Nine former Illini were on active rosters for the Divisional Round and four will be playing in this weekend's Conference Finals. Four former Illini, TE Michael Hoomanawanui, FS Tavon Wilson, DE Michael Buchanan and CB Justin Green, all New England Patriots, will be playing for a trip to the Super Bowl in Denver this Sunday (2 pm CT on CBS). See how all nine Illini fared during the Divisional Weekend.
Michael Hoomanawanui, TE, New England Patriots - Started and had one catch for six yards in the Patriots' 43-22 victory. His biggest impact was as a blocker for the Patriots' rushing attack, which churned out 234 yards on the ground against the Colts. Watch Hoomanawanui pave the way for LaGarrette Blounts' big day (166 yards and 4 TDs), including his second 2-yard TD run in the first quarter, his 73-yard TD run in the fourth quarter and his 30-yard run in the fourth quarter.
A total of 12 former Illini are on active rosters of NFL playoff teams. During the Wildcard weekend, eight of those 12 players were in action, while nine will take part in next week's Divisional round. Here are the highlights from Wildcard weekend.
Hugh Thornton, OL, Indianapolis Colts - Started and helped the Colts pile-up 536 total yards to overcome a 28-point second-half deficit in a 45-44 win over the Chiefs. Watch Thornton (#69) pull and help pave the way for a 10-yard Donald Brown TD run. Thornton also was involved in Andrew Luck's can't-miss improv TD. Thornton and the Colts will travel to New England to face the No. 2 seed Patriots in the Divisional round (Saturday, 7:15 pm CT on CBS).
Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous week. Chargers DE Corey Liuget and Chiefs WR A.J. Jenkins both had big games in Week 17, while 12 former Illini punched their tickets for the playoffs, which start next week.
Headed to the playoffs are four Patriots (DE Michael Buchanan, CB Justin Green, TE Michael Hoomanawanui, CB Tavon Wilson), three Chiefs (OL Jeff Allen, OL Jon Asamoah, WR A.J. Jenkins), two Saints (DE Glenn Foster, RB Pierre Thomas), two Colts (CB Vontae Davis, OL Hugh Thornton) and one Charger (DE Corey Liuget).
Corey Liuget, DE, San Diego Chargers - Liuget produced a big game for the playoff-bound Chargers, recording four tackles and this sack on Chase Daniel for a six-yard loss. Liuget finished the regular season with 42 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and one forced fumble.
Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous week. In week 16, Tavon Wilson returned his first pick-six of his career, Whitney Mercilus tallied his seventh sack of the season, and Alan Ball reeled in his fifth career interception.
Tavon Wilson, FS, New England Patriots - In his 12th game of the season, Wilson recorded his first career pick-six, returning the interception for 76 yards. It was his fifth career interception. Wilson also had one tackle in the Patriots 41-7 win over the Ravens.
Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous week. In week 15, Michael Hoomanawanui made the highlight reel with a one-handed touchdown grab and Rashard Mendenhall found the end-zone twice.
Michael Hoomanawanui, TE, New England Patriots - Hoomanawanui grabbed some media attention this past weekend when he reeled in a nifty one-handed grab in the endzone for a 13-yard touchdown. Hoomanawanui will continue to see added snaps down the stretch with Rob Gronkowski out for the season.
Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous week. In week 14, Corey Liuget recorded another sack and Alan Ball tallied his fourth career interception.
Corey Liuget, DE, San Diego Chargers - Started in the Chargers 37-14 win over the Giants, while tallying three total tackles. Liuget also had half of a sack, as Eli went down for -11 yards. The sack pushes his 2013 total to 4.5 and career total to 12.5 just three seasons into his professional career.
Alan Ball, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars - Ball started and had four tackles and an interception in the Jaguars' 27-20 win over the Houston Texans this past Thursday night. It was his first interception of the season, the fourth of his career, pushing the Jaguars to their fourth victory in the last five games after starting 0-8.