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(Saturday, September 3rd)
Final Score: Illinois 33, Arkansas State 15
Champaign, IL (Sports Network) - Illinois sophomore quarterback Nathan Scheelhaasse threw for 267 yards and two touchdowns, and the Fighting Illini defense forced three turnovers en route to a 33-15 win over Arkansas State in non-conference action.
It took awhile for Illinois (1-0) to find its stride against Arkansas State (0-1), who pieced together a lead in the second quarter after a safety and two field goals. The Illinois offense came to life in the late stages of the second quarter however, reeling off ten straight points in the final two minutes to take command of the game.
Illinois running back Jason Ford rushed for a 15-yard touchdown with 2:06 left in the first quarter - but Ford was stuffed for a safety by Arkansas State defensive end Draper Amos in the early stages of the second stanza to make it 7-2.
The Red Wolves defense stalled Scheelhaasse and the Illinois attack for most of the second quarter, and were able to convert two long field goals by two different kickers - as Bobby Zalud hit a 49-yarder and Brian Davis connected on a 47-yarder with 2:50 seconds left to give Arkansas State a 8-7 lead.
But any visions of an upset for the Red Wolves ended there. Scheelhaasse took the Fighting Illini 80 yards in five plays on the next drive, capped by a 45- yard touchdown pass to Darius Millines.
Arkansas State Ryan Aplin threw an interception to Trulon Henry on the first play of the following drive, and Illinois capitalized with a 32-yard field goal by Derek Dimke to make it 17-8 heading into halftime.
Scheelhaasse found A.J. Jenkins for a 72-yard touchdown on the second play of the second half, and the rout was on. Jenkins finished with 11 catches and 148 yards, while Millines chipped in 119 yards on five catches.
Arkansas State's offense was stonewalled for most of the second half second half and an Aplin fumble midway through the quarter hurt a comeback bid. Ford scored his second touchdown of the day at the 5:44 mark of the third quarter, and Dimke made it 33-8 with just over seven minutes to play in the fourth. Arkansas State rounded out the scoring as Frankie Jackson scored from one-yard out with 3:20 left in the game.
Ford finished with 86 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries, as Illinois amassed 202 yards rushing. Arkansas State mustered just 60 yards on the ground.
09/03 20:05:58 ET