(Eds: With AP Photos.)
By DAVID MERCER
Associated Press
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - If any part of the Illinois football team has a right to enjoy the 2-0 start, it's the offense.
As 2012 dragged on and losses piled up, the offense's futility grew. Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase watched his yardage, both passing and running, drop sharply. He wound up with just four touchdown passes - all season.
In Saturday's win over Cincinnati, Illinois got the ball to 11 receivers, and seven people ran the ball. The result was an offensive explosion - 522 yards and 27 first downs - in which no ball carrier had more than Donovonn Young's 64 yards and no receiver more than Martize Barr's 72.
``I don't think I've ever been around (anything like that),'' offensive coordinator Bill Cubit said. ``That's a lot of different guys. It's not like some guy's catching 14.''
Most important of all was the result: a 45-17 win over the Bearcats. Illinois faces a stiffer test Saturday, taking on No. 19 Washington at Soldier Field in Chicago.
It shouldn't be a surprise that Cubit, the architect of the offensive turnaround underway at Illinois, would admit to a little wonder at his success so far. Cubit was hired in the offseason to improve that faltering offense and beef up head coach Tim Beckman's staff.
While gloom and blame became part of the culture of last season's 2-10 Illinois team, the upbeat Cubit says his players are having fun so far this season, and should be.
``I think they need to enjoy this stuff - this game is so hard,'' he said.
He points to two pieces of his offense as keys to the success Illinois has had so far - Scheelhaase and his receivers, those 11 guys he threw to Saturday who mostly made due with a catch or two apiece. Scheelhaase already has six touchdown passes this season against just one interception.
``He's so intelligent. For me, it's just a pleasure to watch him go out there and have fun,'' Cubit said. ``For a guy who's been a little bit maligned around here, you know, right now I think he's leading the Big Ten in passing.''
It's early, but he's right. Scheelhaase's 364 yards a game and 74 percent completion percentage are both best in the conference so far. And it's clear the quarterback is enjoying their partnership.
Cubit coaches from the sideline rather than a box high in the stadium, which means the two talk face to face and do it quickly, Scheelhaase says.
``I mean, even mid-play sometimes,'' Scheelhaase said. ``One time he thought I should have checked something. I pointed up to the (play) clock and said we're about to run out of time. He shook his head and knew exactly what I was talking about. Being able to have that kind of quick communication, that does help.''
The receivers, Cubit said, have made Scheelhaase better.
He calls them a selfless group. Even Barr, the leading receiver, only has nine catches in two games, but he and eight other Illini players have caught at least three each. Converted quarterback Miles Osei has eight catches for 54 yards and is always where he's supposed to be.
``It's experience, it's leadership, it's dependability,'' Cubit said. ``He's not fast, he just does everything right.''
NOTES: Beckman said the return of starting guard Ted Karras, who missed the first game with an injury, was welcome. ``There's not a bunch of vocal guys on the offensive line. Well, Teddy is,'' Beckman said. ``Teddy will let you know how he feels about it.'' ... The Cincinnati win is the biggest of Beckman's stay in Champaign, but he insisted he didn't celebrate. ``Nah. I tell ya', I spent time with my mom and dad and we had a recruit over.'' ... Running back Josh Ferguson's 47 yards on nine carries earned him a shot at seeing a little more of the ball, Beckman said. ``I think Ferguson will definitely be a guy that we can try to get the ball to, along with Donovonn Young.'' ... Linebacker Jonathan Brown leads the Big Ten with 23 tackles, 11 of them solo.
---
Follow David Mercer on Twitter: https://twitter.com/davidmercerap

Recent NCAAF Discussions

PRO PLAYS FOR SUN. on Sun, Nov 2017 by BamaHater
Sunday Picks on Sun, Nov 2017 by BamaHater
Nfl pick on Sun, Nov 2017 by shawnsushi
Sunday plays on Sun, Nov 2017 by JBoppa
Carolina Wise Guy NFL Selections 11/19! - ONE THREAD on Sun, Nov 2017 by CarolinaWiseGuy

NCAAF Headlines

NCAAF Top Stories

Thumbnail College Football Week 13 Odds We have already arrived at the final full week of the regular season. Here is a look at the opening odds for Week 13of the College Football...
Thumbnail Utah vs. Washington Prediction Will the Washington Huskies cover as huge home favorites on Saturday night when they host fellow Pac-12 rival the Utah Utes at 10:30 p.m. ET?
Thumbnail Air Force vs. Boise State Pick Can Boise State roll to another big win in the Mountain West Conference tonight when it plays host to Air Force at...
Thumbnail Cal vs. Stanford Prediction Will the Stanford Cardinal cover as a double-digit home favorite tonight when it takes on the Cal Golden Bears at 8:00 p.m. ET? Let's dive into...
Thumbnail UCLA vs. USC Prediction Will the USC Trojans cover the point spread as a double-digit home favorite tonight when they host their in-state rivals the UCLA Bruins at 8:00 p.m....

NCAAF Team Pages