White Sox

Turnovers, big plays costly for Illinois

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Turnovers, big plays costly for Illinois

CHAMPAIGN Louisiana Tech is not a household name for college football fans, but after the Bulldogs 52-24 blowout win at Illinois, name recognition might not be a problem.

You have to credit La. Tech, they have a good team, Illinois coach Tim Beckman said after the game. They just beat us.

Big plays and turnovers were the biggest problems for Illinois on Saturday. The Illini turned the ball over a total of six times against La. Tech (leading directly to five touchdowns) and allowed receiver Quinton Patton to rack up 164 yards and two touchdowns on just six catches.

Those lapses were about the only thing Beckman wanted to talk about after the game.

We did not do a good job with turning the ball over and giving up big strikes defensively. And that was the name of the game, he said. We have to play much better to compete in the Big Ten.

Early on, Illinois defense looked like it might be up to the task of facing the nations fifth ranked offense.

In their first two games the Bulldogs found the endzone on their first possession, in Champaign though, Illinois slowed down La. Techs high-flying offense. The Illini came up with a three-and-out and recovered a fumble in the Bulldogs first two possessions, giving the offense a chance to strike early.

Nathan Scheelhaase, starting his first game since September 1, completed six passes to start the game, culminating with an 18-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Lankford, who made an acrobatic catch to reel the ball in.

On their third possession, however, the Bulldogs started to move the ball as if they remembered they were the fifth-ranked offense in the nation. The La. Tech running backs started making defenders miss tackles and picking up the pace. Two-and-a-half minutes after their third drive began, quarterback Colby Cameron hit an outstretched D.J. Banks for a 27-yard touchdown reception, tying the game.

With that the momentum was with the visitors. On Illinois next drive, Scheelhaase sent a pass directly into the arms of linebacker Solomon Randle. La Tech ran a flea flicker on their first offensive play after the pick, Cameron to Quenton Patton for 40 yards, and then pounded the ball in on a nine-yard run by Tevin King.

The Illinois collapse continued, as Scheelhaase fumbled three plays into the next possession, setting La. Tech up at the Illinois 23. A minute later King was in the endzone again, this time from five yards out, giving the Bulldogs a 21-7 lead.

After the two disastrous possessions Scheelhaase was relegated to the sidelines, making way for sophomore Reilly OToole. Beckman said his starting quarterback was not all that he could be and said he and his coaches felt it was right to pull him out.

He looked rusty early with a couple of turnovers and we werent moving the ball. So we decided as a coaching staff that we would give Reilly an opportunity, he said.

OToole started slowly but came to life on his second possession. He hit five straight targets on his second drive, piling up 49 yards and running for a first down. His solid play helped Illinois crack the scoreboard again, this time on a 1-yard run by Young with four minutes left in the first half.

Thanks to a Taylor Zalewski field goal, the Illini outscored La. Tech 10-0 in the second quarter and dominated time of possession.

The Bulldogs did not have to rely on time of possession, however, and proved that two plays into the second half.

Cameron and Patton connected quickly after halftime for a 78-yard touchdown reception. The duo got together again just five minutes later, this time for a 21-yard touchdown reception.

From there things got ugly for the Illini. Turnovers mounted and big plays seemed to be second nature for La. Tech. The Bulldogs would score twice more in the third quarter and once early in the fourth to claim a commanding 52-17 lead.

OToole would pick up a one-yard touchdown run with five minutes to play in the game, but it was little consolation for the deflated Illini players and coaches.

Im pretty sure I can speak for the rest of my teammates: Were very embarrassed by this loss and we have to get things fixed, defensive end Michael Buchanan said.

With the Big 10 season starting next week, the Illini have little time left to find improvement. The players asserted their commitment to making those improvements and competing in the conference, however.

Tomorrow well come in, watch the film, and basically see what we need to better which is move the ball and put points on the board and well go from there, wide receiver Ryan Lankford said.

Reynaldo Lopez is changing his place in the White Sox rebuild: 'When I'm on the mound, I'm the best and I don't care about the rest'

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USA TODAY

Reynaldo Lopez is changing his place in the White Sox rebuild: 'When I'm on the mound, I'm the best and I don't care about the rest'

Rebuilds are full of surprises.

Fans can pencil in any names they want into their 2020 lineups, but there’s almost no one who’s going to have a 100-percent success rate when it comes to predicting exactly what the next contending White Sox team will look like.

Reynaldo Lopez carried plenty of hype when he was acquired from the Washington Nationals in the Adam Eaton deal prior following the 2016 season. He had a high prospect ranking before he was called up last summer. He hasn’t materialized out of nowhere.

But with names like Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen, Carlos Rodon and others to compete with for one of those coveted rotation spots of the future, was anyone going to use the term “ace” to describe Lopez?

Well, in this rebuilding season’s most pleasant surprise for the White Sox and their fans, that’s exactly what Lopez has been. He’s been hands down the team’s best starting pitcher, and he’s making the case that he shouldn’t be considered an ancillary piece in this rebuilding process but a featured one.

He might not be getting the attention that others are. But he’s doing the most with his opportunity of being at the big league level right now. In the end, as long as you’re getting batters out, who cares how much attention you get?

“It’s not about what people say or what they are talking about,” Lopez said through a translator. “It’s about the confidence I have in myself, and I have plenty of confidence in myself. For me, I’m the best. I’m not saying the other guys are not. I’m just saying that’s the confidence I have. When I’m on the mound, I’m the best and I don’t care about the rest.”

Sunday marked the best start of Lopez’s young career, so said the pitcher himself. He was terrific in shutting down the visiting Texas Rangers, holding them to just two hits over eight scoreless innings.

It was one heck of a bounce-back performance considering what happened last time out, when he was roughed up for six runs in just two innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The difference? His attitude, his focus, his intensity, his conviction.

“I just changed my attitude in the game,” Lopez said. “I was more positive today than I was in my last outing and that was one of my biggest differences.”

“I do think he came out a little bit more focused, to be honest,” manager Rick Renteria said. “The intensity level was a little higher today. I think he threw the first couple pitches 97, 98 miles an hour, where his last outing they were at 93, 94. There wasn’t a whole lot of commitment or conviction to his pitches (against the Pirates). I think, as we talked after the last outing, (pitching coach Don Cooper) spoke to him a little about making sure he brought that intensity that he has the ability to do, to bring it from Pitch 1 and he did today.”

Renteria liked it all, and he saw something different in his pitcher when he went out to talk to him with two outs in the eighth. Lopez issued a two-out walk, and Renteria considered lifting Lopez from the game.

Lopez made sure his manager wouldn’t pull the plug on this outing.

“I hid the baseball in my glove because I didn’t want to leave the game,” Lopez said. “I asked me, ‘How are you? Are you good?’ And I told him, ‘Yes, I’m good.’ Then he asked me again, ‘Do you think you are able to get him out?’ And I said yes, ‘This is my game, and I’m going to finish it.’”

What did Lopez do with his extra life? He finished it all right, blowing Shin-Soo Choo away with a 96-mile-an-hour fastball. Then he showed as much emotion as he’s ever shown on a major league field. He earned that celebration.

“When you see your manager come out and you’ve already gone through most of your game in terms of what you might think you have in number of pitches available to you, and you reiterate that you want to finish a particular batter because you want to get out of that inning, and you do it, it's an accomplishment,” Renteria said. “It's a big accomplishment. For him, pretty good hitter. He battled him and he was able to get out of that inning and complete a very, very strong eight-inning outing.”

It’s the kind of exclamation point on a dominant afternoon that could stir some big plans in White Sox fans always dreaming of the future. What Lopez has done this season has been a strong case for a spot in that future rotation and a spot at the front of it, at that. Following Sunday’s gem, Lopez owns a 2.98 ERA with at least six strikeouts in four of his nine starts.

There’s a lot of development and a lot of time left before the White Sox contention window opens. But Lopez pitching like this offers a glimpse into the crystal ball, a look at what could be for an organization that’s acquired so much talent over the last two years.

You might not have seen it coming like this, but the future arriving in the form of Lopez is a sign that brighter days are ahead on the South Side.

96 Days to Kickoff: Jacobs

96 Days to Kickoff: Jacobs

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O'Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we'll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Jacobs

Head coach: Bill Mitz

Assistant coaches: Bubba Smith, Mike Warren, Brian Zimmerman, JM Foote, Ryan Arndt and Bob Mackey

How they fared in 2017: 6-4 (5-3 Fox Valley Conference). Jacobs made the Class 7A playoff field. The Golden Eagles lost to Lincoln-Way West in opening round action. 

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 Hampshire 

Aug. 31 @ Huntley 

Sept. 7 Dundee-Crown 

Sept. 14 @ McHenry 

Sept. 21 Neuqua Valley 

Sept. 28 Prairie Ridge 

Oct. 5 @ Cary-Grove 

Oct. 12 Crystal Lake South 

Oct. 19 @ Crystal Lake Central

Biggest storyline: Can the Golden Eagles move up in the Fox Valley Conference pecking order in 2018?

Names to watch this season: OT Joacheim Price and OL Nick Zonta

Biggest holes to fill: The Golden Eagles will need to replace its entire starting linebacker group from a season ago.

EDGY's Early Take: Year in and year out, Jacobs is always a factor in the rugged Fox Valley Conference (seven playoff appearances in the last eight years). The Golden Eagles return some starters in several key spots. If the underclassmen group can step up this summer, look for Jacobs to challenge for the FVC conference title and a higher seed in 7A come IHSA playoff time.