Game 2 Notes: Illinois vs. Cincinnati

Josh Ferguson had three plays of over 25 yards in Saturday's season-opener, including a 53-yard TD reception.
Josh Ferguson had three plays of over 25 yards in Saturday's season-opener, including a 53-yard TD reception.
 GAME 2: Illinois (1-0) vs. Cincinnati (1-0)
 When Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013 | 11:01 am CT
 Where Champaign, Ill. | Memorial Stadium (60,670) | Map | Seating Chart | Weather
 Gameday Information GAMEDAY CENTRAL | Fan Guide | Parking Map | Concessions Map
 Tickets Buy Online | Kid's Club Ticket Offer
 Game Promotions Band Day | Street Fest | Promotions Schedule
 Television ESPN2 | Watch Online
    Announcers: Bob Wischusen, Rod Gilmore and Quint Kessenich
 Radio Illini Sports Network | Listen | Sirius 92 / XM 196
 Live Stats GameTracker | Mobile Live Stats
 Beckman Presser Video | Quotes
 Monday Interviews AD Mike Thomas | OC Cubit | DC Banks | QB Scheelhaase | LB Brown
 Tuesday Interviews Coach Beckman | RB Coach Salem | OL Karras | RB Young |
 Illinois Team Info Printable Game Notes | Illinois Record Book | Stats (HTML) | Stats (PDF)
 SIU Team Info Printable Game Notes | Media Guide | Stats (HTML) | Stats (PDF)
 Big Ten Info B1G Notes | B1G Media Guide | Stats
 Social Media @IlliniFootball   |  #Illini | @IlliniAthletics | Facebook | YouTube

Sep 2, 2013

• Illini Walk - 8:30 am starting at First and Kirby
• Illini Street Fest - 8:30-11 am (Interactive games and music by a live DJ)
• Band Day - High school bands from across the state will perform with the Marching Illini
Kids Club Ticket Offer - Kids Club members receive a free ticket. Friends & family can buy tickets for $10.

• The Fighting Illini look to start the season 2-0 when the Cincinnati Bearcats come to Memorial Stadium on Saturday for an 11 a.m. CT kick on ESPN2. An Illinois win would mark only the third time in the last nine years that the Orange and Blue have started a season 2-0.
• The revamped Illinois offense, directed by new offensive coordinator Bill Cubit, exploded for 42 points, 415 passing yards and 464 total yards in Saturday's win over Southern Illinois.
• The Illini had six scrimmage plays go for 30+ yards against the Salukis, equaling the team's total for the entire 2012 season in one game. Only Oregon (7) had more plays of 30+ yards in week one.
• The passing game was especially prolific against the Salukis, as the Illini are tied for national lead in 20+ (7), 30+ (5), 40+ (3) and 50+ (3) yard passing plays after the first week of action.
• Senior QB Nathan Scheelhaase earned week one Big Ten Player of the Week honors after throwing for a career-high 416 yards against SIU, the 10th-best single-game passing performance in school history.
• Scheelhasse racked up 340 of his 416 passing yards in the first half, marking the most ever for an Illini in the first half and the most in any half since Juice Williams totaled 347 passing yards in the second half against Minnesota on Oct. 11, 2008.
• With his start in the opener, Scheelhaase now has 37 career starts under his belt, tied for the third-most in the nation by a quarterback behind only Georgia's Aaron Murray (42) and Nebraska's Taylor Martinez (40).
• Sophomore DB V'Angelo Bentley made a big spash on special teams against SIU with a 100-yard kickoff return for touchdown, the longest by a single player in school history and equaling the longest touchdown in Illinois history. Bentley's return matched the record set by Travis Williams and Eugene Wilson, who combined for 100 yards on a lateral play, against Purdue on Oct. 12, 2002. It also marked Illinois' first kick return TD since A.J. Jenkins (96 yards) against Indiana on Oct. 18, 2008.
• Senior OT Corey Lewis is one the feel-good stories in college football. After missing more than two-and-half years (34 games) recovering from three ACL tears and five different knee surgeries, Lewis saw his first game action in over 1,000 days at Ohio State on Nov. 3, 2012, and played in the season's final four games. With a bachelor's degree in communication already in hand and a sixth year of NCAA eligibility granted, Lewis made his first career start on Saturday against SIU, more than five years after first setting foot on campus.
• Saturday's win was the Illini's 16th consecutive home-opening victory, the fourth-longest streak in the Big Ten behind Ohio State (35), Nebraska (28) and Wisconsin (18). Illinois is 86-33-5 all-time in home-openers.
• Illinois is now 13-0 all-time against FCS teams and 14-0 against the other public universities in the state (4-0 against Southern Illinois).
• Illinois had 20 players make their Illini debuts on Saturday: six true-freshmen (Aaron Bailey, Jaylen Dunlap, Darius Mosely, Dionte Taylor, Dawuane Smoot, Tyler White), 10 redshirt-freshmen (Robbie Bain, Taylor Barton, B.J. Bello, Devin Church, Cedric Doxy, Zach Hirth, Jevaris Little, T.J. Neal, Joe Spencer, LaKeith Walls), one sophomore (Tim Clary) and three transfers (Martize Barr, Abe Cajuste, Zane Petty).
• Six Fighting Illini players made their first career start against Southern Illinois: OG Joe Spencer, OT Corey Lewis, DL Jake Howe, DL Austin Teitsma, CB V'Angelo Bentley and FS Taylor Barton. Four other players have five or fewer starts after starting against SIU: LEO Houston Bates (five), C Alex Hill (four), CB Eaton Spence (three) and TE Matt LaCosse (two), giving Illinois 10 starters from its opening game who have five or fewer career starts.
• Twenty four (24) former Illini are on NFL opening day rosters, the fifth most among Big Ten teams and two more than last season.

The Last Meeting
November 27, 2009
Cincinnati. Ohio
Illinois Falls to No. 5 Cincinnati, 49-36
Tony Pike returned from an injury to his non-throwing arm and had a record day Friday, passing for six touchdowns in a 49-36 victory over Illinois that left fifth-ranked Cincinnati unbeaten and back to full strength.

• Saturday's meeting will be only the second between Illinois and Cincinnati after the then-fifth-ranked Bearcats took the initial meeting in the series by a 49-36 margin on Nov. 27, 2009. UC has never visited Memorial Stadium in the stadium's 91-year history.
• Only seven Illinois players were on the roster in 2009: Jake Feldmeyer, Steve Hull, Tim Kynard, Corey Lewis, Ben Mathis, Tim Russell and Nathan Scheelhaase, and only Lewis saw the field as the other six redshirted that season.
• In that 2009 contest with an undefeated Cincinnati squad, Illinois outgained the Bearcats 476-420, but Cincinnati scored a touchdown on a kickoff return and totaled 237 return yards to the Illini's 76, swinging the field position battle strongly in UC's favor. Juice Williams was 21-of-34 for 282 yards and three touchdowns through the air, and rushed for 67 yards and another score. UC QB Tony Pike was 32-of-46 for 399 yards and six touchdowns.
• Illinois has 18 players from the state of Ohio, with senior WR Steve Hull and senior P Brad Janitz calling Cincinnati home. Redshirt-freshman OL Joe Spencer also hails from Mason, Ohio, which is 25 miles northeast of Cincinnati.
• Illinois Director of Athletics Mike Thomas spent six years at the AD at Cincinnati before coming to Illinois in August 2011. Illini defensive coordinator Tim Banks served the same role for the Bearcats in 2010 & '11 before joining Coach Beckmans staff at Illinois prior to last season.

• Like many Illini teams over the years, the 2013 Illini defense is led by the linebacking corps of senior Jonathan Brown, a 2012 Butkus Award semifinalist, and sophomore Mason Monheim, a 2012 Freshman All-American. Brown has piled up 167 tackles, 29 TFLs and 8.5 sacks over the last two seasons, while Monheim became the first true-freshman ever to lead the Illini in tackles and led all Big Ten freshmen with 86 stops last season. Not surprisingly, the duo led the team in tackles in the opener against SIU as Brown had nine stops and Monheim eight.
• Illinois' history at the linebacker position is up there with any program in the nation. It begins with the greatest linebacker in football history, Dick Butkus, who was a two-time All-American and led the Fighting Illini to a 1964 Rose Bowl win over Washington. The Orange and Blue boast two Butkus Award winners, Dana Howard in 1994 and Kevin Hardy in 1995, and several first-team All-Americans like Darrick Brownlow (1990), Simeon Rice (1994 & `95) and J Leman (2007), in addition to Butkus, Howard and Hardy and recent NFL Draft picks like Danny Clark, Martez Wilson and Nate Bussey.

• Senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase turned in a career performance through the air in Saturday's season-opener. His 416 yards were the fifth-most ever by an Illinois quarterback at Memorial Stadium and the first 400-yard game since Juice Williams broke the Memorial Stadium record with 462 passing yards against Minnesota on Oct. 11, 2008.
• With his 389 yards of total offense against SIU, Scheelhaase moved ahead of Jason Verduzco (7,256 yards) into the No. 4 spot in career total offense at Illinois with 7,480 yards. Scheelhaase also passed Johnny Johnson and moved into No. 7 on the all-time career touchdown passes list with 36. He ranks fourth in career passing efficiency (127.2), sixth in passing yardage (5,712), sixth in completions (516), sixth in attempts (836) and 19th in rushing yardage (1,768) - second among quarterbacks - at Illinois.
• Scheelhaase completed 12 consecutive passes in the second quarter against Southern Illinois, including seven on a two-minute drill just before halftime. Scheelhaase accounted for the entire seven-play, 94-yard drive that included a 55-yard pass to Steve Hull and ended with an 11-yard touchdown strike to Jon Davis.
• Scheelhaase also flashed the big-play ability against the Salukis that Illini fans have seen from him during his career, posting seven plays of 20-plus yards. Scheelhaase had only 18 such "big plays" in 2012, when he missed two games and was limited in many others because of injuries, but he posted 29 big plays in 2011 and 33 in 2010. He led the Illini to bowl victories in both 2010 and 2011.
• Scheelhaase started his fourth consecutive season-opener on Saturday, making him one of only seven quarterbacks in the nation to start four straight openers. Scheelhaase joins Kolton Browning (Louisiana-Monroe), Logan Kilgore (Middle Tennessee), Taylor Martinez (Nebraska), Taylor McHargue (Rice), Aaron Murray (Georgia) and Corey Robinson (Troy) in the select club.
• In 16 wins he has engineered since the beginning of the 2010 season, Scheelhaase has completed 227-of-334 passes (68.0 percent) for 2,969 yards, 24 TDs and seven INTs for a 162.2 efficiency rating. He also has rushed for 953 yards on 217 carries (4.4 ypc) and seven TDs in those 16 games. For comparison, Scheelhaase is 289-of-503 (57.3 percent) for 2,745 yards, 12 TDs and 18 INTs for a 104.0 rating in Illinois' 21 losses during that span.
• Scheelhaase led Illinois to bowl victories in each his first two seasons (2010 Texas Bowl and 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl), making him one of only two QBs in Big Ten history to start and lead their teams to bowl wins during both his freshman and sophomore seasons (Brooks Bollinger, Wisconsin). After missing a bowl in 2012, Scheelhaase is looking to end his UI career with a third bowl win, something no Illini QB has done previously.

This past July, Illini QB Nathan Scheelhaase married his high-school sweetheart, Morgan Miller, with several of his Fighting Illini teammates by his side. WR Miles Osei served as Scheelhaase's best man, while QB Reilly O'Toole, WR Ryan Lankford and WR Steve Hull served as groomsmen. And Scheelhaase isn't the only Illini with wedding bells on his mind. Redshirt-junior offensive lineman Alex Hill is engaged to Mariah Smith, a thrower on the Illinois track and field team, with a winter 2014 wedding planned.

Illinois will host the Washington Huskies at Soldier Field for "Chicago Homecoming" on Sept. 14, 2013. The game will mark Illinois' second game at the historic home of the Chicago Bears. Illinois' only other game at Soldier Field was against current Pac-12 member Washington State on Sept. 1, 1994, a 10-9 victory for the Cougars. The 2013 contest against Washington will be Illinois' first in the city of Chicago since the 48-27 victory over Northwestern at Wrigley Field on Nov. 20, 2010. Tickets for the Sept. 14 Chicago Homecoming game are available now at the UI Athletic Ticket office by calling 1-866-ILLINI-1 or online.

• Illinois has 23 former players on 2013 NFL opening day rosters, plus one on a practice squad.
• Illinois led all Big Ten schools with four players selected in the 2013 NFL Draft - OL Hugh Thornton (third round, Colts), DT Akeem Spence (fourth round, Buccaneers), CB Terry Hawthorne (fifth round, Steelers) and DE Michael Buchanan (seventh round, Patriots).
• Illinois has had four players chosen in each of the last four drafts (2010-2013).
• At least three Illini have been drafted in each of the last five drafts (2009-2013).
• Sixteen Illini have been drafted since 2010, including 10 in the first three rounds (most in the Big Ten).
• Despite not having a first-rounder in 2013, Illinois has had five first-round draft picks since 2008, which is the most of any Big Ten team.
• Akeem Spence was the eighth Illini in the last six years to enter the draft with eligibility remaining. All eight were taken in the first four rounds, including four first-rounders.
• Four Illini defensive linemen have been drafted in the last three years - Corey Liuget (first round, 2011), Whitney Mercilus (first round, 2012), Akeem Spence (fourth round, 2013) and Michael Buchanan (seventh round, 2013).

• Illinois scored its first two touchdowns of the season in the span of 29 seconds in the second quarter against Southern Illinois on Aug. 31. Josh Ferguson struck first with a 53-yard TD catch-and-run on a screen pass, then Tim Kynard forced a fumble, Houston Bates recovered it and Donovonn Young scored on a two-yard rushing TD.
• Sophomore running back Josh Ferguson posted his first career 100-yard receiving game with 103 yards on four catches, highlighted by a career-long 53-yard touchdown reception, the first TD catch of his career. Ferguson was very efficient, recording 152 all-purpose yards on only 13 touches (11.69 yards per touch). He also had three "big plays" against the Salukis with a 53-yard touchdown reception on a screen pass, a 26-yard reception and a 34-yard run. In 2012, Ferguson led all Big Ten freshmen in all-purpose yards per game (90.7).
• Senior wide receiver Ryan Lankford notched a career-high 115 receiving yards, marking his second career 100-yard receiving game. His previous high was 104 yards against Penn State on Sept. 29, 2012. Lankford led the Illini receiving corps with 469 yards on 37 receptions with five TDs in 2012.
• Illinois had two 100-yard receivers (Lankford: 115, Ferguson: 103) for the first time since A.J. Jenkins (148) and Darius Millines (119) accomplished the feat against Arkansas State on Sept. 3, 2011.
• Ten different Illini caught at least one pass against Southern Illinois, including three tight ends, a running back and a fullback.
• Freshman quarterback Aaron Bailey barreled into the end zone for his first career touchdown on a 2-yard rush in the third quarter. He also converted a first down with a four-yard carry on third-and-one on the final play of the first quarter.
• Senior Steve Hull played wide receiver for the first time in his career, hauling in two catches for 64 yards. Hull spent his redshirt season as a receiver before switching to safety prior to the 2010 season and making 15 starts there from 2010-2012.
• The starters on the Illini offensive line are massive, as all five are listed at at least 300 pounds and have an average weight of 309 pounds (Cvijanovic - 310, Heitz - 305, Hill - 315, Karras/Spencer - 300, Lewis - 315).
• Last year's leading rusher Donovonn Young struggled in the opener with just six yards on eight carries. In 2012, Young led a balanced ground attack with 571 yards on 121 carries (4.4 ypc), including three touchdowns, and led the team with 38 receptions for 172 yards and another TD in 2012. The junior from Texas has 1,028 yards career rushing yards.
• Junior tight end Jon Davis had an acrobatic 11-yard touchdown recpetion just before the half against SIU, finishing with a leap and reach for the plylon for the score, and also had a 15-yard rush in the second half. Davis was Mr. Versatility in 2012, lining up at tight end, receiver and running back throughout the season.

• Illinois' defense started the game well against Southern Illinois, holding the Salukis to seven points and 111 total yards on its first eight drives, not counting SIU's kneel-down to end the first half. But the Illini's lack of depth showed in the game's final 24 minutes, as they gave up 20 points and 295 yards on SIU's final five drives.
• The defense returned only four starters from 2012 -- DE Tim Kynard, LB Jonathan Brown, LB Mason Monheim and safety Earnest Thomas III.
• The entire defensive three-deep includes only two seniors (LB Jonathan Brown and DL Tim Kynard). In fact, the three-deep lists only nine players with junior or senior eligibility, the same as the number of true-freshmen listed. And two of those upperclassmen are junior college transfers who had never played a down of Division I football until last week (DL Abe Cajuste and DB Zane Petty).
• Senior Tim Kynard forced his first career fumble against SIU, while junior Houston Bates jumped on it for his third career fumble recovery.
• As expected, senior LB Jonathan Brown led the Illini with nine tackles in the season opener. Over the last two years, Brown has put up monster numbers when healthy. He was leading the Illini with 59 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks in 2012 before having his season cut short by a shoulder injury. That followed a breakout 2011 season, when he earned All-Big Ten honors with 108 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. He ranked sixth in the nation in TFLs per game (1.63) and led the Big Ten in TFLs per game during conference play (2.07). Brown is a member of preseason watch lists for the Butkus Award, Bednarik Award and Nagurski Trophy.
• Sophomore LB Mason Monheim had eight tackles and a half-TFL against SIU, a solid start after a stellar freshman season that saw him earn second-team freshman All-America honors by Phil Steele. Monheim started the final 10 games of the season and led all Big Ten freshmen with 86 tackles. Monheim ranked 15th in the conference in tackles per game (7.2), while no other B1G freshman was in the top 50. He was the first Illini true-freshman ever to lead the team in tackles.
• Senior safety Earnest Thomas III had eight tackles in the 2013 opener after a breakout 2012 where he was fourth on the team with 69 tackles and ranked fourth in the Big Ten with three forced fumbles. He is one of only two upperclassmen in the secondary listed on the depth chart, and the only other junior is Zane Petty, a junior college transfer who has never played Division I football.

• V'Angelo Bentley's 100-yard kickoff return for touchdown against Southern Illinois was the longest by a single player in school history and equaled the longest touchdown in Illinois history. It matched the record set by Travis Williams and Eugene Wilson, who combined for 100 yards on a lateral play, against Purdue on Oct. 12, 2002. It also marked Illinois' first kick return TD since A.J. Jenkins (96 yards) against Indiana on Oct. 18, 2008.
• Miles Osei's 18-yard punt return early in the second quarter against Southern Illinois was the Illini's longest since Jack Ramsey posted a 21-yard punt return at Michigan on Nov. 6, 2011. Illinois nearly bested that return on SIU's next punt as V'Angelo Bentley returned that boot 21 yards, but it was nullified by an illegal block after only five yards.
• Illinois has streaks of 50 games and 138 attempts without missing a PAT, the fifth- and sixth-longest active streaks in the nation, respectively. The last time the Fighting Illini did not convert a PAT kick was on Sept. 5, 2009, against Missouri.
• Junior punter Justin DuVernois, a 2013 Ray Guy Award candidate, had a solid debut in 2013, averaging 42.2 yards per punt incluidng a long of 59 against the Salukis. In 2012, DuVernois averaged 41.9 yards per punt, fourth-best in the conference and 3.6 yards per kick better than 2011. As a team, Illinois led the Big Ten and ranked 23rd nationally in net punting in 2012, averaging 39.2 yards per kick.
• Sophomore kicker Taylor Zalewski started off 2013 by hitting 2-of-3 field goals and 4-of-4 extra points. In 2012, he nailed a 54-yard field goal against Purdue, the third-longest field goal in school history and the longest in the Big Ten in 2012. Zalewski also handles kickoff duties, booting all eight of kickoffs in Saturday's opener into the end zone, six of which were touchbacks.
• Senior Tim Russell converted his third career two-point conversion (second passing) with a toss to TE Matt LaCosse in the second quarter against SIU. His other two conversions came at Ohio State in 2012 (one rush, one pass).
• In 2012, V'Angelo Bentley blocked a goal attempt against Penn State, marking the first blocked FG for an Illini since Derek Walker at Michigan on Oct. 4, 2008, and the first blocked kick of any kind for an Illini since Clay Nurse swatted away a PAT at Fresno State on Dec. 3, 2010.
• With the loss of three-year long-snapper Zak Pedersen to graduation at the end of 2012, the Illini turned to redshirt-freshman Zach Hirth for long-snapping duties this season. Hirth was ranked the No. 2 long-snapper in the nation by ESPNU coming out of high school. He handled his duties in the opener against SIU without any issues.

• With Saturday's win, head coach Tim Beckman has won the season-opener in each of his first two years with the Fighting Illini.
• The Illini have an all-time record of 77-42-5 in season-openers and are 54-27-4 when opening the season at home. The Illini have won their last eight season-openers at Memorial Stadium dating back to 1997.
• Illinois is looking to reach a bowl game for the third time in the last four years in 2013, something that hasn't been done at Illinois since a run of three bowl games from 1991-94.
• Illinois is 14-0 all-time against the other public universities in the state. The Fighting Illini are 4-0 against Northern Illinois, 4-0 against Southern Illinois and Illinois State, 2-0 against Eastern Illinois and 1-0 against Western Illinois. The combined score of those meetings is 553-224 in favor of the Illini.
• Offensively, the Fighting Illini returned 100 percent of their passing production, 99.5 percent of their rushing production and 80.3 percent of their receiving production from last season in 2013. The only major loss for the offense from last year to this year is WR Darius Millines, who was second on the team with 319 receiving yards in 2012.

Coach Beckman awarded scholarships to four Fighting Illini walk-ons for the 2013 campaign. Senior safety Ben Mathis, redshirt-freshman long snapper Zach Hirth, tight end/holder Tim Russell and kicker Taylor Zalewski, all walk-ons in 2012, are now on full scholarship for 2013.

The coaching staff designates different team captains for each game week throughout the season. Here is a list of this year's game captains:
Southern Illinois - DL Tim Kynard, OL Corey Lewis, WR Miles Osei, QB Nathan Scheelhaase

Complete Illinois-Cincinnati Game Notes (PDF)