Dissecting Illinois (44) – Purdue (10): Game Balls, Catcalls & Downfalls


Illinois (5-3, 3-2) recorded its second dominant win at home last weekend as it crushed the Purdue Boilermakers to move one win away from a bowl game.

The Illini absolutely owned the Boilermakers in time of possession, holding the ball for almost 40 of the game’s 60 minutes.

Illinois regained control of the Purdue Cannon, and head coach Ron Zook got his last win over a conference team.

The Illini look unstoppable as they head to Ann Arbor to try and continue their winning streak over the Michigan Wolverines.

Dark Horse

While Illinois is not in the picture for a conference championship this season, the Illini have still surprised almost everyone during the 2010 season.

After being projected as one of the bottom two teams in the conference, the Illini sit in 5th place with only 2 conference losses and could run the table in their next 4 games.

If this happens, it will be one of the most impressive turnarounds for a program in quite a while.

A team that went 3-9 the previous season and lost many key offensive players, including a 4-year starting quarterback, has almost doubled its win total from the last season with a freshman under center and new offensive and defensive coordinators.

Paul Petrino and Vic Koenning are essentially fighting each other for assistant coach of the year honors in the conference, and that only means good things for the Illini.

Final Score: Illinois 44, Purdue 10

A full recap of the game can be found on Writing Illini’s Gameday Binoculars.

Game Balls

Nick Houska’s Game Ball

  • Nathan Scheelhaase

Once again, there were many players who had outstanding games; however, Scheelhaase took the cake. Against the Boilermakers, the freshman quarterback had the best game of what’s already been an impressive campaign.

Scheelhaase completed 16 of 20 passes for 195 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. He also racked up 118 rush yards on 21 carries. Scheelhaase recorded career highs in total offense (313 yards), touchdown passes, rush yards, completion percentage (80 percent) and quarterback rating (227.9).

Scheelhaase was awarded both freshman and offensive player of the week by the Big Ten.

Other Players Worth Mentioning

  • Mikel Leshoure

While Leshoure had a rough day on the ground, gaining a season-low 23 yards on 15 carries, he recorded 2 rushing touchdowns and had 46 yards receiving and a third touchdown when Scheelhaase found him wide open in the corner of the end zone.

  • AJ Jenkins

Illinois’ leading receiver had another good game recording 4 receptions for 46 yards and a touchdown. Jenkins has already gained more receiving yards this season than he had in the previous two seasons combined.

  • Nate Bussey

Bussey turned in another solid defensive performance, but his big moment came after Illinois’ first score in the first quarter.

Illinois kicker Derek Dimke’s kickoff bounced off a Purdue player when the wind caught the ball, and Bussey recovered to give Illinois another possession.

Illinois had the ball for 13:25 of the first 15 minutes of the game and it took advantage of the fact by scoring 2 touchdowns.

  • Martez Wilson

Wilson is second in the conference in tackles and had a big game on Saturday. He had two tackles for a loss and recovered a fumble that led to an Illinois score.


Nick Houska

  • Leaving Scheelhaase in the Game

After the game, Purdue’s coach Danny Hope reportedly criticized Zook for leaving in Scheelhaase and throwing for a touchdown when the game was essentially over.

While I have no problem with the touchdown, I do not agree with the decision to leave Scheelhaase in.

There are 4 games left and Illinois is favored in all of them after its performance in the last two games.

An injury to Scheelhaase, especially in garbage time with the game in hand, would severely hurt this team.

On top of that, the coaching staff already removed Miles Osei’s redshirt when they played him against SIU earlier in the season.

Why not let Osei get some game time experience and protect your starter?

Better yet, Eddie McGee could use some more time working on his passing.

Illinois needs to be smarter in the future.

Potential Downfalls

Nick Houska

  • Leshoure’s Slump

In the last 2 games, Leshoure has totaled 100 yards rushing. That is less than his single game stats for 4 of the 5 prior games.

Leshoure has seen a decline in production through the last 3 games, climaxing in a 23 yard performance against the Boilermakers.

Of course, these statistics do not mean that Leshoure has lost his title as one of the best rushers in the Big Ten this season.

Basically, there have been several factors that contributed to his recent decline.

One is Scheelhaase’s increased rushing.

Another factor is the opponents. Purdue leads the Big Ten in tackles for a loss and has a dominant defensive line, and Michigan State is no slouch either.

However, the team needs more production from Leshoure, especially now that backup Jason Ford is out with an injury.

Scheelhaase can not become the only rusher and therefore the main threat on the offense.

As Denard Robinson has proven at Michigan, a do-it-all quarterback works for a while, but Michigan’s 3 game losing streak proves it is not a viable answer.

Writing Illini Projection Record: 7-1 (88%)

Check back later in the week for a look at Illinois’ next opponent, the Michigan Wolverines.

Until then.