Game 2: Illinois State (0-1) at Illinois (0-1)

LB Ian Thomas recorded a career-high 13 tackles last Saturday against Missouri.
LB Ian Thomas recorded a career-high 13 tackles last Saturday against Missouri.

Sept. 8, 2009

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  • Illinois is 81-33-5 all-time in home openers and has won its last 11, including last year's 47-21 win over Eastern Illinois in the Memorial Stadium Renaissance game.
  • Illinois has three players from the Bloomington-Normal area as junior DE Josh Brent, senior TE Michael Hoomanawanui and freshman QB Adam Rebholz all went to Bloomington Central Catholic. ISU, meanwhile, has two players from the Champaign-Urbana area, senior S Antonio Adams (Urbana HS) and junior K Steven Fetzer (Mahomet-Seymour HS).
  • Four Illini true freshmen saw the field in the opener: Michael Buchanan, Justin Green, Terry Hawthorne and Joelil Thrash. In addition, two transfers, Jared Fayson and Aaron Gress, and seven redshirt-freshmen, Graham Pocic, Glenn Foster, Evan Frierson, Whitney Mercilus, Nate Palmer, Jack Ramsey and Ashante Williams, all saw the field for the first time in their UI careers last week against Missouri.
  • Illinois is 10-0 all-time against the other public universities in the state. The Illini are 3-0 againt Northern Illinois, 2-0 against Illinois State, Eastern Illinois and Southern Illinois and 1-0 against Western Illinois. All but one of those 10 meetings have come since 1985 (Illinois played ISU in 1944).


  • Despite only 55 miles separating the two schools, Saturday's meeting will be only the third between Illinois and Illinois State.
  • The Fighting Illini lead the series 2-0, winning 49-22 in 2003 and 79-6 in 1944, when ISU was called Illinois-Normal.
  • The 1944 game was a breakout one for freshman running back Buddy Young who scored two touchdowns, one off an 82-yard punt return and the other on a 22-yard lateral fumble recovery. The Illini racked up 723 yards of total offense in that game, while holding the Redbirds to a mere 52. Illinois led 40-0 at the half and was rumored to have played every player that suited up in an Illini uniform.
  • The 2003 game saw Jon Beutjer complete 16-of-23 passes for 207 yards and four touchdows as the Illini built up a 31-3 halftime lead and cruised to victory. Running backs Morris Virgil (nine carries for 8
  • yards), Pierre Thomas (nine carries fo 78 yards) and E.B. Halsey (20 carries for 73 yards) helped the Orange and Blue dominate on the ground and Travis Williams returned a blocked field goal 66 yards for a TD right before halftime to break the game open. ISU's Dwayne Smith set Memorial Stadium records with 14 catches and 243 receiving yards.


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 220 yards of total offense to set the Illinois career mark (holds the season record)
  • Needs 2,142 passing yards to become the school's all-time passer
  • Needs five starts for the most career starts as a quarterback
  • Needs 635 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.


  • Junior receiver Arrelious Benn needs 1,947 all-purpose yards to break the school's all-time record and 1,653 receiving yards would make him Illinois' all-time leading receiver.
  • Benn has caught a pass in every game of his college career, 26 consecutive. That number is among the best in the nation, ranking tied for seventh-longest streak among active players.
    1. Bryan Anderson (Central Michigan) - 41
    2. Naaman Roosevelt (Buffalo) - 39
    3. Duke Calhoun (Memphis) - 38
    4. Brandon LaFell (LSU) - 29
    5. Antonio Brown (Central Michigan) - 28
    6. Toren Dixon (Rice) - 27
      Eric Decker (Minnesota) - 27
    7. Arrelious Benn (Illinois) - 26
      Delashaun Dean (Arizona) - 26
      Scotty McKnight (Colorado) - 26
  • 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.


  • The Illinois defense racked up 10 tackles for loss in the season-opener against Mizzou, which ranks second in the Big Ten and ninth in the nation after the first week of play.
  • Linebacker Ian Thomas recorded a game and career-high 13 tackles against Missouri, which also ranks second in the Big Ten and is tied for ninth in the nation after Saturday's action.
  • A.J. Jenkins and Troy Pollard both rank in the top-35 in the nation in kickoff returns after Saturday. Jenkins averaged 25.0 yards on two returns and Pollard 24.0 yards on five returns.

RB Daniel Dufrene is expected to play Saturday against Illinois State after missing the season opener due to an ankle injury.


Several key Fighting Illini missed most or all of Saturday's opener against Missouri. Starting running back Daniel Dufrene did not play due to a sprained ankle and both wide receiver Arrelious Benn and running back Jason Ford left the game early in the first quarter with ankle injures and did not return. All three could play this Saturday against Illinois State.


  • 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.


This season, the Big Ten's career rushing leader is not a running back. With 2,077 yards rushing in his three-plus 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 - 2,077
  2. Evan Royster, RB, Jr., Penn State - 1,810
  3. Brandon Minor, RB, Sr., Michigan - 1,156
  4. Daniel Dufrene, RB, Sr., Illinois - 957
  5. John Clay, RB, So., Wisconsin - 927


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)


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.


  • Juice Williams moved up two places on the Illinois all-time rushing list with his 27 yards on the ground against Missouri. He now has 2,077 career rushing yards, which ranks 12th in Illinois history.
  • Williams compiled 206 yards of total offense in the 2009 opener, which puts him second on the Illinois career list in the category, passing Jack Trudeau's 8,640. He now has 8,661 total yards, just 219 shy of Kurt Kittner's school record.
  • Illinois spread the ball around against Missouri, with eight players recording a rush and 12 different players catching a pass.
  • Troy Pollard had a game-high and career-high 162 all-purpose yards against Missouri, 120 of which came on his five kick returns. He also recorded the longest return of his career (32 yards).
  • Jarred Fayson made his Illinois debut on Saturday, leading the team with four catches for 50 yards.
  • In the previous two seasons, the Illinois offense has averaged over 425 yards of total offense.
  • In the previous 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 returned 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.

DB Tavon Wilson's seven tackles last week against Missouri were a career high.


  • First-year starters Ian Thomas and Tavon Wilson both posted career-high tackles against Missouri with 13 for Thomas and seven for Wilson. Thomas' 13 tackles and seven solo tackles were both game highs. Safety Garrett Edwards also had a career-best seven stops against the Tigers.
  • Illlinois recorded 10 tackles for loss and two sacks against the Tigers. Travon Bellamy led the way with 2.0 TFL, including his first career sack. Hendricks Award candidate Doug Pilcher also had a sack for the Illini.
  • 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.


  • Sophomore Matt Eller made his 16th career field goal with his 24-yarder in the first half against Missouri. He is a perfect 7-for-7 for his career in field goals under 30 yards. His 16 field goals are just two shy of breaking into the Illinois career top-10 after only one-plus seasons.
  • Eller returns for his sophomore season after a stellar debut campaign. 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. Jenkins has continued where he left off averaging 25 yards on two returns, while running back Troy Pollard filled in for Benn vs. Missouri and posted 24 yards a return on five attempts.


Of Illinois' 15 seniors, only three are back for their fifth seasons. Center Eric Block began the season 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 returns this fall with a chance to lead the defensive line.


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.


Get up-to-the-minute info on Fighting Illini football on Twitter (@IlliniFootball) 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.

Senior TE
Michael Hoomanawanui


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.


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.


  • 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 11th (as of 9/1) and volleyball is 8th (as of 8/31).
  • 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.


  • Last year's home operer on Sept. 6 against EIU was the Illinois Renaissance Celebration, marking the re-opening of historic Memorial Stadium after a two-year, $121 million renovation.
  • The renovation included luxury seating on the west side and a new north end zone seating structure. In all, renovations and refurbishments were completed in the Great West Hall, West Main Stands, West Balcony, Press Box, East Hall, North End Zone Seating, and football offices and performance complex.
  • As part of the Renaissance Celebration, Illinois honored the 10 greatest players in school history from each position during the game. Nearly 50 former Illini greats were on hand for the celebration, including legends Dick Butkus, J.C. Caroline, Dave Diehl, Jeff George, Jim Grabowski, Howard Griffith, Kevin Hardy, Kurt Kittner, Jack Trudeau and David Williams.
  • Illinois wore Dick Butkus-era throwback uniforms for the game, honoring the greatest linebacker in football history.