Turner looking for QB leader

Dan McDonald

By Lisa Koulias

Illini head coach Ron Turner has spent all week looking for the guy to lead the Illini to their first Big Ten win of the season.

Last week, he thought quarterback Jon Beutjer would be the player to get it done. But the Illini lost their fourth conference game against Michigan, 30-19.

This week, Turner started the week with a different plan – bypass Beutjer for the starting spot and let one of the younger guys have a chance to lead the team.

He just doesn’t know which one.

“I don’t know who it is,” Turner said. “All three of them did some good things. I saw them getting rid of the ball pretty quickly, pretty good decision-making and the ability to run. So that part was good.”

Sophomores Chris Pazan and Tim Brasic, along with redshirt freshman Brad Bower, have been vying for the starting spot all week with hopes of being named “starter.”

Although Turner has yet to find a consistent QB for the team, center Duke Preston said the constant changes don’t affect the team or the game plan too much.

“Whoever is back there, it matters a little bit,” Preston said. “But in terms of our offense being efficient and doing what we need to do, I’m not too sure that one or any of those guys has a certain advantage, and that’s not saying that one isn’t better than the other. But they are all so good in what they do and in certain aspects of the game.

“For the O-line, we recognize our job is to keep people off our quarterback and open up the holes when we call the run block.”

Back in the lineup

After missing last week’s game against Michigan because of a sprained MCL, running back E.B. Halsey is scheduled to return to the lineup this weekend against Minnesota.

Halsey ranks second on the team in rushing with an average of 64.5 yards per game and second in all-purpose yards with an average of 99.7 per game.

“E.B. had a good day today; he was good,” Turner said after practice Wednesday. “E.B. did a little more today than he did yesterday and actually got hit a little bit today and he’s fine. He’ll play. I’m not sure he’ll start, it depends what we do, but he will play, definitely.”

Series standing

Illinois and Minnesota meet this weekend for the 60th time; Minnesota leads the all-time series with a 30-26-3 advantage. The Gophers lead the Illini in games played in Minnesota, 18-10-2. The last time Illinois won on Minnesota’s turf was in 1994. The Illini last beat the Gophers in 2001.

Sense of urgency

“We know what we have to do and we have to go out and play. Obviously, we know how many we have to win to have a winning season and be bowl-eligible and all that stuff, but we can’t win that many if we don’t get this one this weekend. So we have to come out with great preparation and great focus.”

– Illini head coach Ron Turner