— Nebraska is going to a bowl again. But not the one Husker fans wanted. A season that started with promise turned downright ugly Friday in a loss to Iowa.
Embattled coach Bo Pelini picked up another unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty, made an odd fake punt call in his own end of the field and lost to Iowa for the first time since the series resumed.
Then, Pelini said, “Go ahead, fire me,” in his postgame news conference.
The school announced Saturday that he’s safe. Until next year.
A talented defensive coordinator, Pelini has now lost at least four games in each of his seasons at Nebraska. Husker fans won’t be happy about that.
The school is no longer a power program. Those days ended with the retirement of Tom Osborne. But the supporters have long memories and itchy trigger fingers. They don’t want to be told they have fallen and can’t get up.
The big question is “Can the program become Nebraska again?” The right coach might be out there, but he isn’t obvious. Somewhere, there is a guy who thinks he can fix it. The hunch here is that Nebraska will try to find that guy and give him a shot. After next season.
— Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz is enjoying this season a whole lot more than last year. His record has been flipped, going from 4-8 to 8-4. Suddenly, Iowa fans love him again.
Credit the longtime coach for never panicking. He didn’t try to reinvent Iowa football. He stayed with what worked in the past and was rewarded.
Iowa’s losses came against teams either going to BCS games or New Year’s Day bowls. No shame there. For the first time, the folks in Lincoln would trade places with the folks in Iowa City.
— You knew Michigan wasn’t going to lay down. Not with a chance to spoil Ohio State’s undefeated season. The ghost of Bo Schembechler wouldn’t allow it to happen.
The Buckeyes rallied to take their spot in the BCS title game (thanks, Auburn). Doesn’t matter that the game against the Wolverines was close. The Buckeyes needed a loss ahead of them to move up.
Talk all you want about the talent dropoff at Michigan. And it is real. But the Wolverines will always find a way to play hard against Ohio State.
Urban Meyer will eventually lose a game at Ohio State. But maybe not this year. The Buckeyes will be favored against Michigan State in Indianapolis. Meyer will be dangerous with a month to prepare for Florida State.
A lot of folks in the Big Ten seem to be rooting for the Buckeyes to lose. I.T.G.S.O.T. doesn’t understand the sentiment. If Ohio State becomes the Alabama of the Midwest, it only helps the conference. Not the other way around.
Meyer, normally Mr. Cool, actually sweated Saturday. Good for him.
— Nice job by Michigan State to keep the Big Ten title game relevant. The Spartans didn’t blow past Minnesota on Saturday, but they didn’t have to.
Too bad Michigan State can’t get a do-over against Notre Dame. Win that one and the Spartans are playing next week for a perfect season.
Still, 12 wins would be a milepost for Mark Dantonio’s team, one nobody would have guessed it would hit going into the season.
The defense is awesome. The offense is getting better. Don’t be surprised if Michigan State fights Ohio State for the top of the Big Ten during the next four or five years. Dantonio and his staff have built a monster. Don’t tell Magic Johnson, but Michigan State is more than a basketball school.
On the rest
— Northern Illinois wants to play in another BCS game. And those chances increased dramatically with Fresno State’s loss to San Jose State on Friday.
Only Central Florida will challenge the Huskies from outside the automatic-qualifier conferences. The Knights will have a difficult time jumping over Northern Illinois in the standings because of their loss to South Carolina.
The big bowls don’t really want the Huskies. Teams from DeKalb don’t turn on TV sets in California and Texas. The bowl that lands Northern Illinois will try to sell the underdog angle. It won’t work.
— After another big game to move his team to 12-0, Jordan Lynch is first on our Heisman ballot. Part of it is the great work by the dual-threat quarterback. And part of it is the uncertainty surrounding Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. If his legal situation is unresolved at voting time, some will leave him off their ballots. Right or wrong. At this point, we don’t know.
— Who had Duke-Florida State in the ACC title game before the season? Put your hand down, Coach K.
In one of those surreal situations that make college football so great, the Blue Devils have a puncher’s chance at a BCS bid when they match up against the Seminoles. It will probably be another 40-point rout. We would never bet against the smart kids at Duke and the even smarter guy in charge of the program, David Cutcliffe. Winning big at Duke in anything other than basketball is a miracle.