Illinois Fighting Illini Football

Scheelhaase Is the Key to Illinois Football Holding Its Own in Big Ten Play

Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase looks to carry Illinois football's momentum into Big Ten play.
Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase looks to carry Illinois football's momentum into Big Ten play.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Aaron BruderContributor IOctober 2, 2013

After a two-season stretch that saw Illinois football lose 16 out of 18 games, the team has raced off to a 3-1 start. To silence some of its doubters, second year coach Tim Beckman's spread attack has produced over 40 points per game. Senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, in particular, has looked very comfortable at the reins of the offense, leading the Big Ten conference in total offense and passing efficiency thus far.

As the team heads to Nebraska this Saturday, Scheelhaase is the key to the team's success as it aims to compete in conference play one year after going winless.

The Illini offense is absolutely humming—just ask Miami (Ohio) or Cincinnati. And the team has already won more games than it did all of last season. But last year, the team started off 2-1 before losing its final nine games of the season, so what's different? Why won't this team lose out the rest of the year?

The difference is ScheelhaaseThrough four games, Scheelhaase has played every bit the part of a star quarterback. He's completed 67.2 percent of his passes with 9.53 yards per attempt. His passer rating of 174.8 is best in the Big Ten and is 10th-best nationally. His 12 touchdowns are three times the amount he threw for last year, and he's finding ways to attack defenses in a number of ways: seven different Illini receivers have found the end zone.

But the most telling aspect of Scheelhaase's play has been his confidence. Unlike a year ago, he is firmly entrenched as the starter in Beckman's offense, and he's shown no signs of giving his spot up. The senior is the go-to guy in the offense, and he has made all the right plays. His level of comfort in the spread offense, in its second year, can't be overstated.

The team has the benefit of playing its top opponents (Ohio State, Northwestern and Wisconsin) all at home this year, where Scheelhaase has been lights-out. It even mixes in winnable road games against Penn State, Indiana and Purdue. The schedule looks promising for Illinois' outlook, as they feel like they can put up points anywhere.

This Illinois football team is one looking to make a statement that its losing ways are a thing of the past. Thanks to its quarterback, Nathan Scheelhaase, they might just be able to hold their own in the Big Ten.

 All statistics courtesy of, and videos provided by Illini Productions.

Where can I comment?

Stay on your game

Latest news, insights, and forecasts on your teams across leagues.

Choose Teams
Get it on the App StoreGet it on Google Play

Real-time news for your teams right on your mobile device.

Copyright © 2017 Bleacher Report, Inc. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved. is part of Bleacher Report – Turner Sports Network, part of the Turner Sports and Entertainment Network. Certain photos copyright © 2017 Getty Images. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of Getty Images is strictly prohibited. AdChoices