Martez Wilson has racked up 20 tackles, 2.5 TFL and 1 sack in the last two meetings against Missouri.
Aug. 31, 2010
Sept. 4, 2010 // Edward Jones Dome (66,965)
11:40 CT kickoff // St. Louis, Mo. // Fox Sports Net
The Illinois/Missouri game will be nationally televised on Fox Sports Net with an air time of 11:30 a.m. CT. Joel Meyers (play-by-play), Dave Lapham (color) and Jim Knox (sideline) will be calling the action.
The game will be televised by the following affiliates:
FSN (Arizona, Detroit, Florida, Houston, Midwest, North, Northwest, Ohio, Pittsburgh, Rocky Mountain, South, Southwest, West)
CSN (Bay Area, Chicago, Washington)
The Illini Sports Network will carry the radio broadcast with its pregame show beginning at 11 a.m. CT. Calling the action will be Brian Barnhart (play-by-play), Kurt Kittner (color analyst) and Steve Kelly (pregame, halftime and postgame). The broadcast can be heard on the 41 stations of the Illini Sports Network as well as on SIRIUS (91) XM (198) Radio satellite radio.
The Illinois football team will depart for St. Louis on Friday afternoon via charter bus. The team will conduct a walk-through at Edward Jones Dome at 5 pm. Zook will meet with members of the media immediately upon arrival.
Illinois opens its 121st season of varsity football Saturday against Missouri.
The Illini have compiled an all-time record of 74-41-5 in season openers and are 23-8-1 when opening the season on the road and 0-6 in neutral-site season openers.
Illini coach Ron Zook begins his sixth season as the Illinois head coach this weekend. Zook was the 2007 Liberty Mutual National Coach of the Year after taking the Illini to the Rose Bowl. He has an overall record of 21-39 at Illinois and is 2-3 in season openers.
The Illini return to St. Louis, bringing with them three natives of the area in RB Jason Ford (Belleville Althoff), CB Antonio Gully (Cardinal Ritter) and CB Terry Hawthorne (East St. Louis). Illinois also has two other players that hail from the state of Missouri in QB Nathan Scheelhaase (Kansas City, Mo./Rockhurst HS) and Chris Willett (Liberty, Mo./Liberty HS). Willett is a transfer from Missouri, seeing special teams action in 11 games last year as a walk-on. He did not play in last year's game against the Illini.
Illinois returns five starters on the offensive side of the ball -- OL Jeff Allen, OL Hugh Thornton, OL Randall Hunt, WR Jarred Fayson and RB Mikel Leshoure.
The defense returns seven starters -- DL Clay Nurse, DL Corey Liuget, LB Martez Wilson, LB Ian Thomas, LB Nate Bussey, CB Terry Hawthorne, CB Tavon Wilson.
The Illini return two kickers, Derek Dimke and Matt Eller, and three-year starting punter, Anthony Santella.
ARCH RIVALRY SERIES NOTES
Illinois and Missouri will faceoff for the 24th time on Saturday, making the Tigers Illinois' most commonly played non-conference opponent by a wide margin. The second-highest total is 13 games against the University of Southern California.
Mizzou leads the all-time series 16-7 and has won all five games in the State Farm Arch Rivalry series played in St. Louis. This year marks the final game of the six-year Arch Rivalry series.
Missouri has won seven of the last nine games in the series, dating back to the 1991 season.
Mizzou leads the series 6-1 in neutral-site games, all seven being played in St. Louis. The Illini won the first game of the series, which was played in St. Louis, in 1896, but the Tigers took victories in 1969, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2008 and 2009.
ILLINI HIGHLIGHTS VS. MIZZOU
Linebacker Martez Wilson has combined for 20 tackles, 2.5 TFL and one sack in the last two games against the Tigers. Wilson posted nine tickles in last year's opener before missing the rest of the season with a neck injury and taking a medical redshirt.
Linebacker Ian Thomas posted a career-high 13 tackles in the 2009 game against Missouri. The 13 total tackles and seven solo tackles were both game highs.
Running back Mikel Leshoure had a career-high 41 receiving yards and tied his career high with three receptions in last year's Arch Rivalry game. He also scored the second rushing touchdown of his career and totaled 38 yards on the ground.
Wide receiver Jarred Fayson made his Illinois debut in last year's opener, leading the team with four catches for 50 yards.
Running back Troy Pollard had a game-high and career-high 162 all-purpose yards last season, 120 of which came on his five kick returns. He also recorded the longest return of his career (32 yards).
ILLINI RECORDS IN SEASON OPENERS
Rushing Yards: 143 by Pierre Thomas vs. Florida A&M, 9/4/2004
Passing Yards: 451 by Juice Williams vs. Missouri, 8/31/2008
Completions: 31 by Jon Beutjer vs. Missouri, 8/30/2003
Touchdowns Rushing: 3 by Antoineo Harris vs. California, 9/1/2001
Touchdowns Passing: 5 by Juice Williams vs. Missouri, 8/31/2008
Receptions: 11 by David Williams vs. Northwestern, 9/1/1984
Touchdown Receptions: 3 by Greg Lewis vs. Middle Tennessee, 9/2/2000
Receiving Yards: 208 by David Williams vs. Northwestern, 9/1/1984
Sacks: 4 by Mike Poloskey vs. East Carolina, 8/31/1991
Points Scored: 79 vs. Illinois State, 9/16/1944
Margin of Victory: 73 (79-6) vs. Illinois State, 9/16/1944
WATCH OUT FOR THESE ILLINI
Two Illini players have been named to preseason watch lists for national awards:
Mikel Leshoure, running back - Doak Walker Award (RB)
Martez Wilson, linebacker - Butkus Award (LB)
ILLINI BOAST ONE OF THE NATION'S TOP RUSHING ATTACKS
Illinois has averaged 205.0 rushing ypg since 2006, leading the Big Ten during that span. The Illini led the conference in rushing yards per game in 2006 and 2007 and were second in 2009, just 3.4 ypg behind leader Wisconsin.
The Fighting Illini averaged 200.4 yards per game on the ground last season, ranking 17th in the nation and marking the third time under head coach Ron Zook that the Illini averaged over 200 yards rushing as a team. It marked the third time in the last five years that Illinois finished the season ranked among the NCAA Top 20.
Illinois returns four of its five running backs from the 2009 season in Mikel Leshoure, Jason Ford, Troy Pollard and Justin Green, though Green was recently moved to cornerback. The quartet combined for 1,477 yards and an average of 6.3 yards per carry last season. Leshoure led the way with 734 yards and 6.8 yards per attempt on 108 carries, while Ford's contribution of 588 yards on 97 carries for a 6.1 per attempt average helped make the pair a double threat in the running game.
Leshoure's 6.8 yards per carry in 2009 led all BCS conference players with at least 100 attempts, and he and teammate Jason Ford (6.1 ypc) ranked 1-2 in the Big Ten in that category last season.
Leshoure had 571 rushing yards after Oct. 23 of last season. The only Big Ten player with more rushing yards during that span was Wisconsin's John Clay (801).
As a team, Illinois averaged 4.8 yards per carry last season to lead the Big Ten.
Leshoure and Ford both are approaching the 1,000-yard career rushing mark, which would make them the 36th and 37th in school history to accomplish the feat. Both juniors, the duo is looking to join the 14 Illini with more than 2,000 career rushing yards. Ford had 882 yards and Leshoure is on his tail with 860 entering the 2010 season.
The Illini had two of the NCAA's top-30 rushing games in 2009. The 384 yards against Illinois State on Sept. 12 was the 22nd-best total, while the 377 yards against Michigan ranked as the 26th-highest in the country and was the highest total of any team in the Big Ten during conference play.
SCHEELHAASE RETURNS TO EDWARD JONES DOME
Redshirt freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase will make his first career start this Saturday at a familiar venue. The Kansas City, Mo., native led Rockhurst HS to a 28-9 victory in the 2007 Missouri Class 6 state title game in the Edward Jones Dome as a junior. Scheelhaase redshirted the 2009 season and was named the Illini starter following 2010 spring drills.
The injury bug has hit the Illini hard heading into the 2010 season. Two probable starters are out for the season in OL Corey Lewis, who tore his left ACL during spring ball, and safety Supo Sanni, who ruptured his right Achilles in practice on Aug. 25. Also out for this weekend's opener are starting CB Terry Hawthorne (foot), starting fullback/tight end Zach Becker (feet), tight end Russell Ellington (shoulder) and bandit Nate Palmer (toe).
In addition to the current list of injured players, a pair of Illini defenders are returning from season-ending injuries last season. Linebacker Martez Wilson missed 11 games with a neck injury last season and received a medical redshirt, while cornerback Miami Thomas suffered a knee injury in training camp last year, missing the entire season. Both players have been at full strength during preseason training camp.
CHANGING THINGS UP
With the rash of injuries during training camp, the Illini have made several position changes heading into this week's season opener. Sophomore Justin Green has been moved from running back to cornerback, sophomore Jack Ramsey has gone from wide receiver to cornerback and redshirt-freshman Steve Hull has switched from wide receiver to safety. All three are expected to contribute at their new positions.
In addition, a few other position changes took place during spring ball. Junior Russell Ellington, who ranked fifth on the team last year with 42 tackles at linebacker, was converted to a tight end and sophomore Eddie Viliunas, a former walk-on quarterback, is now getting reps at tight end as well.
Twice under Zook, Illinois teams have finished the season averaging over 425 yards of total offense per game. In 2008, the Illini were putting up 439.4 yards a game and the number was 425.0 in 2007. Both of those seasons rank among the top four in school history. Last season, the Illini averaged 393.5 ypg.
In five seasons, Zook-coached teams have defeated nine of the 10 teams in the Big Ten at least once, including wins over No. 1 Ohio State, No. 5 Wisconsin and No. 19 Penn State in 2007. The only opponent that has eluded the Illini in the past five years is Purdue, who was off the schedule in 2007 and 2008.
The Illini defeated Michigan for the second straight year in 2009, marking the first time Illinois has beaten Michigan in back-to-back seasons since 1957 and 1958. It also marked the first time Illinois defeated the Wolverines at Memorial Stadium since 1983.
Ron Zook is only the third coach in school history to beat Michigan two or more times in their career. Robert Zuppke (29 years, 1913-41) defeated the Wolverines nine times and Ray Eliot (18 years, 1942-59) had eight victories over UM. Illini quarterback Juice Williams was only the second quarterback in modern history (since 1946 when starters were recorded in Illinois archives) to beat Michigan twice. In 1951 and '52, Tom O'Connell engineered wins over the Wolverines.
The Illini defense returns three of its top four tacklers from 2009. Ian Thomas led the squad with 95, followed by Tavon Wilson (79) and Nate Bussey (43) at third and fourth in the statistics.
The Illini defense held their opponent to 50 rushing yards or fewer on three separate occasions last year. Illinois State rushed for 44 yards, Minnesota was held to 50 yards and Cincinnati had only 21 on the ground against the Orange and Blue defense.
Defensive end Clay Nurse had a breakout game against Minnesota last year when he totaled four sacks in the Illini win. For the season, he led the squad with 10.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 quarterback sacks.
Defensive tackle Corey Liuget returns in 2010 after ranking second on the team in TFL with 8.0 a year ago. Liuget also dropped 30 pounds in the offseason to get down to 285 in hopes of being more mobile and harder to block.
Linebacker Ian Thomas led the team and ranked 10th in the Big Ten with 7.7 tackles per game.
While the defense hauled in only five interceptions in 2009, the defenders made the most of the aerial takeaways with an average of 35.0 yards per return. Linebacker Russell Ellington had the longest return of the year with a 78-yarder, but corner Terry Hawthorne's 44-yard interception return vs. Minnesota was the only touchdown for the Illini.
The Illini offense finished last season with a flurry, averaging 35.4 points and 449.8 yards per game over the final five game of 2009.
Current senior Eddie McGee, who saw action at both QB and WR last season, was the only FBS player with 300+ pass yards, 100+rush yards and 100+ receiving yards last season.
Illinois totaled 105 fourth-quarter points last season. The only Big Ten team with more was Iowa with 121.
THE SPECIAL TEAMS
The Illini special teams return a fairly intact group from a year ago. Back this season are three-year starting punter Anthony Santella and a pair of junior kickers in Matt Eller and Derek Dimke, who have combined for all the kickoff, field goal and extra point duties during the past two seasons. Lost only to this clan is the stability at long snapper with the graduation of Tad Keely. Replacing him is sophomore Zak Pedersen.
Santella vastly improved in his third year in 2009, putting together a career-best 41.3 average on 63 punts. It was an increase of 1.6 yards over 2008 and 4.6 over his 2007 per punt average. He also doubled his punts over 50 yards and fair catches, assisting greatly in Illinois' battle of field position. He currently ranks sixth in the Illinois record books in career punting average, and eighth in both career punts and yardage.
Dimke began his sophomore season with full-time kickoff duties and averaged 63.3 yards on his 53 kickoffs, including 12 touchbacks. On six occasions, he averaged better than 65 yards. In the final three games of the season, Dimke was called on to assume field goal and extra point responsibilities as well and finished the season a perfect 5-of-5 on field goals and 12-of-12 in PATs.
In two seasons, Eller has scored 118 points on 19-of-31 field goal kicking and 62-of-65 in extra point attempts. He currently ranks sixth in career PAT accuracy, eighth in career FG accuracy and 10th in career field goals in Illinois history.
RETURNING ALL-BIG TEN SELECTIONS
Illinois junior running back Mikel Leshoure and senior defensive end Clay Nurse earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors in 2009 and look to build on their successful seasons in 2010. Leshoure finished the season as the team's leading rusher with 734 yards, averaging 6.8 yards a carry on his 108 attempts. He ranked sixth in the Big Ten with 66.7 yards per game and came on strong late in the season, totaling 571 rushing yards and averaging 7.2 yards per attempt over his final six games last season. Nurse led the team in tackles for loss and quarterback sacks, and had his breakout game vs. Minnesota when he racked up four sacks to lead an Illini defense that allowed only 50 yards rushing that game.
COACHING STAFF SEES CHANGES MADE FOR 2010
During the offseason, head coach Ron Zook made changes to his coaching staff that saw the introduction of two new coordinators and four new position coaches. Each coach brings a long resume of experience, production and success:
Vic Koenning // Defensive Coordinator and Secondary -- In four at years Clemson, the defense finished in the NCAA Top 25 in scoring, total and pass efficiency defense each season ... Helped lead Troy's defense to a No. 1 national ranking in interceptions (25), tied for second in turnovers forced (32), was ninth in fewest yards allowed per play, and finished 16th in total defense (311.0) in 2003. Only USC had more takeaways than Troy ...Produced three NFL first-round draft picks at Clemson -- Tye Hill (No. 15), the late Gaines Adams (No. 4) and Phillip Merling (No. 32).
Paul Petrino // Offensive Coordinator and Receivers -- Led Arkansas to 37 points per game in 2009, ranking eighth in the NCAA, with top-15 rankings in passing offense (No. 10 / 303.3 ypg) and total offense (No. 14 / 439.3 ypg). QB Ryan Mallet was the nation's sixth-rated passer ... His Louisville teams averaged 41.1 points per game over four seasons. Only UL and Texas Tech ranked in the top 10 in total offense from 2003-06 ... Coached three wide receivers who set single-season yardage records at Louisville.
Jeff Brohm // Quarterbacks -- Coached his brother, Brian, to a record-setting season at Louisville in 2007 with 4,024 yards and 30 touchdowns, while also ranking second in the NCAA in passing efficiency ... Developed Louisville quarterback Stefan Lefors to a No. 1 national ranking in passing efficiency and completion percentage in 2009 ... Went to Super Bowl XXIX with the San Diego Chargers during his seven-year NFL career.
Chip Long // Tight Ends -- Helped Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams become a Mackey Award semifinalist in 2008 ... Coached with Petrino at both Louisville and Arkansas, and with Brohm at Louisville.
DeAndre Smith // Running Backs -- Has produced seven 1,000-yard rushers in 11 years of collegiate coaching ... Coached current NFL running backs Michael "The Burner" Turner and Garrett Wolfe while at Northern Illinois ... Guided Indiana State quarterback Sheraton Fox to 1,034 yards rushing, the first signal-caller to rush and pass for over 1,000 yards in a season in Gateway Conference history.
Ron West // Outside Linebackers -- Coached in nine bowl games in 10 years at Clemson ... Helped lead the Clemson defense to a top-25 national ranking in all four major categories in 2006, including a top-10 finish in scoring and total defense ... Averaged over 300 yards passing and 200 rushing as the offensive line coach at Tulane in 1998.
ILLINI IN DOMES
Illinois has compiled a 7-13-1 all-time record in domes.
Sept. 18, 1982 Illinois 47, Syracuse 10 // Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.
Oct. 2, 1982 Illinois 42, Minnesota 24 // Metrodome, Minneapolis
Nov. 5, 1983 Illinois 50, Minnesota 23 // Metrodome, Minneapolis
Nov. 10, 1984 Illinois 34, Indiana 7 // Hoosier Dome, Indianapolis
Oct. 29, 1988 Illinois 27, Minnesota 27 // Metrodome, Minneapolis
Sept. 19, 1992 Houston 31, Illinois 13 // Astrodome, Houston
Oct. 3, 1992 Minnesota 18, Illinois 17 // Metrodome, Minneapolis
Nov. 5, 1994 Illinois 21, Minnesota 17 // Metrodome, Minneapolis
Nov. 16, 1996 Minnesota 23, Illinois 21 // Metrodome, Minneapolis
Sept. 30, 2000 Minnesota 44, Illinois 10 // Metrodome, Minneapolis
Jan. 1, 2002 LSU 47, Illinois 34 // Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans
Aug. 31, 2002 Missouri 33, Illinois 20 // TWA Dome, St. Louis, Mo.
Oct. 3, 2002 Minnesota 31, Illinois 10 // Metrodome, Minneapolis
Aug. 30, 2003 Missouri 22, Illinois 15 // Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis, Mo.
Oct. 23, 2004 Minnesota 45, Illinois 0 // Metrodome, Minneapolis
Sept. 1, 2007 Missouri 40, Illinois 34 // Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis
Sept. 15, 2007 Illinois 41, Syracuse 20 // Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.
Nov. 3, 2007 Illinois 44, Minnesota 17 // Metrodome, Minneapolis
Aug. 31, 2008 Missouri 52, Illinois 42 // Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis
Nov. 8, 2008 Western Michigan 23, Illinois 17 // Ford Field, Detroit, Mich.
Sept. 5, 2009 Missouri 37, Illinois 9 // Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis
ZOOK VISITS TROOPS ON USO TOUR
Illinois coach Ron Zook was among four college football coaches that visited U.S. troops in Europe and Southwest Asia as part of the 2010 USO Coaches Tour, May 22-31. Zook and Army's Rich Ellerson, Oregon's Chip Kelly and Harvard's Tim Murphy made eight stops in nine days on the tour. The coaches conducted autograph and photo sessions, and participated in panel discussions to help boost troop morale. They also oversaw athletic competitions with the troops. The tour was presented by the USO and Morale Entertainment. Video and photos from Zook's trip can be found at http://www.fightingillini.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/052510aaa.html
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