- Scott Powers, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
ST. LOUIS -- Illinois redshirt freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase wished his first college game would be perfect.
He dreamed of throwing for hundreds of yards, running for a bunch more and scoring touchdown after touchdown before the dozens of family members and friends who traveled from his hometown of Kansas City to see him.
Scheelhaase understood, though, his debut wouldn’t be a fairytale.
"There’s going to be ups and downs," he said earlier in the week. "I got to keep a level head. I got to stay relaxed, stay calm and just stay focused."
His prediction was precise.
Through one half against Missouri, he had his share of downs -- he fumbled and threw an interception -- but he also bounced back and had those ups. He delivered a 13-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Jenkins and set up two field goals to give Illinois a surprising 13-3 halftime lead.
Scheelhaase was especially impressive in putting Illinois in position for Derek Dimke’s 52-yard field goal to end the first half. Starting at the Illini’s 31 with 45 seconds remaining, he opened the drive with a 5-yard run and had the presence of mind to get of bounds to stop the clock at 0:38. He followed that with a 13-yard run and then a 1-yard pass to get to the 50-yard line. After a delay of game, he again called his own number, took off from the pocket, found open room midfield, broke to his left and ran out of bounds for a 20-yard gain with four seconds left. Dimke delivered from there.
Scheelhaase finished his first half of college football throwing 5-of-8 passes for 39 yards, one touchdown and one interceptions and running for a team-high 85 yards on 13 carries.