Illinois routs Miami (Ohio) 50-14
With fewer than 14 minutes on the clock in the second quarter, Miami (Ohio) trailed Illinois by just seven points Saturday at Memorial Stadium. Eight minutes later, the game was over.
By the 5:19 mark, Illinois led 36-0.
The Illini would go on to seal the deal on a 50-14 victory with little trouble, improving to 3-1 on the season.
It was a record-setting day for Illinois on multiple accounts. Nathan Scheelhaase’s five touchdown passes were a career high. He threw for 278 yards on 19-for-24 passing, and his day was done before the third quarter came to an end.
Illinois’ 601 total yards of offense marked its first 600-yard game since 2007 and ranked ninth best in school history.
The Illini were rolling from the get-go. After receiving the opening kickoff, Illinois drove 75 yards downfield to get on the board first with Scheelhaase throwing a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Matt LaCosse.
During that eight-minute stretch in the second quarter, Scheelhaase threw touchdowns to Evan Wilson, Josh Ferguson, Jon Davis and another to LaCosse.
Scheelhaase threw an interception in the first quarter, the lone smudge on an otherwise stellar stat sheet.
“I told him (before the game), ‘I want you to be an NFL quarterback today,’” offensive coordinator Bill Cubit said. “‘I want the accurate throws, I don’t want you running. I want you to sit back there and feel comfortable.’”
Whether he looked like an NFL quarterback or not, Scheelhaase certainly appeared comfortable in the backfield. All five of his touchdown passes came in the first half, and Illinois’ 36 first-half points were its most since 2001.
Scheelhaase was businesslike in his approach, but it was Ferguson who wowed fans all game long, juking Redhawks defenders with ease. He totaled 148 yards, 71 of them on the ground with his receiving touchdown coming from 15 yards out — minutes after Wilson’s touchdown catch started the 29-point, eight-minute burst.
“I just got around the block,” Ferguson said of his touchdown, “and it was just me and one guy. I had to beat him. I didn’t really think about it, I let my training take over and got by him.”
The Miami offense, which had scored just two touchdowns all season coming into the game, was unable to find the end zone until late in the third quarter.
The Redhawks got on the board with a touchdown pass on fourth and goal with just over two minutes on the clock. Quarterback Austin Boucher hit wide receiver Rokeem Williams in the back of the end zone on a play that was reviewed by officials after cornerback Jaylen Dunlap knocked the ball from Williams’ hands.
The ruling on the field was confirmed as a touchdown, but with the game at 43-7, it was of little consequence.
At its largest, the Illinois lead was 43-0. Miami’s 250 yards of total offense was the most it’s had all season.
Boucher and quarterback Austin Gearing combined for 94 rushing yards. Together they completed only seven passes for 95 yards. Miami’s run-based option offense was ineffective against the Illini defense.
Senior linebacker Jonathan Brown led the Illini with 9 tackles. Mason Monheim and Taylor Barton added eight apiece. Miami had been experimenting with different looks through its first three games, and defensive coordinator Tim Banks was a little unsure of what to expect.
“We practiced wishbone offense for two weeks, and (Miami) didn’t run one snap of it,” he said. “We just played our base defense because we had to figure out what they were trying to do and how they were trying to do it.
“I think as long as we stay within the system and play to our strengths, we’ll always give ourselves a chance.”
With the win marking the third of the season for Illinois, head coach Tim Beckman’s team has already surpassed its win total from 2012.
Sean can be reached at email@example.com and @sean_hammond.