CHAMPAIGN – The gameplan for Illinois wasn't too complicated.
Illinois did what few teams have done the past season-plus in stopping Northern Illinois running back Chad Spann. The Illini also continued to run the ball successfully in controlling Saturday's victory over the Huskies.
NIU managed 163 rushing yards, but Spann was held to only 15 on 13 carries. Quarterback Chandler Harnish once again led the Huskie rushing attack with 117 yards on the ground.
“The run game, we weren’t really as successful as we should’ve been," NIU running back Jas Hopkins said. "But I guess we got to put it behind us and go into the next one.”
Meanwhile, Illinois got the Huskies to bite on fakes on the zone read on the first drive and put together a successful mix of runs on its way to 319 rushing yards. Mikel Leshoure had his third straight 100-yard rushing game with 180 yards on the ground and quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase had his first-ever 100-yard rushing game with 115 yards.
“You got to stop the run, and we got to be able to run the ball," NIU coach Jerry Kill said. "And they ran the ball better than we did today.”
Scheelhaase had the seventh-most rushing yards in a single game by an Illinois quarterback in school history. The Rockhurst (Kansas City) alum did so with several leaps through the air to gain extra yards but extra hits as well.
"He must have run hurdles at Rockhurst," Kill said.
Illinois coach Ron Zook said he wished his quarterback wouldn't dive as often as he did Saturday. Scheelhaase said he thought his dives motivated his teammates and that he was doing whatever he could to make a play.
"Obviously, on the first one I was trying to get into the end zone any way possible," Scheelhaase said. "The second one was a big third down that I thought we needed. I was actually over the third-down line already. The third time I was airborne was probably the least necessary of the them all."
Meanwhile Harnish ran well in his second straight start, something Kill was encouraged to see.
"From Week 1 to where he played last week, he had an outstanding game, and we came to Week 3 where he played a tremendous opponent and got better," Kill said. "He just needs to keep getting better. We are very pleased at the progress he is making for this football team and I think our football team is excited about that."