CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) -- Reilly O'Toole threw for 333 yards and five touchdowns and receiver Ryan Lankford had 97 yards and two scores to lead Illinois to a 44-0 win Saturday over Charleston Southern.
The Illini (2-1) were missing a handful of starters who were injured, including quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, who has missed two games with a sprained ankle. O'Toole got the start and connected with Lankford twice in the first quarter for short touchdowns that gave the Illini a 13-0 lead, all they would need.
Illinois held Charleston Southern (0-3) to 125 yards of offense. It was the first game against a Big Ten team for the FCS Buccaneers.
Even with O'Toole's big day, the most important play of the game for the Illini might have come from freshman running back Dami Ayoola.
Illinois jumped ahead early 13-0 on a pair of 4-yard first-quarter touchdown passes from O'Toole to Lankford, but stalled offensively as the second quarter dragged on.
Facing a fourth-and-1 at the Charleston Southern 28, the 5-10, 205-pound Ayoola got the ball and quickly pushed into the center of the Buccaneer line for the first down. But no one brought him down, and Ayoola popped out of the pile stumbling but still on his feet.
He straightened himself out and sprinted to the end zone for a touchdown.
With the extra point Illinois had a 20-0 lead that, even with 2:06 left to play in the first half, looked comfortable. The Buccaneers have yet to score more than 14 points in a game this season.
Ayoola finished with eight carries for a game-high 55 yards. He played in place of starting back Josh Ferguson, who missed the game with a concussion.
Even with Scheelhaase out, Illinois' defense came into Saturday's game knowing it was the primary problem in last week's loss at Arizona State. Players said they had trouble reading the play calls from the sideline, and the Sun Devils built a 28-0 halftime edge before going on to win 45-14.
But Charleston Southern's option offense seldom troubled the Illini defense Saturday.
The more limited Buccaneers managed just 125 yards of offense against the Illini. A rotating cast of quarterbacks were a combined 5 of 14 for 29 yards, including an early interception that set up Illinois' first touchdown.
Freshman linebacker Mason Monheim intercepted Derek Hatcher deep in Buccaneer territory and returned the pass to the 7-yard line. Three plays later O'Toole hit Lankford from 4 yards out.
Charleston Southern really threatened only once.
Illinois led 13-0 midway through the second quarter when Buccaneers backup quarterback Briar Van Brunt kept the ball on the option and broke away from the Illinois defense for a 54-yard gain. V'Angelo Bentley and Justin Green caught him from behind at the Illinois 38.
But the Buccaneers' first trip into Illini territory didn't last long. Two plays that went nowhere and a penalty for having 12 players on the field left Charleston Southern with a third-and-15 at the Illini 43. Quarterback Derek Hatcher's wobbly floater was too high for Corvaughn Archie to pull down, and the Buccaneers were forced to punt.
Illinois went into the game missing three starters on each side of the ball.
In addition to Scheelhaase and Ferguson, center Graham Pocic was held out with a leg injury. On defense, Illinois was missing safeties Steve Hull and Suppo Sanni and linebacker Houston Bates.
Post game quotes
Illinois coach Tim Beckman: I want to start by thanking my 19 seniors. There's no question about it that we didn't play very well down in Arizona. We challenged this team and those guys stepped forward. I couldn't be more proud of the way they took the team and said, "Hey, we're capable of doing big things." I'm just very proud.
I told the team this week that a big part of the game is won on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in practice. How you practice during the week will enable you to be successful on Saturdays. To the team's credit, they took last week's loss to heart and busted their butts .
The shutout was huge. Last week there was a lot of pride hurt, no question about it and that includes both players and coaches. We knew we were capable of playing better defensively and I thought we came out and did that. Again, credit goes to my seniors for keeping everyone focused on our next game and not on last week's loss.
This is a team game and it wasn't just Reilly out there making plays. Reilly had great protection and his receivers were getting themselves open; he'd be the first to tell you that. I think our offensive staff did a great job of enabling him to perform scheme-wise. Again, team effort but we are still very proud of Reilly.
This program is going to need young guys to step up. We do not have a bunch of depth. When you look at our two-deep, there are 23 freshman and sophomores on there. We really aren't a veteran laden team other than a few starters. Guys like Mason Monheim, Dami Ayoola, V'Angelo Bentley, and Justin Hardee stepped in and had solid performances.
Illinois quarterback Reilly O'Toole: It was fun. When you have guys running great routes and they're open it makes the game a lot more fun because you're just pitching and catching.
-Obviously we didn't perform like we wanted to last week. But at the same time getting confidence, playing at Arizona State that's a tough place to play at, but Miles (Osei) and myself both gained a lot of confidence playing there.
Illinois WR Ryan Lankford: At practice, I just try to work hard every day and when your number is called try to make a play. This definitely gets the ball rolling. Coming off of a loss last week, that was really hard for us. We knew that we could come in and play well today and get right back on track.
Illinois DE Michael Buchanan: I think it gave us a great chance to get back to our base fundamentals. Playing sound defense with everyone doing their job, I think that this game will really help us get going into next week. It doesn't matter who you play, it's all about every man on defense doing their job, hustling, and being accountable.