After further review, Illinois put the clamp on Charleston Southern

_Editor’s Note: The Sunday after every Illini football game, Dan sits down and reviews the previous week’s football game. His take will appear every Wednesday._

On paper, Illinois’ football schedule is a feasible slate that the Illini can achieve bowl eligibility through.

After the first three games, a 2-1 record is a decent start. But more realistically, the Illini have won the games they were supposed to and dropped the one that was going to be a long shot.

Of the first three games, Saturday’s contest against Charleston Southern was the most complete film the Illini have had.

Sure they “won 44-0”:, but there were three distinct moments in the game that took any wind out of the Buccaneers’ sails.

As he showed all game Saturday, quarterback Reilly O’Toole was on his game.

What was interesting about the two passes that made up 93 of his 333 passing yards was that they were very similar plays.

Both plays started with the eventual targets, Ryan Lankford and Justin Hardee, lined up on opposite sides.

In each play, Lankford and Hardee streaked up the middle of the field and split the hole in the secondary to convert the two longest plays for the Illini offense that day.

The thing that made O’Toole’s completion to Hardee that much more impressive was the fact that he made the throw with enough zip on it to negate the fact that he was getting hit.

Those plays were two of O’Toole’s best throws Saturday. He only had five incompletions, and his worst one happened down near the end zone.

Charleston Southern countered Illinois’ five-wide set with six rushers, something O’Toole didn’t account for with his preplay read.

What he needed to do was have the offensive linemen adjust its blocking scheme to account for the extra rusher, but he didn’t.

Instead, what happened was that one Charleston Southern defensive lineman who wasn’t picked up on the line came bull rushing through the middle, and O’Toole reacted by lofting a pass toward the end zone that was eventually intercepted.

Two plays — the interception and Charleston Southern’s longest play from scrimmage, which accounted for 54 of the offense’s 125 yards — were the only bright spots for the Buccaneers.

They lined up in their shotgun wishbone offense. Quarterback Briar Van Brunt faked the hand off to his running back, who continued up the middle and faked out the Illinois defense.

Van Brunt then ran around to the right side and sprinted up the middle of the field. Besides the fake dive, the block that sprung him free was the one made by his wide receiver, who came across the middle from the far side of the field and sealed off defensive back Patrick Nixon-Youman.

Van Brunt was ultimately caught from behind, and the Buccaneers didn’t score, but it was the one play that they had the upper hand over the Illinois defense.

The Illini then clamped down and Charleston Southern never scored, but the wake up call was evident, and the defense never faltered the rest of the game.

Those three plays all played a part in Illinois keeping its foot on the gas and finishing out the largest shutout since 1965.

Charleston Southern had a $400,000 price tag on its little FCS head, and the Illini avoided a type of whiplash that can occur when a little school comes in with an attitude and makes the most of its opportunity.

O’Toole recovered from his early second quarter interception to scorch the Buccaneers’ defense for an Illinois single-game completion record.

Now the Illini have another up-tempo offense on the schedule and have implemented a colored card scheme to offset the speed in which Louisiana Tech operate.

It’ll be interesting to see the same time next week if I’m trying to sort out how well the defense adapted to a fast-paced offense or if “Arizona State”: happens all over again.

_Dan is a senior in Media. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @welinanddealin._