Blue Team Wins Tight Battle in Spring Game

Josh Ferguson was named Most Improved Offensive Player of the Spring following the game.
Josh Ferguson was named Most Improved Offensive Player of the Spring following the game.

April 14, 2012

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Freshman running back Josh Ferguson rushed for 130 yards on 20 carries to lead the Blue team to a 13-12 victory in the annual Orange and Blue Spring Game Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium.

A 47-yard field goal by sophomore Nick Immekus with 1:22 remaining proved to be the deciding points for the Blue. Orange had one last chance to win the game, but defensive end Justin Staples' sack of Orange QB Nathan Scheelhaase in the final minutes sealed the win for the Blue.

Both offenses struggled early, as steady rain fell for the entire first half. Immekus got Blue on the board first with a 26-yard field goal less than five minutes into the game. Scheelhaase countered for the Orange with an 8-yard TD scamper in the second quarter, but a missed extra point left the Orange up just 6-3. The missed PAT would prove to be costly in the end for the Orange.

Later in the second quarter, with Blue backed up on its on two-yard line, Ferguson broke into the clear for a big gain. Orange defensive back Justin Green chased down Ferguson from behind after a 68-yard gain, however, the drive ended with a missed field goal, one of three field goal misses on the day for the blue, and the score remained 6-3.

The Orange threatened later in the second quarter, driving into the red zone, but RB Donovonn Young fumbled after catching a pass in the flat from Miles Osei and the Blue's Ashante Williams scooped it up and returned it 68 yards to the Orange 24. Blue was again unable to capitalize, however, with another missed field goal, this time a 45-yarder.

After the rain let up at halftime, the Orange went up 9-3 in the third quarter on a 48-yard field goal by Taylor Zalewski, but Blue countered with a 29-yard TD strike from QB Reilly O'Toole to DB/WR Terry Hawthorne to take a 10-9 lead. O'Toole finished the game 19-of-31 for 159 yards and one touchdown.

The teams then traded field goals in the final 3:30 of the game. A 31-yarder by Zalewski with 3:29 on the clock put Orange up 12-10, but O'Toole led a 40-yard drive for the Blue that culminated in Immekus' winning field goal.

Defensive end Michael Buchanan had a standout day for the Orange defense, racking up 12 tackles and 4.5 sacks, though it should be noted that quarterbacks were not allowed to be hits, so sacks were credited when defenders got a hand on a QB. Linebacker Jonathan Brown led the Blue defense with 10 tackles, while Staples finished with 2.5 sacks and Darrius Caldwell had two TFLs and a sack.

The 2012 Illini Spring Game will be televised by the Big Ten Network on Sunday, April 15, at 6 pm CT.

2012 Spring Awards (presented on the field after the game)
Bresee Most Improved Offensive Player: Josh Ferguson
Bresee Most Improved Defensive Player: Earnest Thomas
Offensive MVP: Graham Pocic
Defensive MVP: Michael Buchanan
Special Teams MVP: Zak Pedersen
Unsung Award: Miles Osei
Faculty Award for Exemplary Leadership in Community, Classroom and on Field: Justin Green and Graham Pocic
Academic Excellence Award: Zach Becker