ILL 45, Cincinnati 17 - Rapid Reaction

Illinois led from start to finish, improving to 2-0 with it's 45-17 win against Cincinnati Saturday.

CHAMPAIGN - Illinois improved it's record to 2-0 with a 45-17 victory over Cincinnati Saturday in Memorial Stadium.

It was over when: Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase connected with receiver Martize Barr for a 26-yard touchdown mid-way through the fourth quarter. The score gave the Illini a 38-17 lead and a commanding hold on the game.

Player of the game: Scheelhaase. The reigning Big Ten Player of the Week put forth another great performance against the Bearcats. He finished 26 of 37 with 312 yards and four touchdowns, adding 24 yards rushing, too. He now has six touchdown passes in two games, surpassing last season's total of four.

Stat of the game: 3rd down efficiency. The Illini were 9-of-15 on third down, obviously crucial in extending drives and scoring points. Conversely, Cincinnati failed on 10 of 13 tries on conversions on third down.

The takeaway: It surprised us all, but that doesn't matter now. The Illini picked up a win against a serious sounding opponent for the time since defeating UCLA Dec. 31, 2011 in the Fight Hunger Bowl. That's a big deal and a huge step in the right direction. The offense, guided by Bill Cubit and led by Scheelhaase, continued the momentum it created last week, gaining 312 yards through the air and 210 more on the ground. Seven players had at least one carry. 11 players had at least one catch. That's called getting creative and working to make things work. Defensively, the Illini gave up 456 total yards, but only allowed 17 Bearcats points. The unit bent, but didn't break. That kind of performance, with the offense moving and the defense dodging points, can keep the Illini moving in the right direction as the season drives along.

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