Illini football hopes to bounce back against FCS foe Charleston Southern

Saturday’s home game against Charleston Southern couldn’t come any sooner for the Illinois football team.

After a 45-14 thrashing by Arizona State, the Illini can’t wait to get back on the field and put that game behind them.

“Definitely a good feeling to get that out of the way and start a new game plan and everything against a new team this week,” running back Josh Ferguson said. “We just want to make corrections and get better.”

After struggling against Arizona State in all facets of the game, the Illini (1-1) face a much less daunting task this week against FCS opponent Charleston Southern (0-2). The Buccaneers went winless last season and haven’t won a game since Nov. 13, 2010.

Illinois is 11-0 all-time against FCS opponents, but head coach Tim Beckman said the Illini won’t be taking it easy at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.

“Our team needs to get better,” Beckman said. “So we’re going to do what we need to do to be successful.”

Although Beckman said the Illini will not call the game any more conservatively than usual, the score could be tilted in Illinois’ favor very early, which will likely lead to a rush-heavy offensive attack — an opportunity for inexperienced running backs Ferguson and Donovonn Young to continue to build on last week’s performance.

Ferguson rushed for 101 yards on 14 carries, and Young pitched in 65 yards and a touchdown.

Both running backs credited their improved production — they managed just a combined 40 yards “against Western Michigan”: in Week One — to the offensive line.

“We just got a lot of movement up front, and that’s what counts,” Young said. “Once we get the movement up front, me and Josh can do what we do.”

If the Illini build a big lead, the running backs — Young, Ferguson and freshman Dami Ayoola — could see a lot of touches Saturday, especially if the Illini are without starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase for a second straight game.

Scheelhaase sprained his ankle in the third quarter of the Sept. 1 season opener against Western Michigan and sat out in the loss in Tempe, Ariz.

The junior quarterback said he “expects to play”: Saturday until the coaching staff tells him otherwise.

“It was a frustrating week not being able to practice as much as I wanted to,” Scheelhaase said of last week. “But through that frustration, you just have to get it treated, get it right, because it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. At the end of the day, missing one game is a whole lot better than missing two, three or however many more.

“That’s hopefully the last one I’ll have to miss.”

_Chad can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @cthornburg10._