Illini missing more than QB

2012-09-10T00:10:00Z 2012-09-28T17:37:44Z Illini missing more than QBThe Associated Press The Associated Press
September 10, 2012 12:10 am  • 

TEMPE, Ariz. • Illinois missed starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, to be sure. But he doesn't play defense, and that was the area where the Illini struggled mightily against Arizona State.

The Sun Devils scored touchdowns on four of their six first-half possessions, and fumbled the ball away at the Illinois 1-yard line on another, en route to a 45-14 romp over the Illini in the desert Saturday night.

"Anytime you lose a quarterback that has been in seven games back to back and has been a proven leader for two years, you're going to miss someone like that," Illinois coach Tim Beckman said.

But, he said, "That's not the reason we didn't cover receivers, missing tackles and throwing interceptions and all that stuff."

Taylor Kelly completed 18 of 24 passes for 249 yards and a touchdown as Arizona State improved to 2-0 under new coach Todd Graham.

"I want to put a product on the field that's exciting to watch," Graham said. "We are exciting to watch, but we're just beginning."

Kelly's backup, Michael Eubank, was five of five passing for 69 yards and two touchdowns and ran 7 yards for a score.

Chris Coyle matched a school record for tight ends with 10 catches, totaling 131 yards and two scores. He caught six passes for 73 yards all of last season.

Scheelhaase was out because of an ankle injury, but the biggest problem for the Illini (0-1) was on defense, especially against the pass.

"We had a lot of 'eye' violations," Beckman said. "We aren't keying what we are supposed to key. As you saw, there were some wide-open receivers at times."

Illinois joined Nebraska (to UCLA) and Wisconsin (to Oregon State) as Big Ten teams to lose at Pac-12 schools Saturday. Beckman got his first loss as Illini coach after directing the team to a win in the Fight Hunger Bowl last season and last week's season opener against Western Michigan.

Arizona State (2-0) could have won even bigger but fumbled the ball away twice inside the Illinois 10. The Sun Devils, who gained a reputation as undisciplined and penalty-prone under former coach Dennis Erickson, were penalized once for 5 yards, and that was an intentional delay of game to set up a punt.

Freshman Carlos Mendoza had two interceptions for Arizona State, which was without linebacker Brandon Magee because of a concussion.

Josh Ferguson rushed for 101 yards in 14 carries for the Illini, 51 of them on one carry. The Sun Devils rolled up 510 yards to 332 for Illinois.

Scheelhaase, a junior who has started 27 games, was a game-time decision after injuring an ankle in last week's season opener.

"He wasn't ready, so we aren't going to put anything that is detrimental to him or the football team on the line," Beckman said. "He just was not ready yet, so that is why we decided not to play Nathan."

Both of his replacements, Reilly O'Toole and Miles Osei, had their struggles.

Osei replaced O'Toole and directed an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. Donovonn Young's 14-yard scoring run cut the lead to 14-7.

But Arizona State answered with a seven-play, 84-yard scoring drive that ended with a 1-yard TD pass from Eubank to Coyle for a 21-7 lead. Then things fell apart for Osei, who had an ill-advised pass picked off by Mendoza. Four plays later, Eubank tossed 3 yards to Coyle for another score, and the Sun Devils led 28-7 en route to their lopsided win.

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