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Illinois says bye to Miami (Ohio)

Breeze to win after off week


By Ed Muniz


CHAMPAIGN -- Illinois did something it hadn’t done since 2002, win after a bye week. The Illini offense did whatever it wanted in a 50-14 win over Miami (Ohio) on Saturday.

After a loss at Washington, Illinois used its bye week to tweak its offense. Quarterback Jason Scheelhaase threw for five touchdown passes, including a school record four in the second quarter, and led the Illini to nearly 600 yards of offense.

Illinois took a 7-0 first quarter lead on a Scheelhaase 2-yard pass to Matt LaCosse. The second quarter featured a 29-point Illinois scoring explosion that used some trickeration.

The Illini (3-1) deployed deceptions previously unseen this season. They included a play out of the Wildcat formation that featured a throw back before a completion downfield, and two points (Tim Russel to Jon Davis) from an unusual conversion formation after Scheelhaase found Evan Wilson down the middle foran 8-yard score. Illinois then threw in a surprise onside kick on the ensuing kickoff that was recovered by LaCosse.

Scheelhaase continued the touchdown binge with a 15-yard TD pass to RB Josh Ferguson; a 4-yard throw to TE Davis and a 45-yard pass-and-catch to LaCosse.

Illinois led 36-0 at halftime.

“The way we came out in the first and second quarter showed where we want to be the rest of the year heading into the Big 10 schedule,” said Scheelhaase.

 Scheelhaase completed 19-of-24 passes for 278 yards, five touchdowns and an interception in under three quarters of work before he handed the reins to Reilly O’Toole and Aaron Bailey.

Devin Church rushed right for an 12-yard touchdown that gave the Illini a 43-0 third quarter lead. Bailey capped the scoring with a 6-yard run with 7:09 left in the game.

Even when Miami (Ohio) finally managed to sustain a drive and get deep into Illinois territory, they didn't make it easy on themselves.

The Redhawks drove to the Illinois one yard-line and appeared to score on a one-yard toss from Austin Boucher to Rokeem Williams. That, however, got a second look from the replay officials after Illinois cornerback Jaylen Dunlop knocked the ball free as a surprised Williams looked at the official who waited several seconds before he signaled a touchdown. The call was upheld.

Donovonn Young led Illinois rushers with 80 yards on 11 carries. Ferguson chipped in with 71 yards on eight carries for the Illini who recorded 284 rushing yards.

“Proud of how they came out, came out and played real good football in the first half," head coach Tim Beckman said. "Going into the Big 10 (conference schedule), we wanted to clean up a little bit in the second half, but we didn’t play like I wanted. But we’re ready to begin the Big 10 now.”

For the Redhawks (0-4), winning games might be difficult if their offense in Champagne was any indication.

The Redhawks most effective offensive player was QB Austin Gearing. The 6-foot-5-inch red-shirt freshman aggressively led the offense with 73 yards rushing on 15 attempts. Starting QB Boucher was 7 of 13 for 95 passing yards. The Redhawks totalled 251 yards of total offense.

Illinois last played Miami of Ohio in 1941 (a 45-0 win). ... Illinois also set a school record with 38 first downs. ... Justin DuVernois was the loneliest Illini starter. The punter never stepped on the field. ... Illinois' 1964 Rose Bowl MVP Jim Grabowski was a sideline attendee. ... The Illini open their Big 10 season next week at Nebraska's Memorial Stadium. ... Prior to Saturday, Miami (Ohio) last scored a point on Sept. 7, a streak that stretched nearly 10 quarters. ... Redhawks punter Zach Murphy leads the country with nearly a 50-yard average per kick. ... Miami (Ohio) RB Jamire Westbrook was carted off the field with a leg injury late in the first half. ... The Redhawks head home to Oxford to face Central Michigan in their Mid-American Conference opener.

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