Bucs Set for Showdown Against IllinoisSeptember 14, 2012
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – The Charleston Buccaneers travel to Big Ten Country on Saturday for the first time in school history, and add a showdown against Illinois to the growing list of marquee Football Bowl Subdivision opponents the Bucs have faced.
Kickoff is at 11:01 CT at Memorial Stadium.
Game Notes l Live Stats l Live Audio
The Illini join a list which includes Tim Tebow’s Florida Gators in 2009, Florida State a season ago, both Miami (Fla.) and Miami of Ohio, and a pair of short trips west to face Hawaii, in 2007 and 2009.
"The next best thing to playing at the highest level is to play against the teams at the highest level," CSU head coach Jay Mills said Thursday. "These young men get a lifetime memory and experience by doing this, and they get a chance to measure themselves against the highest level of college athletes."
Both teams enter Saturday’s game with a number of unanswered questions.
The Bucs will need to quickly improve their quarterback play if they are to hang in for 60 minutes against their Big Ten foe.
CSU has seen two solid stretches of play in each of its first two games, but from two different quarterbacks. Junior Malcolm Dixon but together a 10-play, 98-yard drive in the opener against The Citadel and followed on the ensuing possession with a 9-yard touchdown run against the now-ranked Bulldogs. The run gave CSU a brief 14-7 lead.
After an early run to set up a first-and-goal in the opening quarter in the Jacksonville loss, Dixon struggled to find a rhythm in the passing game. Junior Derek Hatcher would come on to spark the offense in the fourth quarter, going 12-for-17 for 138 yards and a touchdown. Freshman Briar Van Brunt also played a few snaps against the Dolphins.
Mills is still waiting for one of his quarterbacks takes the reins of his offense.
"We’re going to find out about a few people," Mills said. "This is an opportunity to continue to evaluate some personnel and put them under a test. We have not executed well, but we have opportunities there. The good news is we have a few weeks to continue to hone things in before conference play begins."
The Illini are dealing with quarterback issues as well. Starter Nathan Scheelhaase missed last week’s 45-14 loss at Arizona State with an injury, and the passing game struggled without him, throwing three interceptions.
If Scheelhaase can’t go, backup Reilly O’Toole will likely make his second start in as many weeks, and the second of his career.
The Bucs will need their run defense from the Jacksonville game to return in the same bad humor or Saturday. CSU allowed just 93 yards rushing to JU and face an Illini attack that picked up 231 yards on the ground against the Sun Devils, despite the lack of a passing attack.
Defensively, the Illini will try to rebound after allowing 510 total yards last week to Arizona State. Linebacker Jonathan Brown led IU with nine tackles, including two for loss.
Radio/TV: The game will be telecast on the Big Ten Network beginning at 11 a.m. CT. The game will be broadcast in the Charleston area on Sports Radio WQNT-1450 AM. Zeke Beam (play-by-play) will have the call.
Illinois Connections: CSU special teams coach Matthew Smiley is a 2001 Illinois grad and was a member of the Illini football team. Smiley is in his first year at CSU after three seasons at Eastern Illinois. He will have almost 40 friends and family in attendance at the game. He played with for NFL quarterback and now broadcaster for the Illini, Kurt Kittner. CSU defensive line coach Bam Hardmon spent the last three seasons on Ron Zook’s staff at Illinois. He played for Zook at Florida.
Up Next: It will be a wild swing for the Bucs, going from facing the Illini to traveling to Rome, Ga. next Saturday to face D-II Shorter. CSU in a 35-day span between home games, beginning with Illinois, then Shorter, followed by a BYE week and a trip to Manhattan and Long Island to face defending Big South Champion Stony Brook.