Illini quarterback Scheelhaase expects to play against Charleston Southern

Nathan Scheelhaase was in unfamiliar territory Saturday.

Illinois’ “45-14 loss to Arizona State”: marked the first time the junior quarterback has missed a game with injury since he started playing football in the second grade.

“Something I definitely don’t want to do again,” he said.

Scheelhaase exited the “Sept. 1 season opener”:

against Western Michigan in the third quarter after suffering a sprained ankle. Western Michigan linebacker Kyle Lark landed on Scheelhaase’s ankle, twisting it outward, with about 10 minutes remaining in the quarter. Scheelhaase remained in the game for the final three plays of the drive, which ended in an interception in the end zone, before being examined on the sideline and eventually getting carted off the field.

“I just thought it was a normal sprain. I just tried to walk it off like I normally would, like I have countless times before,” Scheelhaase said. “I got off the field, (the trainers) tried to retape me and at that point, I couldn’t really put any pressure on it.”

Scheelhaase was “limited in practice”:

all last week and wasn’t able to go against Arizona State, but he said Tuesday he expects to play on Saturday against FCS opponent Charleston Southern, adding that he was an active participant in the morning’s practice and his ankle felt much better.

“Night and day from where I was last Tuesday,” he said. “It was hard enough watching, not being able to contribute at all last week. I expect to be out there this week for sure.”

Head coach Tim Beckman, who typically doesn’t discuss player injuries, said Monday that the quarterback situation is wide open between Scheelhaase and backups Reilly O’Toole and Miles Osei. If healthy, Beckman added, Scheelhaase will play Saturday.

O’Toole and Osei struggled against Arizona State, combining for just 101 passing yards, one score and three interceptions.

“We’re going to see what goes on,” Beckman said. “We’ll make those decisions as the week progresses.”

If you ask Scheelhaase, however, the decision to play is entirely up to him.

“My input is how well I practice, how well I look on the field,” he said. “The coaches will see what I’m able to do out there and be able to make a decision. In that sense, I have 100 percent input just by how I work out there.”

Scheelhaase said he held out hope that he might be able to start in Tempe, Ariz., last week until the pregame warmups.

“I was hoping there would be an ounce of a chance that it would just start feeling better at some point,” he said. “It just never came around.”

But Scheelhaase found other ways to help out as he watched an Illinois game from the sideline for the first time since his redshirt year in 2009, when Juice Williams was running the offense.

He was seen talking with O’Toole and Osei throughout the game.

“I’m not a coach, so I can only do so much, only help out so much,” he said. “Just trying to get them any advice from what I could see on the sideline.”

If all goes according to plan, Scheelhaase will be back wearing a helmet instead of a headset Saturday.

Chad can be reached at [email protected] and @cthornburg10.