Illini Complete Comeback to Down Northwestern, 38-35
Oct. 1, 2011
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase scored on a 1-yard run with 13 seconds left to lead No. 24 Illinois to a 38-35 comeback win Saturday over Northwestern.
The Wildcats scored a go-ahead touchdown that made it 35-31 with 1:15 to play, converting after Tyler Scott recovered Jason Ford's fumble at the Illinois 36. Jacob Schmidt's 6-yard run put Northwestern up 35-31.
But Scheelhaase went to work. He found A.J. Jenkins on a 28-yard completion that moved the ball to the Wildcats 41. Then the quarterback took off on his own, for 22 yards. An interference call on Wildcats cornerback Jeravin Matthews moved the ball to the 4 and, on third and goal, Scheelhaase bulled his way in, keeping Illinois (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) undefeated.
Scheelhaase threw for a career-high 391 yards and three touchdowns -- all to Jenkins, who had 12 catches for school-record 268 yards.
Wildcats quarterback Dan Persa played his first game in almost a year after tearing his Achilles' tendon, but left late in the game, and school officials said the move was precautionary, though they provided no details.
Northwestern (2-2, 0-1) led 28-10 midway through the third quarter, but Scheelhaase engineered three drives, capped by two TD passes to Jenkins and a 1-yard run by Donovonn Young that made it 31-28 with 6:53 to play.
Persa finished just 10 of 14 for 123 yards but threw four touchdown passes. His last one came after Persa made a key conversion on fourth-and-5 from the Illinois 34.
With his receivers covered, Persa scrambled straight back to his own 48 and waited, finally seeing Schmidt pop open on his right. Persa flung the ball toward Schmidt, who brought it down and ran for a first down at the Illini 23.
Later, Persa found Jeremy Ebert in the left corner of the end zone for an 11-yard TD pass and a 28-10 lead.
Ebert had five catches for 68 yards and three touchdowns.
Scheelhaase turned the ball over twice in the first half and the Illini committed five costly penalties. Scheelhaase threw a pass up for grabs from the Wildcats 4 and it was hauled in by safety Brian Peters. Later, he tried to pitch the ball to Troy Pollard, but the back never seemed to see it and Northwestern jumped on it.