Last Week: No. 8
What happened: Won against South Dakota State 56 - 3
Illinois had a pretty easy time of it on Saturday. The Illini held a 400-yard advantage in total offense, putting up 519 yards to SDSU's 96. Nathan Scheelhaase continues to show improvement from last year in the passing game. Scheelhaase threw only eight times, completing six of them for 102 yards. He was equally dangerous on the ground, rushing for 93 and two touchdowns.
Four Illini players scored touchdowns on the ground as the Illini totaled 364 yards rushing and over seven yards per carry.
Defensively the Illini held SDSU to just 3.2 yards per pass attempt and one yard per carry on the ground, while adding three sacks and two interceptions.
What we learned: When Illinois run game is going, they are tough to stop.
While South Dakota State isn't the stiffest competition on which to measure an offense, the number of running backs that had productive days on the ground is encouraging. To the numbers:
- Troy Pollard: eight carries, 101 yards, one touchdown, 12.6 ypc
- Scheelhaase: nine carries, 93 yards, two touchdowns, 10.3 ypc
- Donovonn Young: seven carries, 65 yards, two touchdowns, 9.3 ypc
- Jason Ford: 11 carries, 48 yards, one touchdown, 4.3 ypc
One of the big concerns entering the year was replacing the production of Mikel Leshoure. If some of these running backs can step into a larger role as the season progresses, the Illini offense may not miss a beat from 2010.
Justify Thy Rank: Two comfortable victories and solid play from Scheelhaase are worth more than a victory over ND and questions about Denard Robinson's transition to Borges' offense.