There’s no reason to panic, just a litte more caution. Amid the excitement of a clearly improved Illini team and the prospect of a high profile bowl, we forgot an important piece of information.
This team is a very young team, and is going to make mistakes.
That fact was never more evident than yesterday in East Lansing. Nathan Scheelhaase threw three interceptions, and two were bad decisions. Darius Millines had an opportunity to save a turnover at a critical moment, but he tried to pick up an A.J. Jenkins fumble, rather than fall on it or knock it out of bounds.
Near halftime, I was excited about the idea of Illinois wearing down the Michigan State defense. The time of possession was extremely lopsided, with Illinois holding the ball for over 19 minutes of the first half. At one point, the Spartan defense was on the field for nearly 25 real-time minutes. That’s a long time for a defense to be defending, and for an offense to stand on the sideline.
Besides scoring touchdowns, Illinois was doing everything right. But the scene has been played out many times over the last 5-6 years. At halftime, the other team made the necessary adjustments, and the Illini couldn’t respond. When it got down to the wire, Scheelhaase was still a freshman. He’ll have his time to save the day for this team, but the coaching staff decided that yesterday wasn’t the time.
Scheelhaase was injured on the final drive of the game, when he didn’t need to be playing. A nasty hit slammed his head into the ground. It looked like a concussion, but it was said that he had the wind knocked out of him. It doesn’t seem to be an issue as the Illini (3-3, 1-2) prepare for this weekend’s Homecoming game against Indiana (4-2, 0-2).