Illinois rides defense to fast start

It has been an interesting first half in St. Louis, and a very good one for a new-look Illinois team, which leads Missouri 13-3.

I'm pretty stunned that only 16 points have been scored, and only three by Missouri. New Illinois defensive coordinator Vic Koenning has to be pleased with the way his group has looked, especially without two projected starters in the secondary (cornerback Terry Hawthorne and safety Supo Sanni). Missouri's Blaine Gabbert has a nice stat line (14-for-20 passing, 114 yards) but little to show for it on the scoreboard. Defenders Ian Thomas and Corey Liuget are stepping up nicely for the Illini.

Illinois redshirt freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase needs to take a bit better care of the football following two first-half turnovers, but he certainly has the ability to lead the offense. Scheelhaase is running the ball effectively, scampering 20 yards to set up a 52-yard Derek Dimke field goal at the end of the half.

One half to go, but so far, so good for Illinois.