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Unbeaten Illinois finishes off Indiana

Monday, October 10, 2011 - 7:07 am

BLOOMINGTON -- For 10 minutes, Indiana was the best team at Memorial Stadium.

For 10 minutes.

The problem -- college games are 60 minutes long, and No. 19 Illinois took advantage.

The Illini blasted past an early 10-0 deficit and rolled to a 41-20 victory Saturday. They improved to 6-0, 2-0 in the Big Ten.

IU lost its third straight game and is 1-5 and 0-2.

Indiana freshman quarterback Tre Roberson got his most extensive action of the season. He was 11-for-17 for 148 yards and an interception. He rushed for 36 yards and a touchdown while rotating with Dusty Kiel. Roberson broke Tim Clifford's true freshman school record of 143 passing yards and 25 rushing yards, set in 1977.

Kiel was 6-for-19 for 71 yards before leaving in the second half with a slight ankle sprain. He was sacked three times. Roberson was sacked twice.

“Tre looked really good,” Kiel said. “He was making plays, running around. Doing what he does. Having fun.”

Added coach Kevin Wilson: “Dusty got rolled up, couldn't push off it. so we used Tre at the end. It was not a battlefield demotion so much as Dusty was a little nicked. It was nice to see Tre make a few plays.”

Quarterback Edward Wright-Baker, still hindered by an ankle injury, didn't play for the second straight game. Wilson said he was about “95 percent,” but decided to rest him one more week.

The Hoosiers had no answer for Illinois' balanced offense. The Illini ran for 308 yards and threw for 210.

Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase burned the Hoosier secondary for 210 yards and three touchdown passes. He also rushed for 88 yards and a touchdown.

Illinois was a heavy favorite, but didn't look like it early, perhaps because this was its first road game of the season.

“Games are hard to win,” coach Ron Zook said. “When you get in the Big Ten, they're even harder and when you're on the road, they're even harder.

“You can't take your foot off the gas pedal. We're a good team, but for us to be a great team, you've got to do a lot more.”

Added Wilson: “Good team, tough loss, same story.”

IU defensive tackle Mick Mentzer didn't play after having arthroscopic knee surgery last week. Wilson said the former Bishop Dwenger standout had a “loose body” behind the kneecap. He said it should be a “two to three-week” deal and hoped Mentzer would be back “by the end of the month.”

Shane Wynn got IU off to a strong start by returning the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead. It was the first kickoff return for a touchdown ever by a true IU freshman, and the first overall for the Hoosiers in two years.

“Number One the kickoff was a line drive,” Zook said. “You can't kick like that. We'll get that fixed. We had a couple of guys not get where they were supposed to be.”

IU followed up that kickoff touchdown by holding Illinois to a three-and-out series. The Hoosiers followed that by forcing a fumble that was recovered by linebacker Brandon McGhee and that led to Mitch Ewald's 44-yard field goal and a 10-0 lead.

The Illini hadn't trailed like that all season.

“Our guys don't worry about that stuff,” Zook said. “They just keep playing and doing the things the coaches coach them to do.”

Illinois bounced back fast with a 77-yard TD pass off blown coverage and a fumble returned 66 yards for a touchdown. That made it 14-10 late in the first quarter.

The Illini added a pair of second-quarter touchdown passes (3 yards to Jon Davis, 67-yards to A.J. Jenkins, the Big Ten's leading receiver) to make it 27-13 at halftime. Scheelhaase's 9-yard touchdown run made it 34-13 late in the third quarter.

The Hoosiers, who have played 16 true freshmen this season, were finished.

“When you're playing young guys who are not as good as you want, you're going to struggle more,” Wilson said.