Illinois to use two quarterbacks against Minnesota

Illinois%27+Reilly+O%27Toole+runs+the+ball+during+the+game+against+Wisconsin+at+Camp+Randall+Stadium+in+Madison%2C+Wis.+on+Oct.+11.+The+Illini+lost+38-28.
Back to Article
Back to Article

Illinois to use two quarterbacks against Minnesota

Illinois' Reilly O'Toole runs the ball during the game against Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis. on Oct. 11. The Illini lost 38-28.

Illinois' Reilly O'Toole runs the ball during the game against Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis. on Oct. 11. The Illini lost 38-28.

Illinois' Reilly O'Toole runs the ball during the game against Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis. on Oct. 11. The Illini lost 38-28.

Illinois' Reilly O'Toole runs the ball during the game against Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis. on Oct. 11. The Illini lost 38-28.

By Sean Neumann

Illinois will use a two-quarterback system for the first time this season Saturday against Minnesota.

Quarterbacks Reilly O’Toole and Aaron Bailey have seen increased playing time in the absence of starting quarterback Wes Lunt, who is out with a fractured fibula. Lunt is currently off crutches and in a medical boot.

Bailey played for the first time this season against Wisconsin two weeks ago, rushing for 75 yards and a touchdown, while adding 39 passing yards — all in the fourth quarter.

“It’s something I’m not used to,” receiver Mike Dudek said. “It’s going to be different.”

Dudek said the Illini receivers have been staying after practice with O’Toole and Bailey to work on timing and getting familiar with signals.

Same old story for Illini defense

Illinois will go up against one of the nation’s best running backs again this Saturday.

Senior running back David Cobb is fourth in the nation with 1,013 rushing yards and five touchdowns this season for Minnesota.

“It’s just the same old, same old within this conference,” Illini defensive coordinator Tim Banks said. “He’s deceptively fast. He has our respect and we put him right in line with the rest of the guys we’ve seen throughout the year.”

The Big Ten accounts for the nation’s top-four running backs, including Indiana’s Tevin Coleman who leads the country with 1,192 yards.

Illinois will have gone up against three of the nation’s top-four running backs after this weekend’s matchup against Cobb, having already allowed Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon 175 yards and four touchdowns and Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah 208 yards and three touchdowns in games this year.

The Illini post the worst rushing defense in the Big Ten, allowing 19 rushing touchdowns in its first seven games.

“We try to hammer home the fundamentals,” Banks said. “There’s no secret formula.”

The frustration for the Illini defense comes from the lack of execution on the field, despite having a game plan both the players and coaches trust in.

Illinois allows an average of 271.1 rushing yards per game — the worst in the Big Ten by an average of 72.8 yards and far from the conference best 60.8 yards per game allowed by Penn State.

“I’ve been doing this 20 years and the formula’s always been the same,” Banks said. “When it’s worked, I was the smart coach. When it doesn’t, I’m not so smart.”

Illinois takes advantage of bye week

Illinois players found time to go home to see family and recover from injury.

Head coach Tim Beckman announced Monday that defensive lineman Teko Powell will be out for the remainder of the season, requiring surgery on an injured foot.

Beckman said Powell could play but could potentially break the plate in his foot — a risk Illinois isn’t willing to take with a junior on the defensive line.

“It’s hard for anybody, not just Teko,” Beckman said of player injuries. “These players want to do it not just for themselves but for this team. It hurts them.”

The Illini coaching staff is hoping the junior tackle will be eligible for a medical redshirt, having only played three games this season.

But with their first break since arriving at training camp on June 10, the Illini players are looking to avoid an Illinois football trend that has seen the team lose 11 of its last 12 games coming off a bye week.

Sean can be reached at [email protected]ilyillini.com and on Twitter @neumannthehuman.