Illini QB Scheelhaase feels lucky to face Buckeyes
Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase talked about the
opportunity awaiting the Illini this Saturday, sounding like
someone who’d just won the lottery.
The jackpot for the redshirt freshman? Hosting No. 2 Ohio State
(4-0) in his first Big Ten game.
”You don’t wake up every day and say `I’m going to play against
the second-best team in the country,”’ Scheelhaase said
Illinois (2-1) regularly plays Ohio State tough, including a
2007 upset of the then-No. 1 Buckeyes in Columbus that cost them a
shot at an undefeated season and helped send the Illini to the Rose
Illinois coach Ron Zook said he hadn’t talked to his players
much about that game, but Scheelhaase was certainly aware of
”You talk about that opportunity with the team doing it three
years ago, it’s still fresh with any Illinois fans that you talk
to,” Scheelhaase said.
He said the game, which he watched at a restaurant as a high
school junior in Kansas City, Mo., was probably the first time he
saw Illinois play.
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel on Tuesday stressed his team’s
history with the Illini, too.
”We’ve played them many times in our guys’ lifetimes and the
record is 10-9,” Tressel said. ”So in our guys’ lifetime, they’ve
known full well that the Ohio State-Illinois game is a big deal and
there have been battles, and they know we’re heading on the
Zook said his team will face Ohio State without starting
cornerback and kick returner Terry Hawthorne, who hasn’t played
this season and remains out with an Achilles’ tendon injury.
Converted tailback Justin Green will play his fourth game in
Wide receiver and backup quarterback Eddie McGee could return
after missing the Northern Illinois game last week with a sprained
ankle. Zook wasn’t sure yet whether starting offensive lineman Hugh
Thornton or Michael Buchanan, who opened the season as Illinois’
”bandit” pass rush-specialist, will play.
Buchanan, a 6-foot-6 sophomore, hasn’t played since the Missouri
game following his arrest on a drunken-driving charge. Thornton, a
6-foot-5 sophomore, was already on court supervision for drinking
as a minor when he was arrested Sunday following a fight in a local
bar. Prosecutors are trying to have his court supervision revoked,
which could see Thornton sentenced to up to a year in jail for his
Zook said he’s still gathering information on what happened with
the 19-year-old Thornton. Zook said he and athletic director Ron
Guenther will meet Friday and make a decision on Buchanan, who has
been cleared by the university to play.
”He’s about as remorseful as a guy (can be), and he should
be,” Zook said. ”He’s apologized to his teammates.”
Zook said he isn’t overly concerned about the recent arrests,
and said Guenther hasn’t complained to him about them, either.
”I don’t worry about discipline,” Zook said. ”(Players)
understand what’s right and what’s wrong.”
AP Sports Writer Rusty Miller in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to