Josh Ferguson Helps Illinois Find Balance Against Miami (Ohio)

By Derek Helling
Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

The Illinois took my advice and fed Josh Ferguson the football. The result was a 50-14 win over Miami (OH) in which Illinois gained some confidence and momentum headed into Big Ten conference play.

Ferguson finished the day with 13 touches for 148 total yards and a touchdown. His touchdown catch came as part of a 29-point second quarter that the Illini used to run away from the Red Hawks. Ferguson wasn’t the only Illinois player to have a big day, however.

The Illini offense finished the day with 601 yards of total offense that was nearly equally balanced between the pass and run. Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase contributed 318 of those yards with his arm and feet in addition to throwing five touchdown passes.

Ferguson’s backfield partner Donovonn Young also registered 11 carries for 80 yards. The Illini got their gadget running game going with quarterback Aaron Bailey and wide receiver Devin Church, who combined for 12 carries for 90 yards and each scored a touchdown.

While Ferguson led Illinois with five catches, 10 other receivers got into the action for the Illini, with tight end Matt LaCosse doing the most damage to the Red Hawks by virtue of his three catches for 68 yards and two touchdowns.

Defensively, the game was a long string of three-and-outs the Illini defense forced. Illinois forced the Red Hawks to punt on six of their 10 drives in the game and was able to stop an attempted fourth-down conversion on another.

A spot for some concern for this Illinois defense was the fact that it didn’t force any turnovers or register any sacks. Linebackers Jonathan Brown and Mason Monheim continued their tackling frenzies, recording nine and eight stops during the game respectively. The inability to take the ball away and pressure the quarterback must be improved for this team to compete for a conference title though.

Outside of losing the turnover battle, this was exactly the game the Illini needed as they start conference play. With the dynamic variety Illinois showed on offense, the rest of the Big Ten will have plenty of film to watch and options to prepare for when facing this team.

Derek Helling is a writer for Follow him on Twitter, “like” him on Facebook and add him on Google+.

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