ILL 42, SIU 34 -- Rapid Reaction

Illinois overcame a slow start and a sketchy finish Saturday to defeat FCS opponent Southern Illinois.

CHAMPAIGN – Illinois started slow and sketched out late, but managed to hang on to defeat FCS opponent Southern Illinois 42-34 Saturday in the season opener in Memorial Stadium.

It was over when: Southern Illinois' quarterback Kory Faulkner's pass sailed over tight end Adam Fuehne's head late in the fourth quarter. The Salukies, trailing by eight, drove inside the Illini five-yard-line with less than a minute to go, but were unable to score the potential game-tying points.

Player of the game: Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. The senior signal caller passed for a career-high 416 yards -- the 10th highest single-game total in school history and the first 400-yard game since Juice Williams passed for 462 against Minnesota in October of 2008.

Scheelhaase racked up a school record 340 yards passing by the end of the first half and by game's end had moved into fourth place in Illinois career total offense (7,480 yards).

Stat of the game: Passing yards -- Illinois 415, Southern Illinois 341. While both teams struggled to initiate the rushing attack, the game turned into a shootout with a combined 78 pass attempts and 55 completions. The Illini averaged over 14 yards per completion while the Salukies gained over 13 yards per catch.

Stat of the game II: Sacks and turnovers. Illinois failed to produce a single sack and recovered a fumble compared to Southern Illinois' five sacks, one interception and one fumble recovered.

The takeaway: Illinois won it's first game in 10 tries, so the scoreboard provided the desired result. What was seen on the field, though, wasn't very pretty. Some growing pains due to a brand new offense and a young and inexperienced defense were to be expected, but defeating an FCS-level team by one score isn't exactly something to boast about. The offense showed it can be exciting with all the different personnel packages, Scheelhaase passing all over the place and freshman Aaron Bailey getting on the field and scoring a touchdown. Still, the o-line struggled and the running game never got going. Defensively, too many big plays were given up, as the defensive line had trouble creating pressure and the secondary gave chase on too many big plays. Next week Cincinnati comes to town in a matchup that could end badly for the Illini.


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