Illinois Fighting Illini @ Indiana Hoosiers Football Recap
Illinois 41, Indiana 20
Given the up-and-down coaching history of Ron Zook, it wouldn’t have been too surprising if the Illinois Fighting Illini had somehow managed to slip on the banana peel against an inferior team. The college football world has seen the Zooker’s act before. An Illinois team stepping out of the comfort zone of its own Memorial Stadium had to play in someone else’s Memorial Stadium. Even though the talent differential between two Big Ten teams was substantial on a sunny Saturday afternoon, there was the slightest of chances that some intrigue could develop. It wouldn’t have been the first time.
Instead, Illinois showed the maturity and levelheadedness that could very much point to a successful 2011 campaign. The Illini are now 6-0 after trouncing the Indiana Hoosiers on Saturday in Bloomington. It was Illinois's first road win of the season, but that’s because it was Illinois’s first road GAME of the season. Indiana is now 1-5, and has yet to beat an FBS team in head coach Kevin Wilson's debut season, which is plummeting lower than anything former coach Bill Lynch might have presided over as the head Hoosier.
Illini quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase hit A.J. Jenkins with touchdowns of 77 and 67 yards during the first half to help Illinois recover from an early 10-0 deficit, just when thoughts of that Indiana ambush were flowing through the minds of players, fans and broadcasters. Scheelhaase finished with 210 yards passing, threw two touchdown passes, and ran for a touchdown. Jenkins caught six passes for 182 yards.
Indiana's quarterback woes continued, as Edward Wright-Baker missed the game with an ankle injury, and backup Dusty Kiel was knocked out of the game in the second half, which played a part in the Illini’s surge. Freshman Tre Roberson finished the game, and led the Hoosiers with 148 passing yards. Roberson also ran for 36 yards and a touchdown.
The Hoosiers took a 7-0 lead when freshman Shane Wynn returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown. However, as with anything else Indiana has done well this season, the feeling didn’t last long and any semblance of excellence has simply not been sustained. Illinois ballhawker Whitney Mercilus forced an Indiana fumble that teammate Tavon Wilson returned 66 yards for a touchdown late in the first quarter to give the Illini their first lead, 14-10. Indiana had a chance to regain the lead when an Illinois fumble gave the Hoosiers possession at the Illini 3-yard line. Indiana gained zero yards on three plays and had to settle for a field goal, typifying the 2011 campaign for the home team.
Troy Pollard led Illini rushers with 92 yards on nine carries. Scheelhaase ran for 88 yards on 18 carries. Indiana running back Stephen Houston carried 14 times for 68 yards and caught three passes for 70 yards.