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

Hawthorne’s place.

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

earlier offense.

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

this story.