With Offense Rolling, Illini Hope To Find Defense Against San Diego State

Coach Ron Turner and the Illini travel to sunny California to face the Aztecs of SDSU, Saturday.
Coach Ron Turner and the Illini travel to sunny California to face the Aztecs of SDSU, Saturday.

Sept. 5, 2000

Illinois' dynamic offense looks as though it is primed for a repeat of last year's performance. Unfortunately, so does its defense.

Trying to work their way through some defensive problems, the 21st-ranked Fighting Illini (1-0) and their productive offense take on San Diego State (0-1) at Qualcomm Stadium on Saturday.

In a 35-6 victory over Middle Tennessee State in the season opener, quarterback Kurt Kittner threw three touchdown passes to Greg Lewis as Illinois compiled 475 yards, looking much like the team that set a school record with 388 points last season.

But despite giving up just six points, the Fighting Illini defense was victimized for 469 yards - 207 on the ground. Last season, Illinois allowed 387.8 yards and 22.8 points per game.

"Obviously, we've got a lot of work to do," Fighting Illini coach Ron Turner said. "Typically, a team has its best improvement from Game One to Game Two."

Nevertheless, Illinois should be excited about what looks to be another solid season on offense.

Halfbacks Antoineo Harris and Rocky Harvey rushed for more than 100 yards Saturday to complement a steady passing game.

The Fighting Illini have a five-game road winning streak. They have not lost a game on the road since last Oct. 2, when they suffered a 34-31 overtime loss to Indiana.

San Diego State hopes to have the services of running back Larry Ned, who has been out of action since undergoing orthoscopic surgery on his left knee on Aug. 20.

Ned, who led the team with 894 yards on 162 rushes last season, would give the Aztecs a much-needed boost on offense.

San Diego State quarterback Jack Hawley completed just 24 of 57 passes in the team's season-opening 10-7 loss to Arizona State on Thursday.

The Aztecs, though, boast a tough defense led by safety Will Demps, who recorded 13 tackles to earn Mountain West Conference defensive player of the week honors.

This is only the second meeting between the teams. Illinois defeated San Diego State 38-10 at home last Sept. 11.