Illinois defeats Arkansas State, 33-15

Nathan Scheelhaase scrambles in the pocket.
Nathan Scheelhaase scrambles in the pocket.

Sept. 3, 2011

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QB Nathan Scheelhaase | RB Jason Ford | WR A.J. Jenkins | LB Trulon Henry

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - Illinois started slow but used 100-yard receiving days from A.J. Jenkins and Darius Millines to open the season with a 33-15 win over Arkansas State on Saturday.

Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase threw for a career-best 267 yards. His 16 completions went to Jenkins, who had 11 catches for 148 yards and a touchdown, and Millines, who caught five balls for 119 yards and a score.

Jason Ford carried the ball 22 times for 86 yards and two TDs for Illinois on a day when the kickoff temperature neared 100 degrees.

The game turned on a pair of slips by Arkansas State cornerbacks that turned completions into long touchdowns.

Arkansas State led 8-7 on a safety and a pair of field goals late in the first half, and Scheelhaase looked rusty. The sophomore quarterback had completed just four passes.

But with 1:24 left in the second quarter, Scheelhaase hit Millines in the left flat. Cornerback Darryl Feemster looked to have Millines wrapped up for a short gain but fell, and the receiver ran 45 yards down the sideline for a touchdown.

A field goal set by a diving interception by Trulon Henry - he scooped a bobbled ball off the body of sprawled Red Wolves receiver Allen Muse - made the score 17-8 at the half.

On the second play of the third quarter, Scheelhaase hit Jenkins in stride down the right sideline just as cornerback Darron Edwards stumbled. Jenkins raced to the end zone for a 72-yard score.

Arkansas State threatened throughout the second quarter, stuffing Ford in the end zone for a safety that put the Red Wolves on the board at 7-2, and using good field position to set up a pair of field goals by different kickers.

The first, by Bobby Zalud, was a line drive that split the uprights from 49 yards. The second, from 46 yards by Brian Davis, gave Arkansas State an 8-7 lead with 2:50 left in the first half.

Illinois leaned heavily on Ford early. Sixty-seven of his yards came in the first quarter, when the Illini gave him 10 carries.

Arkansas State quarterback Ryan Aplin was 20 of 32 for 290 yards and an interception. Taylor Stockemer had five catches for 87 yards, and Dwayne Frampton caught five balls for 99 yards.