Fighting Illini 6-0 After Win at Indiana
(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Media)
Nathan Scheelhaase and A.J. Jenkins hooked up on two long TD passes to lead No. 19 Illinois to a 41-20 victory Saturday at Indiana.
Illinois (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten) is bowl eligible, and is off to its best start since the 1951 team was 7-0. Indiana (1-5, 0-2) lost its third in a row, still has not beaten a Football Bowl Subdivision team this season and has lost 13 consecutive games against Top 25 teams since a 31-28 victory over then No. 13 Iowa on Oct. 14, 2006.
Sparked by Shane Wynn's 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, the Hoosiers took a 10-0 lead early.
But Illinois came back with a 77-yard scoring pass to Jenkins, took the lead on Tavon Wilson's 66-yard fumble return for a TD and made it 27-13 at the half on Nathan Scheelhaase's 67-yard TD pass to Jenkins. Defensive end Whitney Merciless now leads the nation in sacks after dropping Hoosier quarterbacks three times.
"I was notified about two weeks back that I as starting to lead," he said. "It's a challenge to stay up there. Each week, when I go into it, I'm just thinking I want to keep contending to be in the lead with everybody else. Definitely I want to bring something to this program."
Merciless also forced a fumble which Tavon Wilson scooped from the turf and returned 66 yards to give Illinois its first lead.
"I feel like that was the momentum changer of the game," said Wilson. "Coach (Ron) Zook is always talking about turnovers, and helping the offense out with points."
The 6-0 Illini return to Champaign next Saturday afternoon against Ohio State.