CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Nathan Scheelhaase threw for 278 yards and five touchdowns and Illinois used a 29-point second quarter to blow by Miami of Ohio 50-14 on Saturday.
The senior quarterback had all five touchdown throws for Illinois (3-1) by halftime. He finished 19 of 24 for 278 yards with one interception
For Illinois, the blowout meant the third win of the season came early. A year ago the Illini never saw win No. 3, finishing 2-10 and closing with nine-straight losses.
Miami lost its third-straight game to a BCS school after falling to Cincinnati last weekend and Kentucky two weeks ago.
Quarterback Austin Boucher finished 7 of 13 for 95 yards and a touchdown. Fellow signal-caller Austin Gearing carried the ball 16 times for 81 yards.
Illinois opens the Big Ten season —where the Illini were winless last year — next Saturday at Nebraska. But the Illini never appeared to look past the struggling RedHawks.
Scheelhaase moved the offense quickly up field on the opening drive, taking a quick 7-0 lead on a 2-yard pass to tight end Matt LaCosse in the back of the end zone with 11:31 left in the first quarter.
But the big second quarter finished Miami. The touchdowns came in waves.
First Scheelhaase hit another tight end, Evan Wilson, from 8 yards. The 6-6 senior jumped high in the back of the end zone, pulling the high ball down and just tapping a foot to the turf before falling out of bounds. A two-point conversion pushed the score to 15-0 with 13:39 left in the half.
Then, after Illinois recovered an onside kick, Scheelhaase found Josh Ferguson with a screen pass. The tailback scooted 15 yards, running through a would-be tackle by Brison Burris on the way to increasing the lead to 22-0 with 12:06 left in the half.
Four minutes later Scheelhaase connected with yet another tight end, hitting Jon Davis on a 4-yard touchdown for a 29-0 lead.
And, finally, after taking over near midfield after a RedHawk fumble, Scheelhaase looked long to LaCosse, who this time scored from 45 yards out.
Down 36-0 with 5:18 left in the half, Miami was stunned.
The fumble, as much as any other play, summed up the afternoon for the RedHawks.
Miami was already down 29-0 and badly needed points, but quarterback Boucher lost the snap and the ball bounced behind him. Running back Spencer Treadwell fell on it.
Both the ball and momentum belonged to the Illini, and Scheelhaase quickly turned it into the long strike to LaCosse.
It was Scheelhaase’s fifth touchdown pass of the half — and fourth to a tight end — breaking his own personal best for touchdown passes in game by one and tying with Jeff George and three other players for second on the all-time Illini list behind Dave Wilson’s six against Ohio State in 1980.
With the game in hand, Scheelhaase took a seat on the bench in the third quarter, finishing 19 of 24 for 278 yards with one interception.
As he has all season, Scheelhaase spread the ball around. Eleven Illini caught passes Saturday. Ferguson led them with five catches for 77 yards and the touchdown.
Ferguson also carried the ball eight times for 71 yards. Donovonn Young led Illinois with 80 rushing yards on 11 carries.
For a defense in need of a lift after giving up more than 600 yards in its last outing against Washington, the RedHawks arrived right on time.
Miami had 104 yards of offense at the half, more than it had managed in either of its two previous games, and finished with a season-high 250 yards. And the RedHawks nudged into Illini territory over and over.
But they trailed 43-0 at one point and never really threatened to score until the game had been all but decided. Most Miami drives died short of the Illinois 40 and, for nearly 43 minutes the Illini pitched a shutout.
The RedHawks didn’t get on the board until late in the third quarter, and even that one didn’t come easy.
Facing a fourth-and-goal at the Illini 1-yard line, Boucher rolled right and hit receiver Rokeem Williams in the back corner of the end zone. Williams held the ball for an instant before Illinois cornerback Jaylen Dunlap punched the ball free and it hit the ground.
The official behind Williams waited a long second before signaling a touchdown. The play was upheld by a review but an Illini crowd enjoying the blowout booed long and loud.
RedHawks running back Jamire Westbrook was carted off the field with a hurt right knee in the first half. After lying on the turf for several minutes the sophomore managed to stand and hobble to the cart, where he was sat up and signaled to his teammates with a hand as he was driven away.
Miami sports information staff didn’t immediately have information about his injury.
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