Football
Game 1: Illinois (0-0) vs. Missouri (0-0) at St. Louis

 
Coach Ron Zook and the Fighting Illini open the season Saturday afternoon in St. Louis against Missouri.  This will be Zook's fifth season at the helm of the Fighting Illini program.
Coach Ron Zook and the Fighting Illini open the season Saturday afternoon in St. Louis against Missouri. This will be Zook's fifth season at the helm of the Fighting Illini program.
 

Sept. 1, 2009

Complete Release in PDF format




FOR OPENERS
  • Illinois opens its 120th season of varsity football Saturday against Missouri.
  • The Illini have compiled an all-time record of 74-40-5 in season openers, are 23-8-1 when opening the season on the road and 0-5 in neutral-site season openers.
  • Illini coach Ron Zook begins his fifth 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 19-30 at Illinois and is 2-2 in season openers.
  • Illinois returns 17 starters from a year ago, eight on offense, six on defense and three specialists.
  • The Illini return to St. Louis, bringing with them five natives of the area in London Davis (Cahokia), Jason Ford (Belleville Althoff), Antonio Gully (Cardinal Ritter), Terry Hawthorne (East St. Louis) and Tommie Hopkins (East St. Louis).
  • In the last two seasons, the Illinois offense has averaged over 425 yards of total offense.


HIGHLIGHTS VS. MISSOURI

  • Last season's game vs. Missouri produced a combined total of 94 points, 1,081 total yards and 14 touchdowns.
  • Quarterback Juice Williams had a career day, breaking the Edward Jones Dome stadium record for total offense by an individual. He passed for 451 yards, rushed for 10, threw five touchdowns and completed 62 percent of his passes.
  • Receiver Chris Duvalt played in his first game at position against the Tigers last year and caught two touchdown passes.
  • Linebacker Martez Wilson posted 11 tackles, including 2.5 for loss and one sack.


JUICE PUTS SQUEEZE ON ILLINI RECORD BOOK

Illinois senior quarterback Juice Williams has a chance to leave the Illini program as one of the most productive signal callers in school history.

  • Needs 426 yards of total offense to set the Illinois career mark (holds the season record)
  • Needs 2,321 passing yards to become the school's all-time passer
  • Needs six starts for the most career starts as a quarterback
  • Needs 662 rushing yards to break into the Illinois top-5 all-time rusher list
  • Needs 27 touchdown passes to set the record for career scoring strikes
  • Already holds the record for most rushing yards by an Illinois quarterback in a career, season and single game.


IT'S BENN DONE BEFORE

  • Junior receiver Arrelious Benn needs 1,956 all-purpose yards to break the school's all-time record and 1,662 receiving yards would make him Illinois' all-time leading receiver.
  • Benn has caught a pass in every game of his college career, 25 consecutive. That number is among the best in the nation, ranking tied for seventh-longest streak among active players.
    1. Bryan Anderson (Central Michigan) - 40
    2. Naaman Roosevelt (Buffalo) - 38
    3. Duke Calhoun (Memphis) - 37
    4. Brandon LaFell (LSU) - 28
    5. Antonio Brown (Central Michigan) - 27
    6. Toren Dixon (Rice) - 26
      Eric Decker (Minnesota) - 26
    7. Arrelious Benn (Illinois - 25
      Delashaun Dean (Arizona) - 25
      Scotty McKnight (Colorado) - 25
  • Last season, Benn broke the 1,000-yard mark receiving on 67 catches to lead the team. It was the first 1,000-yard season for an Illini receiver since 2002.
  • Benn earned first-team All-Big Ten honors in 2008 after recording five 100-yard receiving games and averaging 15.7 yards per catch.


    Juice Williams will start at quarterback for his fourth consecutive season.


    TOUGH SCHEDULE

  • Illinois' 2009 schedule has been rated as the toughest in the Big Ten and the 10th-toughest in the nation by The Sporting News. In the preseason rankings, eight Illinois opponents are either ranked or receiving votes.
  • The 2009 Illinois football schedule includes eight teams that played in bowl games a year ago -- Missouri, Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Fresno State and Cincinnati -- including three that played in BCS games.
  • Illinois' first four FBS opponents in 2009 were a combined 40-13 last season.
  • After opening against 2008 Big 12 North champion Missouri, the Illini face Illinois State on Sept. 12 before starting the Big Ten season at Ohio State and then hosting Penn State and Michigan State, the top three teams in the preseason Big Ten Coaches poll, in consecutive weeks. The Orange and Blue close the regular season with a pair of tough non-conference games at 2008 Big East champion Cincinnati on Nov. 27 and home against 2008 New Mexico Bowl participant Fresno State on Dec. 5.


    BIG TEN'S LEADING RETURNING RUSHERS

    Entering the 2009 season, the Big Ten's returning career rushing leader is not a running back. With 2,050 yards rushing in his three seasons as a quarterback, Illinois' Juice Williams has the most yards among the league's active players. Illini running back Daniel Dufrene ranks fourth with 957.

    1. Juice Williams, QB, Sr., Illinois - 2,050
    2. Evan Royster, RB, Jr., Penn State - 1,749
    3. Brandon Minor, RB, Sr., Michigan - 1,156
    4. Daniel Dufrene, RB, Sr., Illinois - 957
    5. John Clay, RB, So., Wisconsin - 884


    WATCH OUT FOR THESE ILLINI

    Six different Illini players have been named to 10 different preseason watch lists for national awards. Here is a list of the some Illini to keep an eye on this season:

    • Jon Asamoah, offensive line - Outland Trophy (linemen)
    • Arrelious Benn, wide receiver - Walter Camp (Player of the Year) and Fred Biletnikoff (WR)
    • Michael Hoomanawanui, tight end - John Mackey Award (TE)
    • Doug Pilcher, defensive end - Ted Hendricks (DE)
    • Juice Williams, quarterback - Davey O'Brien (QB); Manning Award (QB) and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm (QB)
    • Martez Wilson, linebacker - Butkus (LB) and Rotary Lombardi Award (Line/LB/TE)


    MISSOURI SERIES NOTES

    • Mizzou leads the all-time series, 15-7, and has won all four games in the State Farm Arch Rivalry series played in St. Louis.
    • Missouri has won five of the last six games in the series and six of the last eight, dating back to the 1991 season.
    • Mizzou leads the series 5-1 in neutral-site games, all six 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 and 2007.


    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, 9/2/00
    • 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


    KING OF THE HOUSE

    Last season, Juice Williams accomplished a feat unprecedented in history. In three games during 2008 (Missouri, Michigan, Minnesota), he set stadium records in total offense numbers.

    • Williams passed for 451 yards and rushed for 10 against Missouri on Aug. 30 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Mo., eclipsing the 456 yards posted by Rams quarterback Marc Bulger against the New York Jets in 2004. Others that Williams surpassed include Kansas State's Michael Bishop, who had 442 total yards in the 1998 Big 12 championship game, and Tommy Corwin, who had 453 for DeSmet in a high school state title game in 2005. Williams managed to surpass Bulger's best day despite being sacked five times by Missouri for a loss of 42 yards. In college, sacks count against a quarterback's rushing yards but in the NFL they don't.
    • Williams compiled 431 yards of total offense at Michigan Stadium on Oct. 4, which is a Michigan Stadium record.
    • One week later on Oct. 11 against Minnesota, Williams threw for 462 yards and rushed for another 41, making his 503 total yards an Illinois Memorial Stadium record.
    • Based on research collected by Division I SIDs, there are no other current players who own stadium records in more than one venue, much less three.


    OFFENSIVE NOTES

    • In the last three seasons, the Illinois offense has led the Big Ten in rushing twice (2006, 2007) and in passing in 2008.
    • Last season, Juice Williams led the conference in both passing and total offense. His 324.3 total yard average was 82.3 yards better per game than the next league player.
    • Illinois has put together back-to-back seasons of 5,000 yards of total offense. The 2007 total of 5,525 was a school record, while the 5,273 yards in 2008 ranks third in the Illini record book.
    • The Illinois offense returns 100 percent of its 2,034 rushing yards from the 2008 season and 87 percent of its 3,232 passing yards, as well as three starters from the offensive line. The only skill player lost offensively was receiver Will Judson who accounted for 401 receiving yards.


    Martez Wilson has made the move from the outside to the middle linebacker position for 2009.


    DEFENSIVE NOTES

    • In each of the past three years, Illinois linebackers have led the Big Ten Conference in tackles per game -- J Leman in 2006 and 2007, and Brit Miller in 2008.
    • In 2008, the Illini defense led the Big Ten in both tackles for loss and quarterback sacks.


    SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES

    • The Illini return placekicker Matt Eller for his sophomore season after a stellar debut campaign. He hit 15 field goals, just two shy of breaking into the Illinois career top-10 after only one season. His 15 made field goals ranked fifth in a season in the Illinois record book and broke a school freshman kicking record. He led the team in scoring and his 84 points were seventh-most in a season in school history.
    • Receivers Arrelious Benn and A.J. Jenkins were Illinois' return men for kickoffs and punts in 2008. Jenkins averaged 22.3 yards per kickoff return and Benn averaged 7.6 per punt return.


    BLOCK, PILCHER, WILLIAMS RETURN FOR FIFTH YEAR

    Of Illinois' 15 seniors, only three are back for their fifth seasons. Center Eric Block returns with 25 starts under his belt. The New Orleans native went through senior day last season, but petitioned the NCAA to have his fifth year restored due to limited playing time and injuries in his first season. Defensive end Doug Pilcher has been a full-time starter for the Illini since 2006 after reshirting his first season at Illinois. Defensive tackle Sirod Williams was set for his senior year in 2008, but suffered a knee injury that forced him to redshirt. He will return this fall with a chance to lead the defensive line.


    TRIO OF COACHES LEARNING THE LINGO

    Illinois welcomes three new faces to the coaching staff fo the 2009 season. Replacing Mike Locksley at offensive coordinator is former TCU offensive general Mike Schultz, while Joe Gilbert joins the staff to coach the offensive line. The sole change on the defensive side of the ball has former Cincinnati coach Keith Gilbert taking over the defensive line.


    ILLINI IN DOMES

    Illinois has compiled an 7-12-1 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.


    FOLLOW THE ILLINI ON FACEBOOK AND TWITTER

    Get up-to-the-minute info on Fighting Illini football on Twitter (@IlliniFootball) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/IlliniFootball). Not only will you get live game updates and exclusive, behind the scenes insights on your favorites players and coaches, but you'll also find links to photos, videos and stories from around the country as well as interactive contests and giveaways.


    Bo Flowers should see extensive playing time this season in Illinois' defensive backfield.


    HOOMANAWANUI HONORING HIS POLYNESIAN DECENT

    Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, while growing up in Bloomington, Ill., lived much of the Hawaiian heritage passed down by his father, Isy. Isy came to the States to play football at Illinois State then stayed to raise his family. When Michael came to Illinois, he began many of the traditions carried on by Polynesian and Samoan football players. He entered his freshman year with clean-cut short hair, but then began to grow it out to the long black mane that can be seen out the backs of football helmets. This tradition dates back to Samoan warriors to signify battle. It also is very noticeable to the public in the stands and draws attention to their heritage. Hoomanamwanui also got two tattoos, called Aumakua, which means "protectors." His family's protectors are the shark and the turtle, two images that have been passed down for centuries and are now tattoos on Michael's arms and shoulders. Michael also can be seen on campus wearing what looks to be a brightly adorned skirt. However, it is called a kikepa and is traditional dress for men in Hawaii.


    BO KNOWS FOOTBALL ... AND BASEBALL

    Sophomore safety Bo Flowers will turn 26 later this season. He is the oldest player on the Illini roster. Flowers began his college career last season after four years in professional baseball. He was a fifth-round draft pick in 2003 by the Detroit Tigers. After spending three seasons in the Detroit organization, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs, where he played the 2006 season. Currently, Flowers is a walk-on on the Illini team because the Tigers are footing the college bill.


    ILLINOIS ATHLETICS HAS BANNER YEAR

    In the 2008-09 Learfield/NACDA Director's Cup rankings, Illinois finished 20th, the highest ranking in school history. Of the 21 sports Illinois sponsors, 15 advanced to postseason NCAA play and wrestling, men's gymnastics and women's cross country finished in the top-10.

    • Men's Gymnastics - 5th
    • Wrestling - 8th
    • Women's Cross Country - 10th
    • Women's Gymnastics - 12th
    • Women's Outdoor Track & Field - 12th
    • Men's Tennis - NCAA Sweet 16
    • Soccer - NCAA Sweet 16
    • Volleyball - NCAA Sweet 16
    • Men's Golf - 21st
    • Women's Indoor Track & Field - 27th
    • Women's Tennis - NCAASecond Round
    • Men's Oudoor Track & Field - 37th
    • Men's Basketball - NCAAFirst Round
    • Men's Indoor Track & Field - 47th
    • Softball - NCAAFirst Round
    With Illinois' fall sports beginning their seasons, the women's cross country is expected to post its fifth straight Top-10 NCAA finish, the soccer team is ranked 13th (as of 8/25) and volleyball is preseason 10th.


    TEAM CAPTAINS

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