Illini head coach Beckman: Scheelhaase is our quarterback

Illinois head coach Tim Beckman ended any speculation of a starting quarterback controversy or ideas about a two-quarterback system with the simple statement, “Nathan Scheelhaase is our starting quarterback.”

He said it not once but twice during his weekly press conference Monday, the second time more emphatically.

Beckman said Scheelhaase suffered a big hit during the first offensive play of Saturday’s 52-24 loss against Louisiana Tech. Beckman worried about his quarterback after two defenders hit Scheelhaase — one high and the other low. Scheelhaase stayed in the game, but after the fumble, Beckman made the decision to pull him.

“I was a little concerned, being a coach and being a guy that I hope is like a father,” Beckman said. “I want to make sure that everybody’s 100 percent.”

Assuming Scheelhaase is healthy and practices Tuesday and Wednesday, he is set to start against Penn State.

The statement comes as no surprise for Scheelhaase, who said he and Beckman have talked about it.

“I think Coach Beckman made the decision erring on the side on caution,” Scheelhaase said. “And it’s something you deal with as a player and move forward.

“There’s been a dramatic difference every weekend. Honestly, when we had our lift and run (Sunday), it’s felt as good as it’s felt.”

But because of the unpredictable nature of ankle sprains, Beckman wants to remain careful. He dismissed that Scheelhaase was hesitant to run during the first quarter because of his ankle.

The Illini wanted to establish the passing attack first with their running backs and try and get the ball to wide receiver Ryan Lankford before allowing Scheelhaase to run later in the game.

“I want to see what happens Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday,” he said. “As I mentioned, I think both quarterbacks are capable, but Nathan Scheelhaase is our starting quarterback.”

Bulletin board material

Penn State hasn’t forgotten about the Illinois head coaches that traveled to State College, Pa., to meet with Penn State players about transferring, whether the coaches were on campus. Beckman didn’t back down or express any regrets about his actions this summer, and he reiterated that Illinois was contacted first.

“This game was developed for opportunity,” he said. “If (Penn State players) come to us and say they would like that opportunity to speak to us, I think that’s what college football’s about. I regret that it ended up being this much and it’s still talked about, but it did give a young man his opportunity.”

Offensive lineman Ryan Nowicki transferred to Illinois after the NCAA levied sanctions against the Nittany Lions.

Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien said at Big Ten Media Days in July that he was not contacted by anyone from Illinois about meeting with his players. Beckman said he talked to O’Brien in Chicago about the issue but didn’t give a further explanation. He only said he hoped things had been worked out between them.

“This game’s about the players and playing it out on the field, and I know they’ll be prepared,” Beckman said. “I know coach O’Brien has done a great job of getting his players prepared and ready.”

David Jones of The Patriot-News, located in Harrisburg, Pa., called into Monday’s press conference and said Penn State fans are still “hot about this issue,” and it could possibly be bulletin-board material for Penn State as it prepares for Illinois.

Beckman says he’s never been huge on bulletin board material and thinks his team will be ready to match Penn State’s intensity because it’s the start of Big Ten season.

“I doubt we’ll be on the field and be talking crap about what went on in July,” Scheelhaase said. “I’m pretty sure they’ll be concerned about what’s going on, on the field and so will we. It’s about preparing and getting on the field and getting things done.”

Stripe the Stadium

Fans attending Saturday’s game against Penn State are being asked to “Stripe the Stadium” in orange and blue depending on where their seat is located. Students sitting in the north end zone have it easy: They should all wear orange, as usual. But anyone sitting in an even-numbered sections should wear blue, while anyone in odd-numbered sections should wear orange.

It’s the second year the team has had the promotion. However, the Illini will be looking for a different result, as last year’s “Stripe the Stadium” was spoiled when Illinois recorded its first loss of the season against Ohio State.

Jamal can be reached at [email protected] and @JamalCollier.