Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase
April 24, 2010
Champaign, Ill. - The Fighting Illini football team held its annual Spring game at Memorial Stadium on Saturday in front of a crowd of 5,832. The game saw both defenses dominate the first half, only to have the orange offense break out for 21 points in the second half to come out on top of the blue squad 24-6.
Led by Mikel LeShoure's 129 yards rushing, the orange combined for 208 total yards on the ground. Jason Ford also had a big day, running for 99 yards. Orange quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, meanwhile, completed 11-of-20 passes for 126 yards. On the other side of the ball, the orange defense held the blue to just 15 yards rushing, 68 yards overall and a total of just three first downs. Leading the defensive effort were Michael Buchanan and Glenn Foster, who tallied 9 tackles apiece.
In the first half, both defenses controlled the contest. Between the two sides, the defenses forced four turnovers, including three interceptions. On the first drive of the game, Nate Palmer intercepted Scheelhaase's pass to halt a healthy orange possession. Immediately following the orange turnover, the orange defense responded with a forced turnover of its own when Nate Bussey picked off quarterback Jacob Charest's pass early in blue's first drive.
Scheelhaase and the orange offense continued to move the ball on their second possession, moving into the red zone with a catch and run from wide receiver A.J. Jenkins. Jenkins posted a strong day with game highs of six catches and 95 yards. However, the string of first half turnovers continued as Joelil Thrash promptly forced a Jenkins fumble and recovered the ball inside of the red zone. As the two teams continued to battle, each defense held strong resulting in a scoreless tie after one quarter.
The second quarter began with the orange scoring the first points of the game. After a conversion on fourth down and a 15-yard pass from Scheelhaase to Jenkins, the orange offense quickly found themselves in blue territory. Following a third-down stop by the blue, Derek Dimke knocked in a 44-yard field goal to give the orange a 3-0 lead.
Following the orange score, both teams traded stops with Aaron Gress coming up with an interception on a Scheelhaase pass. The orange offense showed some more flashes toward the end of the first half, with Scheelhaase once again hooking up with Jenkins for a 22-yard gain. Nonetheless, the blue defense stalled the orange offense as linebacker Justin Staples sacked Scheelhaase on a crucial third-down play. The half ended with Palmer recording back-to-back sacks.
The orange took over the game from the start of the second half. Blue began the half with the ball, but Tavon Wilson intercepted a Charest pass to give the ball to the orange in blue territory. After a 22-yard scamper by Leshoure, Scheelhaase fired a 21-yard strike to Jenkins to set the orange up with first and goal at the three-yard-line. Two plays later, Leshoure powered in for a two-yard touchdown run, his first of two on the day, to give the orange a 10-0 advantage. Leshoure picked up his second touchdown a few possessions later, breaking loose for a 75-yard score to finish the third quarter.
Following a blue punt, a 22-yard return by Terry Hawthorne set the orange up for yet another score. Ford joined the touchdown parade with a tough, 56-yard TD run. Following the score, the orange found themselves with a 24-0 lead midway through the fourth quarter. Quarterback Chandler Whitmer - who completed 7-of-8 passes for 43 yards - found Eddie Viliunas for a 10-yard touchdown pass on the last play of the game to put the blue squad on the board, resulting in the final score of 24-6.
The scrimmage wraps-up the Spring season for the Illini. Here is a look at the Spring Awards that were handed out by Coach Zook at halftime of today's game:
Chancellor's Award for Academic Excellence: Zach Becker