- Adam Rittenberg, College Football
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We're recapping all of the Big Ten spring games that took place Saturday. Let's check out how the Orange and Blue Game went down in Champaign.
Star of the game: Redshirt freshman running back Josh Ferguson rushed for 130 yards -- including scampers of 20, 18 and 68 yards -- on 20 carries, and added a game-high six receptions for the victorious Blue squad. Defensive end Michael Buchanan earns a mention after racking up 12 tackles, including 4.5 "sacks."
How it went down: The run game and defense lifted the Blue squad to a 13-12 victory against the Orange team. Nick Immekus kicked a 47-yard field goal with 1:22 left in the game, and Justin Staples sealed the win with a sack of Nathan Scheelhaase.
"Come Monday, they'll be having steaks and we'll be having beans and weenies," Scheelhaase, who suffered his first spring game loss, told reporters. "Which means Chipotle can probably expect a lot of business from the Orange squad."
Not surprisingly, there was a mix of good and bad as the Illini wrapped up their first spring session under new head coach Tim Beckman. Buchanan had a huge day and looks like the clear successor to All-America defensive end Whitney Mercilus, who led the nation in sacks in 2011 (16). Staples also had a nice performance, and the defense made plenty of big plays. Ferguson's performance also bodes well as Illinois lacks depth at running back and wants multiple options.
On the flip side, the offensive line struggled to keep pass-rushers out of the backfield. Quarterback play also was spotty -- Scheelhaase completed just 11 of 26 passes; Reilly O'Toole completed 19 of 31 attempts, but took four sacks -- although lousy weather made it a tough day to throw.
The Illini could get some contributions from players they're auditioning in multiple roles. Starting cornerback Terry Hawthorne caught a 29-yard touchdown pass from O'Toole, and cornerback Justin Green had a 15-yard run. Reserve quarterback Miles Osei caught four passes, although he fared well as a signal caller, completing 8 of 12 pass attempts.
Illinois' defense looks strong coming out of the spring, and its front seven should be one of the Big Ten's best. Offense clearly is the priority entering the summer months as players continue to learn a new system.
"We got to get better, but not just at quarterback," Beckman said. "That's the one that's always looked at. That's the one that’s always critiqued. [But it's] every position. If we want to be a champion, and we have the capabilities of doing that, we need to step our game up this summer and in two-a-days."
We're recapping all of the Big Ten spring games that took place Saturday. Let's check out how the Orange and Blue Game went down in Champaign.You can read coverage of Illinois' spring game here and here and here.