Sept. 10, 2012
The Fighting Illini (1-1) return to the friendly confines of Memorial Stadium to host Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) foe Charleston Southern (0-2) on Saturday (11 am CT, BTN). Illinois is looking to rebound from a humbling 45-14 loss at Arizona State last weekend.
Illinois is 11-0 all-time against FCS teams (formerly I-AA), with an average margin of victory of 29 points per game. All but one of those wins have been by at least 21 points, including last year's 56-3 drubbing of South Dakota State. See page 2 for a full list of Illinois FCS results.
The Illini running game got back on track at Arizona State, as the Illini ran for 231 yards on 50 carries (4.6 ypc against the Sun Devils. The ground attack was led by redshirt freshman RB Josh Ferguson, who had his first career 100-yard game with 101 yards on 14 carries (7.2 ypc).
Illinois controlled time of possession in both games this season, owning a margin of more than 11 minutes against both Western Michigan (35:02 - 24:58) and Arizona State (35:15 - 24:44). The Illini are ranked sixth nationally and second in the Big Ten (Michigan State) in time of possession after week two (35:09).
First-year Illinois head coach Tim Beckman got a win in his Illini debut on Sept. 1, 24-7 over Western Michigan. It was the Illini's 15th-straight win in a home-opener dating back to 1997.
As expected, junior LB Jonathan Brown has been a force to start the season, leading the team with 15 tackles, 3.0 TFLs and one sack through the first two games. He's coming off a breakout 2011 season, leading Illinois in tackles with 108, leading the Big Ten in tackles for loss (14.5) and ranking sixth nationally in TFLs per game (1.63). Brown was named to was named to five national award watch lists heading into 2012 (Bednarik, Butkus, Lombardi, Lott, Nagurski).
Twelve Illini, including five true-freshmen, have made their collegiate debuts this season. True-freshmen Dami Ayoola, V'Angelo Bentley, Justin Hardee, Mason Monheim and Mike Svetina all have made their Illinois debuts already in 2012. In addition, fifth-year transfer Tommy Davis, redshirt-freshmen Darrius Caldwell, Kenny Knight, Kenny Nelson, Eaton Spence, Taylor Zalewski and sophomore Nick Immekus all have seen the field for the first time this season.
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 next week at Arizona State, sophomore QB Reilly O'Toole made the first start of his career with regular starter Nathan Scheelhaase out with an injury.
Illinois ranks third in the Big Ten and 18th nationally in fewest yards penalized per game (30.5). In 2011, the Illini ranked 27th in fewest penalty yards per game (42.2).
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.
Tim Beckman was hired in December 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.
CHARLESTON SOUTHERN SERIES NOTES
Illinois and Charleston Southern are meeting for the first time on Saturday. In fact, the game will mark the first time the Fighting Illini have squared off against a Big South Conference foe. CSU, which had the most victories in the Big South from 2005-09, is in the midst of a 14-game losing streak.
Despite the lack of familiarity with the conference as a whole, there are two ties between Illinois and the CSU coaching staff. Defensive line coach Byron "Bam" Hardmon served as the Illini's defensive graduate assistant from 2009-11, helping Keith Gilmore with the defensive line in 2009 and Ron West with the outside linebackers in 2010 and 2011. In addition, CSU running backs/special teams coach Matthew Smiley is an Illinois graduate, having walked on the Fighting Illini team before transitioning into a student assistant coach role late in his time at Illinois, where he assisted former Illini assistant coach Greg McMahon with the specialists.
| Illinois All-Time Against FCS/I-AA Teams (11-0)
||Southern Illinois||W, 28-25
||Southern Illinois||W, 56-21
||Middle Tennessee||W, 48-20
||Illinois State||W, 49-22
||Florida A&M||W, 52-13
||Eastern Illinois||W, 42-17
||Western Illinois||W, 21-0
||Eastern Illinois||W, 47-21
||Illinois State||W, 45-17
||Southern Illinois||W, 35-3
||South Dakota State||W, 56-3
For complete Illinois-Charleston Southern game notes, click HERE.