Illinois lose to Washington 34-24 for the Chicago Homecoming

Posted on September 14, 2013. Filed under: Football, NCAA Sports | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

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Two undefeated teams come into Soldier Field – one will stay undefeated – who?

September 14, 2013

CHICAGO – Both teams come into the season undefeated, but only one can leave Soldier Field n the same manner… who will it be?

Well tonight it is Washington, who held off Illinois 34-24.

Huskies senior quarterback Keith Price led the charge going 28-35 for 345 yards and 2 touchdowns. Followed by running back Bishop Sankey, who added 35 carries for 208 and two scores. The first score in the game came in the second quarter on a 25 yard pass from Price.

Illinois needed a fast start, big plays on offense and a bend-but-don’t-break defense to upset “ranked” Washington. Unfortunately, they didn’t get it in the first half where Washington led 10-3. And to start the second half, the Huskies picked up where they left off at, with a 4 play touchdown drive featuring Sankey, who scored on a short run, giving the visitors a commanding lead of 17-3.

Washington dominating first half stats in just about all of the important ones: first downs (14-8), rushing (67-32), total yards (278-93), and the most important one, score 10-3.

After the Huskies (2-0) marched down the field with the third-quarter kickoff for a 17-3 lead, the Illinois offense answered with a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive capped by a two-yard naked bootleg by Nathan Scheelhaase with four tight ends on the field.

Nathan Scheelhaase finished the game 9 for 25 for 156 yards, 1 interception, one touchdown in the air and one on the ground.

‘‘Anytime you walk off the field without the win, there’s something missing,’’ Scheelhaase said. ‘‘We kept throwing punches, kept giving it all we had. It’s fun to be a part of that. I didn’t see that a lot last year. It was good to see that.’’

In retrospect, I want to say that all was not lost in this first loss of the season. The Illini (2-1), who trailed basically the entire game, found a way to hang around in that first half with their defense, which is looking better than anticipated — because not much was anticipated. That defense, which gave up a scary 615 yards, will need to get better. But the Illini have faith. Here the bottom line is the young Illinois defense needs to tackle better — and it will learn to do that in time.

‘‘If we were in this situation last year, it might have turned sour,’’ senior linebacker Jonathan Brown said. ‘‘But these guys fought to the end. They showed heart. With a performance like that, you can find the things you need to improve on.’’

There is still time to make adjustments and put together the right Illini plan moving forward. And their bye week comes at a good time too.

‘‘Our players came out knowing they had a chance to win this game and fought to the end,’’ coach Tim Beckman said.

Up next for the 2-1 Fighting Illini is Miami (OH), September 28 in Champaign.

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University of Illinois rolled out the red carpet and added some of the best Chicagoland and Illinois icons beginning with Jim Cornelison, fulltime national anthem singer for the 2013 Stanley Cup champions Blackhawks, who put goose bumps on everyone in attendance. In addition, Chicago Bear Hall of Famer and Illini alum, Dick Butkus tossed the ceremonial coin to begin the game.

ABOUT WASHINGTON (1-0): Senior quarterback Keith Price passed for 324 yards and two touchdowns against Boise State and is 115 yards away from overtaking Brock Huard (6,391 yards from 1996-98) for third place on the school’s all-time list. Junior tailback Bishop Sankey rushed for 161 yards (his fifth 100-yard performance in his last six games) in a strong opening-game salvo to follow up last year’s 1,439-yard season. Junior middle linebacker – and defensive leader – John Timu racked up 13 tackles in the opener while senior safety Sean Parker made an interception.

ABOUT ILLINOIS (2-0): Cubit’s effect on quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase has been stunning as the senior has six touchdown passes in two games to surpass last season’s output (four in 246 attempts). Scheelhaase threw for a career-high 416 yards in the opener against Southern Illinois and followed up with 312 in last Saturday’s 45-17 rout of favored Cincinnati. The defense, which has experienced issues while allowing an average of 431 yards, is led by senior outside linebacker Jonathan Brown (14 tackles against Cincinnati, 23 overall), sophomore middle linebacker Mason Monheim (2.5 tackles for loss among 18 stops) and junior strong safety Earnest Thomas III (16 tackles in two games).

FUN NOTES for Fighting Illini

• The Fighting Illini (2-0) look to continue their hot start on Saturday when they head to the Windy City to host No. 19/23 Washington at Soldier Field for Chicago Homecoming (5 p.m. CT, BTN). A win would make Illinois 3-0 for only the second time in the last 12 seasons. The other was in 2011, when the Illini started the season 6-0.

• Following Saturday’s shellacking of Cincinnati, the Illini are receiving votes in both polls for the first time since Oct. 24, 2011. Illinois sits 34th in the AP poll (nine votes) and 39th in the coaches poll (three votes).

• Illinois faces its first top-25 opponent of the season on Saturday as Washington is ranked No. 19 in this week’s Associated Press poll and No. 23 in the USA Today Coaches Poll.

• Scheelhaase has more passing touchdowns (six) in two games than 102 of the 123 FBS teams. He also has thrown for 728 yards, more than 116 of 123 FBS teams through week 2.

• Scheelhaase’s 728 yards are the most in Illinois’ first two games of a season since Jason Verduzco passed for 783 yards in the first two games of 1991. Scheelhaase also has six passing touchdowns, equaling the school record for most TD passes in the first two games of a season shared by Juice Williams (2008) and Kurt Kittner (2000).

• Senior LB and Butkus Award candiate Jonathan Brown leads the Big Ten and ranks 14th nationally in tackles (11.5 tpg). Brown had 14 stops against Cincinnati, a B1G single-game high this season.

• Washington leads the all-time series with the Illini by a 5-4 margin, but the teams haven’t met since 1972. The two programs are 2-2 in games played in Champaign, while Washington holds a 3-1 margin in Seattle. The Illini notched a 17-7 win in the 1964 Rose Bowl. Illinois will travel to Seattle in the third week of 2014 for a Sept. 13 tilt at Husky Stadium.

• This year is the 50th anniversary of Illinois’ 1964 Rose Bowl victory over the Huskies, an Illini squad that was led by Chicago-born Illini legends Dick Butkus and Jim Grabowski. Washington took a 7-0 lead in the second quarter, but Illinois’ defense took over and the Illini managed touchdowns in the third and fourth quarters for the 17-7 final score. Grabowski earned MVP honors, finishing with 125 yards and a touchdown.

#Illini defeated Washington in ’64 @rosebowlgame, 17-7. In the 50th anniversary @illinifootball hoping for repeat Sat, Sep 14 at @SoldierField. http://pic.twitter.com/otoTCpKtgA

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