Sept. 4, 2012
The Fighting Illini (1-0) head out west this weekend to face Pac-12 foe Arizona State (1-0) Saturday night in Tempe in the return game for Illinois' thrilling 17-14 win over the Sun Devils last season at Memorial Stadium.
Illinois opened the 2012 season with a 24-7 victory over Western Michigan last Saturday at Memorial Stadium, giving first-year head coach Tim Beckman his first victory as Fighting Illini head coach. The Illini have now won 15 straight home-openers dating back to 1997.
The Illini are looking for their second-straight 2-0 start, something that hasn't happened in back-to-back seasons at Illinois since 2000 and '01.
The Illini defense held WMU to negative-6 rushing yards, a total that leads the nation after the first weekend of play. It marked the first time Illinois had held an opponent to negative yards rushing since the 1998 home-opener, when Middle Tennessee had negative-9 yards (9/12/98).
In the last two games combined, the Illini defense has allowed just 12 total rushing yards - 18 against UCLA in the 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl and negative-6 to Western Michigan on Saturday.
The seven points the Illini defense held WMU to were the fewest against the Illini by an FBS opponent in nine seasons, since UCLA scored six on Sept. 13, 2003 (UCLA defeated Illinois 6-3).
The Orange and Blue are tied for fourth in the nation in turnover margin (+3) following the first weekend of play after forcing four turnovers against the Broncos (three interceptions and one fumble), while giving up just one (interception).
Illinois controlled time of possession against the Broncos, owning a margin of more than 11 minutes (35:02 - 24:58). The Illini are ranked 13th nationally in time of possession after week one.
Illinois was one of 28 teams in the nation that did not allow a sack during week one.
The Illini offense started 2012 with a bang as junior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase hit junior receiver Ryan Lankford with a 64-yard touchdown pass just 1:40 into the first quarter for Illinois' first touchdown of the season. It was the longest catch of Lankford's career and Scheelhaase's seventh career TD pass of 50-plus yards, the most by any Big Ten quarterback since 2009.
Defensively, STAR Ashante Williams sealed the game with a 60-yard interception return for TD that gave the Illini a 17-point cushion midway through the fourth quarter. It marked the second-straight game in which an Illini had a pick-six (Terry Hawthorne 39-yard INT return vs. UCLA in the 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl). Williams also led the team with a career-high nine tackles against WMU.
Ten Illini, including four true-freshmen, saw the field for the first time in the opener against Western Michigan. True-freshmen V'Angelo Bentley, Justin Hardee, Mason Monheim and Mike Svetina all made their Illinois debuts on Saturday. In addition, fifth-year transfer Tommy Davis, redshirt-freshmen Darrius Caldwell, Kenny Nelson, Eaton Spence, Taylor Zalewski and sophomore PK Nick Immekus all saw the field for the first time in their UI careers last week.
Four Illinois players made their first career start against WMU, as redshirt-freshmen Josh Ferguson and Ted Karras, sophomore Earnest Thomas and junior Tim Kynard all started a game for the first time.
The Last Meeting
September 17, 2011
Tim Beckman takes over in 2012 as the 23rd head football coach at the University of Illinois. Beckman came to Illinois after three years as head coach at Toledo, where he led the Rockets to two bowl appearances and a Mid-American Conference West Division co-championship. Beckman took over for Ron Zook, who was released following the 2011 regular season after seven seasons at Illinois.
Illinois finished the 2011 season on high note, defeating UCLA, 20-14, in the 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl to finish with a record of 7-6 and give Illinois bowl victories in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history.
In 2012, Illinois is looking to reach a bowl game for the third consecutive season, something that hasn't been done since the Illini made÷ five straight bowl appearances from 1988-92.
In 2011, the Illini ranked 30th nationally in fewest penalties per game (4.9) and 27th nationally in fewest penalty yards per game (42.2). Last Saturday against Western Michigan, the Illini had just five penalties for 30 yards.
ARIZONA STATE SERIES NOTES
Illinois trails the all-time series with Arizona State 2-1 after winning last year's matchup in Champaign, 17-14. Arizona State won the games in 1987 (21-7 in Champaign) and 1988 (21-16 in Tempe).
The Illini's 2011 win against the Sun Devils marked Illinois' first victory against a team ranked in the Associated Press poll since beating No. 1 Ohio State on Nov. 10, 2007, breaking a nine-game losing streak to ranked teams. It also was the Illini's first win over a ranked non-conference opponent since beating No. 25 Louisville on Sept. 22, 2001.
Illinois' defense was stout in that 2011 matchup with Arizona State, holding the high-powered ASU offense to 14 points while forcing three turnovers (two interceptions and a fumble). For the season, the Sun Devils averaged 33.2 points per game, committed only 23 turnovers in 13 games and the 14-point output against the Illini was their lowest of the season. Their next-lowest output was 24 points against Boise State in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas.
In the 2011 game, several current Illini made an impact.
- QB Nathan Scheelhaase passed the 1,000-yard mark for his career with 67 rushing yards. Scheelhaase also was 11-for-15 passing for 135 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
- LB Jonathan Brown had an incredible game, earning Big Ten Player of the Week honors by posting seven tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and an interception.
- DT Glenn Foster had his first career interception while making three tackles, 1.0 TFLs and a half-sack.
- CB Terry Hawthorne had a team-high eight tackles, along with 1.0 TFLs and one PBU.
- DE Michael Buchanan had four tackles, 1.5 sacks and one QB hurry.
- FS Steve Hull made seven tackles and had a PBU.
- CB Justin Green had six tackles and a PBU.
- DT Akeem Spence had four tackles and a half-sack.
- SS Supo Sanni had three tackles and a game-high two PBUs.
There are a few ties between the coaching staffs at Illinois and Arizona State. Illini running backs/special teams coordinator Tim Salem
played his final two collegiate seasons at ASU and holds a degree from the institution. He also spent two seasons as a graduate assistant at his alma mater.
In addition, ASU co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Ron West
and tight ends coach Chip Long
both coached at Illinois in 2010-11, and the Sun Devils' director of football operations John Wrenn was an assistant coach at Illinois from 1985-86 under Mike White. Wrenn, who is a native of Moline, Ill., and a Western Illinois graduate, was a successful high school coach in the '80s and '90s.
ILLINOIS OUT WEST
The 17-14 Illinois win over Arizona State last season was the Orange and Blue's first victory over a current Pac-12 team since Sept. 1, 2001, when they won at California, 44-17. Later in 2011, the Illini defeated UCLA in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. Prior to those two wins, Illinois had lost five consecutive games to Pac-12 opponents dating back to the 2001 victory over Cal.
The Illini are 29-45 all-time against current Pac-12 teams and 11-20 in games at Pac-12 opponents' home fields. Illinois is 14-21 all-time in games played in the pacific time zone.
Illinois head coach Tim Beckman is 1-1 against Pac-12 teams, beating Colorado in 2009 (when they were in the Big 12) and losing to Arizona in 2010.
Illinois hasn't won a non-conference regular-season road game since 2007, when they notched a 41-20 victory at Syracuse. The Illini have played only one true road game during that span (at Fresno State in 2010) in addition to four neutral-site games (Missouri in 2008, '09 and '10, and Western Michigan in 2008).
Over the last 15 years (Ron Turner and Ron Zook eras), Illinois is 4-8 in true non-conference road games during the regular season. And the Illini are 6-23 in non-conference regular-season road games since 1980. Eleven of those contests have been against Pac-12 teams, with Illinois going 2-9 in regular-season games at Pac-12 opponents since 1980.
Click here for complete Illinois-Arizona State Game Notes