Illinois Fighting Illini must protect Nathan Scheelhaase better

 

Brace Hemmelgarn – US Presswire

 

The Illinois Fighting Illini have had a season they would like to forget. At 2-7, and winless in conference play, the Illini are already looking ahead to 2013. Part of the reason they have struggled so mightily this year is because they haven’t been able to protect their quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. The team has given up 32 sacks on the campaign, which is ten more than anyone else in the Big 10.

Scheelhaase has taken the brunt of several big hits this year already, which has caused him to significant time with a concussion and an ankle injury. Unfortunately, because of the lack of protection, they Illini have been forced to leave more players in to lock which limits their ability to push the ball downfield.

This past weekend the Illini lost 52-22 against the Ohio State Buckeyes and it essentially came down to not being able to protect Scheelhaase. The Illini averaged just 5.1 yards per pass against the Buckeyes and Scheelhaase was only able to throw for 96 yards. And worst of all for Illinois, he still took four sacks even though they left extra players in for protection. When you can’t push the ball down field, you can’t play from behind. Something Illinois has done a lot of this season.

Perhaps most concerning for the Illini was that Ohio State hadn’t been playing very well on the defensive side of the ball in recent weeks, yet they were still able to stifle Illinois. As bad as things have been, Scheelhaase still sounded optimistic that the offense can use screens and rollouts to create some more plays down field this Saturday against the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

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