Redshirt freshman Nathan Scheelhaase made up for his miserable opening week by throwing for 229 yards and two touchdowns to lead Illinois to a 35-3 victory over Southern Illinois.
Scheelhaase, who threw three interceptions a week ago, completed 14-of-18 passes, including a 54-yard touchdown to A.J. Jenkins. His 34-yard connection to Evan Wilson set up Mikel Leshoure’s 1-yard scoring run in the first quarter that sent the Illini (1-1) on the way to an easy win. Scheelhaase added a 33-yard touchdown to Justin Lattimore.
Southern Illinois (1-1) got its only points after Mike McElroy intercepted Eddie McGee’s pass at the Illinois 20. The Salukis couldn’t get a first down and settled for Kyle Dougherty’s 30-yard field goal. SIU’s offense never got much going. It rushed for just 46 yards and had only 230 yards of total offense.
Illinois responded to SIU’s score by driving for its third touchdown, going 67 yards in six plays, with Leshoure scoring on an 8-yard run to give the Illini a 21-3 halftime lead. Leshoure finished with 115 yards on 15 carries and became the 36th back in school history to rush for 1,000 career yards. He now has 1,087 yards.
Whitney Mercilus sparked the Illinois defense with three tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, one quarterback hurry and one pass break up.
It was the 13th straight season Illinois has won its home opener and improved the Illini’s series record to 3-0 against Southern Illinois.
Illinois hosts Northern Illinois next week, while Southern Illinois returns home to host Southeast Missouri.