CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) – Freshman running back Donovonn Young introduced himself to Illinois fans with a pair of touchdowns and Nathan Scheelhaase ran for two more on Saturday in a 56-3 blowout over South Dakota State.
Illinois hadn’t won this big since 1944, in a 79-6 crushing of Illinois-Normal played in front of 5,000 fans.
The 42,000 at Memorial Stadium on Saturday saw the Illini (2-0) score on seven consecutive drives between their first possession early in the opening quarter and a punt with 22 seconds left in the third, when they were already up by a comfy 46 points.
Illinois rolled up 519 yards of offense and allowed the FCS member Jackrabbits (1-1) just 96.
Jason Ford is Illinois’ starter at tailback and had 48 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown, but Illini head coach Ron Zook makes clear that he prefers a deep rotation of backs to leaning on any one ball carrier.
On Saturday, seven Illini had carries, but Young showed why there’s a serious buzz about the Houston native in Champaign.
His first touchdown was a short one that looked easy, 2 yards behind a big block by fullback Jay Prosch, with 3:58 left in the first quarter for a 7-0 lead.
Young’s second score, however, was something else altogether.
The 215-pound back took a handoff from Scheelhaase at the Jackrabbits 41 with just under two minutes left in the first half and burst through a hole opened by Prosch on the left, running through four would-be tackles on his way to the end zone and a 35-3 lead. South Dakota State linebacker Mike Lien had perhaps the best shot at Young a few yards past the line of scrimmage, but found himself on his stomach grasping at air where Young’s lower leg had been, watching the freshman sprint toward the goal line.
Scheelhaase took a seat in the third quarter with 93 yards rushing and 102 passing yards on six completions.
Illinois’ defense never gave South Dakota State serious reason to believe it could compete with the Illini.
The Jackrabbits had just 54 yards of offense at halftime. They didn’t manage a first down until the second quarter and had just six of them for the game. A week after the Jackrabbits ran for 162 yards in a win over Southern Utah, South Dakota had 25 yards on the ground against Illinois.
Illinois picked off South Dakota State quarterback Thomas O’Brien twice. One was returned for a touchdown by linebacker Trulon Henry and the other set up a late scoring pass by Reilly O’Toole to Evan Wilson.
O’Brien finished the afternoon a frustrated 8-for-18 with just 37 yards.
The lone South Dakota State bright spots were a 33-yard field goal by Kyle Harris in the second quarter that trimmed the Illini lead to 28-3, and punter Jason Schlautman.
Schlautman punted a lot – seven times – and averaged 51 yards a kick.
Illinois fullback Zack Becker left the game in the first half with a leg injury that Zook said will likely sideline him for the season. Zook didn’t specify the nature of the injury but Becker’s right leg was placed in an inflatable cast before he was carted off the field.
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