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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) – Illinois’ Nathan Scheelhaase and A.J. Jenkins made Indiana pay for its mistakes Saturday.
First, they hooked up on a 77-yard scoring pass. Then they hooked up on a 66-yard TD pass. And finally, Scheelhaase jogged into the end zone on a 9-yard scoring run.
It was too much for the reeling Hoosiers.
No. 19 Illinois used three scoring plays of 66 yards or longer to rally from an early 10-0 deficit and rout Indiana 41-20. The Fighting Illini (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten) are off to their best start since the 1951 team went 7-0, a mark they can match next week when Ohio State visits Champaign.
Scheelhaase finished 12 of 22 for 210 yards with three TD passes and sealed the game with his third-quarter scoring run. Jenkins, the Big Ten’s leading receiver, lived up to his reputation, too. He had six catches for 182 yards, blowing past the Hoosiers’ secondary on both scoring plays.
Indiana (1-5, 0-2) has lost three straight overall and 13 in a row against ranked opponents, dating to a 31-28 victory over then No. 13 Iowa on Oct. 14, 2006.
They had chances to break both streaks in Saturday’s wild, wacky game.
Hoosiers freshman Shane Wynn took the opening kickoff, found a big hole in the middle and sprinted 99 yards untouched for the fourth-longest return in school history.
The Hoosiers made it 10-0 after Brandon McGhee recovered an Illinois fumble near midfield and Mitch Ewald booted a 44-yard field goal with 5:55 left in the quarter.
But the Illini defense turned the game.
Whitney Mercilus sacked Dusty Kiel on a third-down play, stripping Kiel of the ball. Tavon Wilson scooped it up and raced 66 yards to close the deficit to 10-7.
Scheelhaase and Jenkins then beat Indiana’s blown coverage on an all-out blitz for the 77-yard score to make it 14-10.
After another Illini turnover, at their own 3, the defense held Indiana to a field goal – and the Illinois took control.
Scheelhaase led Illinois on a more conventional 74-yard drive, capping it with a 3-yard TD pass to Jon Davis. And Scheelhaase and Jenkins beat another blown coverage for the 67-yard score to give Illinois a 27-13 lead with 2:04 left in the half.
Scheelhaase sealed the win with an easy 9-yard TD run around the right side late in the third quarter.
All Indiana could muster in the second half was a 2-yard TD run from freshman quarterback Tre Roberson with 5:29 to play, the first score of his career.
Roberson went 11 of 17 for 148 yards in his most extensive action of the season.
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