Matt York, Associated Press
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — If this were another week or if they were another Big Ten team, Illinois might be tempted with Charleston Southern coming to town to simplify the playbook, pound the Buccaneers into early submission with size and speed and get the reserves on the field.
That's not the plan, not after Arizona State stunned the Illini (1-1) with a 45-14 whipping last week.
"Why would you do that?" first-year coach Tim Beckman asked.. "You have to get your team better. ... We're not to that level yet."
With starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase out with an ankle injury, the odds were against the Illini. But the defense struggled, too, and there is work to do against the Buccaneers (0-2), a Football Bowl Championship team from a school with just 3,300 students.
Arizona State piled up 510 yards of offense last Saturday and led 28-7 at halftime even after a red-zone fumble.
Beckman talked during the week about, by his count, the more 200 yards his team gave up on missed tackles.
And the Illini players talked about their own on-field confusion, starting with that opening drive. Some read fake signals from their sideline — done to confuse Arizona State — as the real signals. That meant players were often running different defensive schemes than their own teammates.
"(Linebacker Jonathan Brown) told me a couple of times he was running a different call," defensive end Akeem Spence said.
So the first job for Illinois this week, cornerback Justin Green said, will be to forget last week.
"I know as a cornerback you have to have a short memory, so just because we had one game, one bad game, doesn't mean the whole season's going to go that way," he said. "So we're going to put it behind us and focus on what we have to do."
The second task for the Illini will be to look significantly better than they did last week.
"We did not play well, in my opinion, on any side of the football," Beckman said. "We need to get better as a team."
A date with a winless team from a lower division would seem ideal.
Charleston Southern has lost by a combined score of 80-24 to a pair of fellow FCS schools, the Citadel and Jacksonville State. The Buccaneers gave up 527 yards of offense against the Citadel in their opener, a 49-14 loss. And they fell to Jacksonville State 31-10 in spite of a much better defensive showing, turning the ball over four times.
"Four turnovers really killed us, every time we start moving the ball," Charleston Southern coach Jay Mills said.
Mills talked up an Illinois team that has multiple pre-season candidates for national awards, and said he expects the Buccaneers' first-ever game against a Big Ten school to be daunting. He said he is keeping his expectations for his team in check.
"Physically, obviously this is what you expect to see from a Big Ten school, a large physical team," he said. "We're just trying to get better, in all three phases of the game."
Illinois will carry one nagging problem with it from last week.
Starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase may again be limited by a sprained ankle he suffered late in the season opening win over Western Michigan. Scheelhaase has said this week that, after sitting out the Sun Devil game, he thinks he'll be ready to play.
Beckman, much like the previous week, would only say he would make a call on Scheelhaase's status as the week progressed. At Arizona State, that meant Saturday not long before kickoff.
Mills has no doubt he'll see Scheelhaase.
"We think he'll be back for this game," Mills said.
Without Scheelhaase, Illinois' offense was good for just the two touchdowns at Arizona State and 101 passing yards between replacement quarterbacks Reilly O'Toole and Miles Osei. But the Illini offense left the desert with one building block it won't want to forget: 231 rushing yards, a week after struggling to move the ball against Western Michigan.
"It was a big deal to get the ball moving, get some confidence," center Graham Pocic said.
Follow David Mercer on Twitter: http://twitter.com/DavidMercerAP
- BYU, Utah and Utah State 2013 football...
- BYU, Utah and Utah State 2013 football...
- BYU football: BYU, Bronco Mendenhall still...
- High school baseball: Bingham Miners bring...
- High school baseball: Salem Hills Skyhawks...
- BYU basketball: Agustin Ambrosino leaves BYU...
- BYU baseball: San Diego eliminates BYU from...
- Park City senior Ben Saarel wins Dream Mile...
- Hard work, dedication pay off for... 57
- High school baseball: 5A, 4A state... 56
- BYU, Utah and Utah State 2013 football... 41
- BYU basketball: Agustin Ambrosino... 33
- BYU basketball: Dave Rose hoping Tyler... 28
- Bodyguards allegedly beat up 2 fans who... 19
- Utah Jazz: No lottery luck, so Jazz... 19
- High school soccer: 5A, 4A state... 6