Illinois Results Tell the Tale of Scheelhaase
Illinois seems to be in the same boat as the Huskers after the non-conference portion of the season. An FCS foe gives fits, a Pac 12 team outmatches, and an outmatched opponent loses. But the end results of these games give insight into what the Huskers may face on Saturday.
In the first game against Southern Illinois, the Illini jumped out ahead with the passing game to the tune of 415 yards and 2 TDs in the air. But their young defensive secondary was burned by the FCS opponent at 312 yards and 3 TDs in the air. Without a couple of key stops and a turnover, the game could have begun a very troubling year for Illinois.
Against the Cincinnati Bearcats, Scheelhaase again went to the air for over 300 yards and 4 TDs. This win was unexpected by many, and the offense was the reason for the success.
As the Washington Huskies met Illinois in Chicago's Soldier Field, the defense proved the be the glaring weakness that lost them the game. 615 yards allowed against the Huskies, but even worse, the pressure against the Illini offense to perform led to 4 sacks allowed and less than half of all passes completed.
Desperately needing to bounce back, Miami RedHawks came along and again Illinois turned to the passing game. The 5 TDs in the air sealed the game in the first half.
Defensive Coordinator John Papuchis has indicated that preparation for this team has been difficult in dealing with the multiplicity. But based on the results so far, the most critical facet will be defending against the experience of QB Nathan Scheelhaase. Pressure him to make mistakes, and it takes the most important part of the offense out of the equation.