Illinois reserve QBs struggle as Illini falls to ASU

Illinois sophomore quarterback Reilly O’Toole scans the field Saturday during the Illini’s 45-14 loss to ASU. (Photo by Sam Rosenbaum)

It was time to answer the call.

In the Illinois’ game against ASU, both backup quarterbacks knew they were going to have a chance to play. Sophomore Reilly O’Toole and junior Miles Osei each made plays, but struggled to be stable, as the Illini (1-1) lost to ASU 45-14.

“I think they both performed,” said Illinois coach Tim Beckman.  “We have to perform to the more consistent basis. I thought Reilly came, and Miles both came in and moved our offense and did some things, but of course it wasn’t near good enough for this opponent.”

Due to the ankle injury to staring quarter back junior Nathan Scheelhaase, each backup was going to receive two drives to start the game, regardless of what happened.

O’Toole got the first two drives and struggled and moved the offense down the field. The Illini did not cross their own 25-yard line and punted at the end of both drives.

Osei came in after and showed a bit of a spark. In his first drive he took the Illini 75 yards, followed by a touchdown run by sophomore running back Donovonn Young. Illinois was only down 14-7 at that point.

Unfortunately, in Osei’s next two possessions, he threw two interceptions to ASU freshman linebacker Carlos Mendoza.

ASU (2-0) capitalized with a touchdown on one of the turnovers, and it was hard for the Illini to battle back after that.

After the interceptions, O’Toole returned and finished the game for the Illini. Beckman said that Osei dinged his ankle, but it was not serious.

Defensively, the Illini had one major issue: They left players open.

There were multiple ASU big plays where there was a defensive miscommunication and a Sun Devil receiver made an easy catch.

Early in the game, ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly kept converting on 20-yard passes to senior receiver Jamal Miles, freshman running back D.J. Foster and junior tight end Chris Coyle.

Beckman said that the issues on defensive resulted from poor eye discipline. Junior linebacker Jonathan Brown talked about what his coach meant.

“We have a lot of violations with our eyes,” Brown said. “Just having your eyes in places that they shouldn’t be, not reading your keys and just not be prepared mentally.”

“We knew a lot of what they were doing. We knew when they were going to do it. But they just came out and they did it better than us tonight.”

As the Illini look forward to their next opponent Charlestown Southern, players and coaches said the team needs to improve.

Beckman is hoping that Scheelhaase can return for their next game. But if he can’t, other offensive players will have to step up.

O’Toole said he is one of them.

“If I get another opportunity, I got to play better, simple as that,” O’Toole said.

Early in the game the Illini offensive strategy seemed to give the ball to redshirt freshman running back Josh Ferguson. He carried the ball four times for 29 yards in their first drive.

He said that was the strategy going into the game against ASU. If Scheelhaase cannot play next week, Ferguson is confident in the other skill position players to put points on the board.

 

Reach the reporter at ehubbard@asu.edu