Illini Gridders Complete First Scrimmage

RANTOUL, Ill. — The University of Illinois football team completed its first controlled scrimmage of the fall training camp in front of a crowd of 1,000 fans at Rantoul High School, Saturday night.

The offense posted over 100 yards rushing, over 250 passing and the defense came up with nine sacks in the two-hour workout. In addition to regular drives, the team also concentrated on redzone work, "coming out" drives, third-down offense, goal line and two-minute work.

The coaching staff came in with a script of plays and situations to emphasize, many times stopping a drive for ball replacement. Within the structure of the scrimmage, the offense scored three touchdowns during the redzone period. Junior running back E.B. Halsey scored on a 10-yard run, true-freshman quarterback Paul Blalock had a 15-yard touchdown pass to junior Mark McGoey and took one in on a four yard run.

"It was a great first scrimmage. We saw a lot of good things and some things we need to work on. It is about where we expected them to be in a new system," head coach Ron Zook said. "The quarterbacks were much more accurate then the last few practices and they will continue to get better with each scrimmage. We have a starting point now. This is where we are, and now we can go from here. Now we will start to zero in on what we do best."

Halsey averaged seven yards a carry during his nine touches running the ball for 63 yards. He busted open for a 27-yard run from the offensive 10-yardline, while practicing drives from deep in their own territory. Freshman Rashard Mendenhall got the most carries for the Illini with 18 for 47 yards. Sophomore DaJuan Warren led the receivers with five catches for 54 yards, and the scrimmages' long catch of 30 yards. Senior Kendrick Jones had two catches, but wowed the Rantoul crowd with a diving 24-yard grab. Receiver-convert Jody Ellis' number was called four times for a total of 7 yards. McGoey made the most of his time with two catches for 41 yards and the only receiving touchdown. Junior, quarterback Tim Brasic was 8-of-16 for 75 yards, while Chris Pazan posted 11 completions on 26 attempts for 136 yards with two interceptions.

The defense took advantage of big-play opportunities forcing three interceptions, one fumble and nine sacks. Cornerback Sharriff Abdullah led all tacklers with eight stops, including two tackles for loss. Illinois' bookend defensive ends Derek Walker and Xavier Fulton each finished the scrimmage with two sacks, while defensive tackle Ryan Matha added another two tackles for loss. Corner Charles Bailey got the scrimmage's first pick, followed by a pair of linebackers, Anthony Thornhill and Sam Porter. In the third drive, sophomore linebacker J. Leman forced a fumbles, which was recovered by Justin Harrison.

The squad will take Sunday off from practices and return to double sessions on Mon., Aug. 15 beginning at 8:05 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Offical University of Illinois press release.

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