CHAMPAIGN If there is one positive Illini fans can take away from the teams 35-7 loss to Penn State, it's quarterback Nathan Scheelhaases four quarters of football.
For the first time this season the junior was able to captain the Illinois offense for all 60 minutes. After going down with an ankle injury in the season opener against Western Michigan it has been a been uphill battle for Scheelhaase.
Last week, against Louisiana Tech, Scheelhaase was under center at the start of the game but did not make it through the first quarter, being pulled in favor of sophomore Reilly OToole. After OTooles dynamic performance against Charleston Southern, the Illini appeared to have a quarterback controversy on their hands.
With four quarters of play on Saturday, however, Scheelhaase has reasserted his claim as the Illinois quarterback and after the game said he was feeling like his old self again.
The ankle is doing well, it felt real good today. I got nipped a little bit, but I was okay, Scheelhaase said. I felt good on the plays I ran on and I got loose on a couple of scrambles as well. It was good to feel that I was moving better.
Against Penn State, the junior was 28 of 46 for 270 yards and ran for another 22 yards. He was not flawless, giving up a pair of interceptions to Nittany Lions linebacker Michael Mauti, but he felt good about his play.
There was one scary moment for Scheelhaase early in the second half, when he was hit high and low by Penn State linemen in the backfield. The junior stayed on the ground for a minute before limping off the field. He would only sit out one play, however, before returning to his spot behind center.
That was as bad a hit as you could probably get on it and I was able to bounce back, so that was good, Scheelhaase said. When you can get what you hurt hit and bounce back that means youre back where you need to be.
He added that he felt as good on his runs as he has all season, which was a big encouragement.
Coach Tim Beckman was also happy with the performance of his quarterback, especially his recovery from the big hit.
Im proud of Nathan. Nathans fighting through an injury and hes trying to help this football team the best way he possibly can, Beckman said.
Moving forward Scheelhaase does not foresee a problem being under center. He does, however, expect better from himself and his team than how they played against Penn State.
Thats the bottom line: we didnt do enough to win the game. We have a tough test next week against Wisconsin and we have to come ready to play. That has to be the mindset of everyone, weve got to get ready for the next one, Scheelhaase said.