Mikel Leshoure to Rashard Mendenhall Comparisons Running Wild Now

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Given that they are/were both Illinois Fighting Illini, wore the same jersey number, played the same position, and didn’t break out until their junior year (and when they broke out, they really did it in style) it’s inevitable to compare current Illini tailback Mikel Leshoure to current Pittsbrugh Steelers star running back Rashard Mendenhall.

Heck, I wrote a column about it in October.

And after Leshoure’s huge, record-setting game in the Texas Bowl, more people are making the analogy. Leshoure was even asked the question Wednesday night, in the post-game press conference. Both are local products. Leshoure is from Champaign (Centenniel h.s.) and Mendenhall is from suburban Skokie (Niles West h.s.).

By Paul M. Banks

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Texas Bowl Sees Illinois and Baylor Break Numerous Records

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Last night’s college football match-up won38-14 by the Illinois Fighting Illini over Baylor broke a bunch of Texas Bowl, bowl history in the city of Houston, as well as Illinois and Baylor records. Seriously, there were a ton, but here are some of the most notable.

-The Illini tied the Texas Bowl record for most points scored 38 and most net yards gained at 533.

-Leshoure tied a Texas Bowl (and Houston Bowl game) record for most touchdowns with 3, rushed for a Texas Bowl record 187 yards.

-Scheelhaase set a Texas Bowl record for most consecutive passes completed at 13, completion percentage of 78.0. highest average gain per pass attempt (min. 20 attempts) at 13.4 yards. Both also highest in Houston bowl game history.

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Scheelhaase, Illini Put Texas (Bowl) Sized Whooping on Baylor

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It was exactly like the first (and only) time Chicago and Houston met in a major postseason sporting event. Granted the stakes in the college football Texas Bowl were much lower than that of the 2005 MLB World Series between the Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros; and Baylor University is about as geographically far from Houston as the University of Illinois is from Chicago.

But the results were as similarly lopsided as when the Sox swept the ‘Stros in the ’05 Fall Classic. Both times the stars at night, were big and bright, for the team opposing the heart of Texas.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, and his Illinois Fighting Illini teammates certainly looked like they benefited from the 15 extra practices that come from obtaining a bowl berth, as the Illini put up 533 yards of total offense and 38 points; breaking the school record set during the Champaign campaign of 2001.

By Paul M. Banks

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Illini QB Nathan Scheelhaase needs to start making Plays with his Arm

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Entering last Saturday, one of the keys to an Illinois upset over #2 Ohio State was for the Illini to attack the Buckeyes defense through the air. Sure, it’s the weakest part of this Illini team, but the Buckeyes are so stout against the run that making plays in the passing game was critical.

The Illini hung with ’em for all but the last couple minutes, but ultimately failed in their upset bid. They made some plays in the vertical passing game during the first quarter, but their final box score showed less than 140 yards passing for the game. And they enter this Saturday’s matchup with Penn State just 113/120 teams in all of FBS in passing offense.

We know that redshirt freshman QB Nathan Scheelhaase has a great arm. We now need to see him use it. We’ve seen him beat people on the ground, now we need to see Scheelhaase do it through the air.

By Paul M. Banks

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Illini QB Nathan Scheelhaase: Early Season Progress Report

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Illinois Fighting Illini starting QB Nathan Scheelhaase was asked all the typical scouting report questions at Illini Media Day; but only now, after seeing him in action for two games, do we have a better appreciation of his responses to those queries.

“Definitely have to say that speed is my strength, I’m not a slow guy. Coach (Paul) Petrino (Offensive Coordinator) and Coach (Jeff) Brohm (Illini quarterbacks coach) that’s the thing they love about me, but it’s also what they get on me most about- is when I don’t use my strength enough,” Scheelhaase said.

By Paul M. Banks

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