CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (MCT) — On the first day of October, the Illini already were using the wicked word “snowball.”
And, no, they weren’t talking about winter coming. They were referring to the mistakes that piled up during a 35-7 loss to Penn State on Saturday and that can multiply during a losing streak.
Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase witnessed “the snowball effect” during Illinois’ six-game losing streak last season. But he said Monday the Illini have time to prevent a similar slide this season, even though they’ve lost three of the last four games and play at Wisconsin and Michigan the next two weeks.
“There’s still a lot of season left, a lot of great things that can be done,” Scheelhaase said. “As far as I could see, after the game and (Sunday) during meetings, guys had the mindset they wanted to do whatever they could do to fix the problem.”
Scheelhaase drew optimism from the improvement of his sprained left ankle. He said he saw “the old me coming back to life” while watching film of the Penn State game. That’s just in time for a trip to Madison, where the Illini haven’t won since 2002.
Howe out: Illinois hasn’t been able to stop injuries from spinning out of control, and coach Tim Beckman announced another addition to the list.
Sophomore defensive tackle Jake Howe is out for the season with a broken arm. He had played in all five games this year but didn’t record any stats as the backup to junior Akeem Spence.
Beckman didn’t provide an update on linebacker Jonathan Brown, who left the Penn State game with a leg injury. Brown has 29 tackles, five tackles for a loss, 11/2 sacks, a pass breakup, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble.
“As the game progressed, you could see he just wasn’t Jonathan Brown,” Beckman said.
Monheim honored: Middle linebacker Mason Monheim was named Big Ten freshman of the week for his performance against Penn State.
Monheim had a game-high 11 tackles and forced a fumble in his third start in place of injured sophomore Houston Bates. He leads Big Ten freshmen with 28 tackles and has 21/2 tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles and an interception.
“I knew he had the ability to play,” Beckman said. “It was just mentally, how quickly can you grow up being an 18-, 19-year-old man coming in and playing Big Ten football? He’s definitely made those strides.”
Freshman linebacker Mike Svetina also saw time while Brown was out and recorded five tackles.
“They played hard,” Beckman said. “I was proud of the way they took the challenge of coming in and playing as true freshmen.”