Can Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase Shine with Taylor Martinez Sidelined?

By josephsmith
Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

This week’s game should have been a true gunslingers matchup. This competition should have featured Taylor Martinez, the proven senior for Nebraska, taking on the exciting Nathan Scheelhause of Illinois.  Unfortunately, Martinez is out with turf toe for the second straight week. That makes the matchup Scheelhaase vs. young gun freshman Tommie Armstrong.

The offense for Nebraska will be facing an Illinois defense that much like the Huskers have had their own struggles this season. The strength of the Illini defense is in their defensive line and linebackers. The front seven for the Illini will be attempting to stop the Huskers rushing attack, one that most likely will be featured a bit more because of the absence of Martinez in the Huskers backfield.

The Illini secondary do have the benefit of facing an inexperienced freshman quarterback. Unfortunately for those defensive backs, they are facing a very talented receiving corps for the Huskers, featuring Kenny Bell, Quincy Enunwa and Jamal Turner.

These receivers will make up for the lack of experience in some instances, but in those instances where there is a jump ball or tipped ball, the Illini need to do their best to turn the Huskers over. They need to take that ball away and give it to their quarterback.

On offense, the Illini will not stray from what has gotten them to this point. They will be relying on Scheelhaase and his ability to move the ball with his arm and his legs. If the Huskers’ defense performs similar to the way they have previously this season, Scheelhaase should have plenty of time to survey the field for an open receiver or open running lane.

Look for Scheelhaase to exploit the Huskers with his feet as the Blackshirt defense tends to play man-to-man coverage, leaving their backs to the quarterback quite frequently. The Huskers’ defensive backs are a talented group, so Scheelhaase must take extra measures to protect the ball in this week’s matchup.

What can the Illini do to help insure a road victory?  They need to get an early lead and force the Huskers’ offense into becoming a one-dimensional team. If Scheelhaase can put his team up early in the contest, the Huskers will have to ask their freshman quarterback to bring their team back using more of a passing attack and less of their more experienced running backs.

Once the Huskers become one-dimensional, the Illini should look to put pressure on the young quarterback. They should bring a delayed blitz, forcing Armstrong to read where the blitz is coming from and search for a way to get rid of the ball. It is reported that Armstrong is poised beyond his age and experience, but the Illini need to force him to prove this is true in his Big Ten debut.

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