Mikel Leshoure ran for 112 yards against Mizzou, his fourth 100-yard game in the last seven.
Sept. 7, 2010
The Illinois/SIU game will be nationally televised on the Big Ten Network with an air time of 6:30 p.m. CT. Matt Devlin (play-by-play), Chris Martin (color analyst) and Charissa Thompson (sideline) will call the action with Jim Ressler producing.
The Illini Sports Network will carry the radio broadcast with its pregame show beginning at 6 p.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 (90) XM (196) Radio satellite radio.
Tickets are still available for Saturday's home-opener against Southern Illinois. Tickets can be purchased at the UI Athletic Ticket Office at Assembly Hall, by calling 1-866-ILLINI-1 or online at fightingillini.com.
Illinois is 82-33-5 all-time in home openers and has won its last 12, including last year's 45-17 win over Illinois State on Sept. 12.
Illinois is 11-0 all-time against the other public universities in the state. The Illini are 3-0 against Northern Illinois and Illinois State, 2-0 against Eastern Illinois and Southern Illinois and 1-0 against Western Illinois. The combined score of those meetings is 448-165 in favor of the Illini and all but one of those 11 meetings have come since 1985 (Illinois played ISU in 1944).
Thirteen Illini, including four true-freshmen, saw the field for the first time in the opener against Missouri. True-freshmen FB Jay Prosch and TE Evan Wilson both started in their Illini debuts, while true-frosh Bandit Brandon Denmark and WR Darius Millines also saw playing time against Mizzou. In addition, two transfers: FS Trulon Henry and FB Chris Willett; four redshirt-freshmen: RB Bud Golden, FS Steve Hull, TE Justin Lattimore, QB Nathan Scheelhaase and DT Akeem Spence; and two sophomores who had yet to play: LS Zak Pedersen and TE Eddie Viliunas; all saw the field for the first time in their UI careers last week.
By starting Saturday against Missouri, Scheelhaase became just the third redshirt-freshman in Illinois history to start a season opener. Scott Weaver (1993) and Rich Weiss (1978) are the only other two redshirt-freshmen to take the first snap of a season. Scheelhaase ran for 76 yards on 16 carries and threw for 81 yards and one touchdown in his debut.
Running back Mikel Leshoure ran for 112 yards on 20 carries against Mizzou on Saturday, marking his fourth career 100-yard rushing game. All four of those 100-yard games have come in Illinois' last seven games. During that span Leshoure has 683 yards on 99 carries (6.9 ypc).
The Illini's opening drive of the season was a 17-play, 9:14 monster that resulted in a 21-yard Derek Dimke field goal. The drive exceeded last year's longest drive by 1:54 and also tied last year's longest drive in terms of plays.
Illini coach Ron Zook is in his sixth season as the Illinois head coach. 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 21-40 at Illinois and is 5-0 in home openers at Memorial Stadium.
HOME SLATE BEGINS "UNDER THE LIGHTS"
Illinois fans have shown over time that they enjoy evening kickoff times. The Illini have recorded two sellouts over their last four home night games and with an average attendance of 57,649 (two of those games came during the 2007 season when seating capacity was reduced to 57,078 because of the Illinois Renaissance project). In the two home night games since the completion of construction, the Illini have averaged 62,608, only 262 tickets short of selling out both games.
Parking lots will open at 7 a.m. for the Sept. 11 game. Because of the evening game time, lots will close one hour after the end of the game.
GRIFFITH RETURNS FOR 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF NCAA-RECORD 8 TD GAME
Illini great Howard Griffith, noted studio analyst for the Big Ten Network, will return to Memorial Stadium on Saturday to help commemorate his monumental performance 20 years ago against the Salukis. In that game, Griffith broke the NCAA record for points (48) and rushing touchdowns in a game (8). He still holds or shares NCAA records for rushing touchdowns in a quarter (4) and a game, as well as most consecutive rushes for a touchdown in a game (3). Griffith went on to play eight seasons in the NFL and won two Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos in 1997 and `98.
ILLINOIS-SIU SERIES NOTES
Saturday's meeting will be only the third between Illinois and Southern Illinois.
The Fighting Illini lead the series 2-0, winning 28-25 in 1985 and 56-21 in 1990. Both games were played at Memorial Stadium in Champaign.
In the 1990 game, Illini running back Howard Griffith helped Illinois overcome a 21-7 first-quarter deficit by scoring three touchdowns in the second quarter and four in the third quarter. His eight total TDs on the ground broke the NCAA records for rushing TDs in a game (8) and points scored in a game (48), which both still stand today. Overall, Griffith had 21 carries for 208 yards and also caught three passes for 44 yards in the victory.
ILLINI IN THE NCAA RANKINGS
The Illinois defense racked up eight tackles for loss in the season-opener against Mizzou, which leads the Big Ten and ranks 20th in the nation after the first week of play. Junior DT Corey Liuget led the way for the Illini, racking up 2.5 TFLs against the Tigers, which is tied for first in the conference and is tied for 19th nationally.
Linebacker Ian Thomas recorded a game- and career-high 13 tackles against Missouri, matching his previous high set in last year's Arch Rivalry Game. The 13 tackles tie him for the Big Ten lead and rank 12th in the nation after Saturday's action. Senior cornerback Travon Bellamy ranks third in the Big Ten and 16th nationally with 12 tackles.
Senior punter Anthony Santella leads the Big Ten and is ninth nationally in punting with a 46.8 average after week one. As a team, the Illini rank 20th nationally in net punting at 41.8 yards.
Running back Mikel Leshoure ran for 112 yards against the Tigers, which was the 24th-highest total in the nation and the sixth high-highest in the Big Ten during week one.
LESHOURE, FORD CLOSING IN ON 1,000
Junior running backs Mikel Leshoure and Jason 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. Entering Saturday's game vs. SIU, Leshoure has 972 career yards on the ground and Ford is on his tail with 888.
Leshoure is looking to become the ninth active Big Ten player to reach the 1,000 career barrier and just the fifth non-senior to do so.
Active Big Ten Career Rushing Leaders (as of 9/5/10)
1. Evan Royster, Sr., PSU 2,958 2. John Clay, Sr., WIS 2,524 3. Terrelle Pryor, Jr., OSU 1,427 4. Brandon Saine, Sr, OSU 1,174 5. Duane Bennett, Jr., MIN 1,145 6. Zach Brown, Sr., WIS 1,152 7. Dan Herron, Jr., OSU 1,083 8. DeLeon Eskridge, Jr., MIN 1,010 ------------------------------------------ 9. Mikel Leshoure, Jr., ILL 972 10. Ralph Bolden, Jr., PUR 963 11. Adam Robinson, So., IOWA 943 12. Stephfon Green, PSU 929 13. Jason Ford, Jr., ILL 888
The injury bug 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. The following players missed the season-opener against Mizzou and are expected to miss this Saturday's home-opener against Southern Illinois: CB Terry Hawthorne (foot), FB/TE Zach Becker (feet), TE 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 were at full strength during preseason training camp and Wilson returned to action against Missouri, registering 11 tackles, including 1.0 TFL, 0.5 sacks and one forced fumble.
CHANGING THINGS UP
With the rash of injuries during training camp, the Illini made several position changes heading into the season. Sophomore Justin Green moved from running back to cornerback, sophomore Jack Ramsey went from wide receiver to cornerback and redshirt-freshman Steve Hull switched from wide receiver to safety. All three made big contributions at their new positions in the season opener. Green started and registered six tackles and one pass break-up, Hull had seven tackles and Ramsey saw time at CB and also returned three kicks for 78 yards and one punt for three yards.
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, was moved to tight end as well. Viliunas saw action in two-tight end sets during the Missouri game.
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 AGAIN 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. In week one this season, the Illini rushed for 200 yards, which ranks 39th nationally.
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.
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.
Illinois' defense held Missouri to only 98 rushing yards in the season opener, marking the fourth time in the last two seasons the Illini have held their opponent under 100 rushing yards.
Linebacker Ian Thomas tied his career high with 13 tackles against Mizzou, equaling the 13 stops he racked up against the Tigers last year. Thomas' 1.5 TFLs also marked a new career high, topping the four times he had notched one TFL.
Cornerback Travon Bellamy also recorded a career-high 12 tackles vs. Missouri, besting his nine stops against Penn State on Sept. 27, 2008. Bellamy also added a TFL and a PBU.
Defensive tackle Corey Liuget tied his career high with 2.5 TFLs in the opener, equaling his total against Michigan on Oct. 31, 2009. Linebacker Nate Bussey also marked a new career high with two TFLs.
Martez Wilson forced his second career fumble against the Tigers while also racking up 11 tackles, 1.0 TFL and a half-sack. Tavon Wilson, meanwhile, notched the first fumble recovery of his career.
The Illini defense returned three of its top four tacklers from 2009. Thomas led the squad last season with 95, followed by T. Wilson (79) and Bussey (43) at third and fourth in the statistics.
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 TFLs 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.
Nathan Scheelhaase directed a long scoring drive during his first career series as the Illini signal-caller. The drive spanned 17 players and chewed up 9:14 one the clock in the first quarter, leading to a field goal. Scheelhaase connected on 2-of-3 passes for 12 yards and rushed for 24 yards on six carries during the drive, while Mikel Leshoure had 23 yards rushing on five carries during the opening drive.
Scheelhaase threw his first career touchdown pass, a 13-yard strike to A.J. Jenkins, capping an eight-play, 82-yard scoring drive in the second half against Missouri.
The TD reception by Jenkins was his sixth career touchdown and his fifth career touchdown reception.
Leshoure notched the longest play from scrimmage against Missouri with a 42-yard scamper in the second quarter.
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 in 2009.
THE SPECIAL TEAMS
Sophomore kicker Derek Dimke booted a career-long 52-yard field goal at the end of the first half against Missouri on Sept. 4. The mark tied the sixth-longest boot in school history and was the longest Illinois field goal since Jason Reda's 52-yarder at Indiana on Oct. 8, 2005. Dimke's previous career-best was a 48-yard field goal in 2009 against Cincinnati. He also kicked off three times against Mizzou, averaging 69.0 yards per kick, the second-highest single-game total of his career. Since taking over kicking duties late last season, Dimke is a perfect 7-for-7 on field goals and 13-for-13 on extra points.
Senior punter Anthony Santella also had a stellar game against Missouri to open the season. Santella had a 46.8 average on four punts, marking the second-best single-game punting average of his career behind his 47.8 average against Michigan in 2009. The 46.8 average leads the Big Ten after one week.
Santella has vastly improved in each of his four seasons. He's gone from averaging 37.7 yards per punt in 2007 to 39.7 in 2008, 41.3 in 2009 and now 46.8 so far this season. He currently ranks fifth in the Illinois record books in career punting average, and eighth in both career punts and yardage.
The Illini special teams returned a fairly intact group from a year ago. Back this season are four-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, who saw his first action in the season opener against Missouri.
MISCELLANEOUS TEAM NOTES
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.
BIG TEN ICONS LIST HAS ILLINI FLAVOR
"Big Ten Icons" is a series that counts down the top 50 athletes in Big Ten history. The Big Ten Network is releasing the first 30 names online at www.BigTenIcons.com over the next few weeks, before the series shifts to television starting Sept. 18. The Top 20 will get featured with a show on the Big Ten Network, hosted by Keith Jackson, every Tuesday at 9 pm ET/8 pm CT.
Former Illini on the Big Ten Icons List (through 9/6/10)
No. 44 George Halas, football
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
FOLLOW THE ILLINI ON FACEBOOK AND TWITTER
Get up-to-the-minute info on Fighting Illini football on Twitter and Facebook. 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.
FIGHTING ILLINI INSIDER DEBUTS SEPT. 7
Fighting Illini Insider, a 30-minute weekly television show produced by the University of Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics (DIA) premiers on Tuesday, September 7, on a new Central Illinois home. Fans in Champaign-Urbana, Springfield and Decatur will be able to watch the show at 6:30 p.m. on the Central Illinois CW Network and then at 11:00 p.m. on Fox 55/27. Fans nationwide can catch the show this fall on the Big Ten Network on Thursdays at 4 p.m. central time.
The format of the show will allow programming to briefly highlight all 19 varsity sports while focusing primarily on football in the fall and men's and women's basketball in the winter. The show will run weekly into May and will feature the spring sports later in the year. The weekly Fighting Illini Insider will maintain a consistent name throughout the year and will replace the previously named Ron Zook Show, Bruce Weber Show and Jolette Law Show.
Fighting Illini Insider Air Times
Tuesdays 6:30 p.m. Central Illinois CW 23.1 (Champaign-Urbana, Springfield, Decatur) 11:00 p.m. Fox 55/27 (Champaign-Urbana, Springfield, Decatur) Thursdays 4:00 p.m. CT Big Ten Network (Nationwide) Wednesday, Thursday, Friday (Replay - Central Illinois) 8:30 a.m. THIS TV Illinois 23.2 / Comcast - 232 / Mediacom - 115