Sept. 18, 2012
The Fighting Illini (2-1) wrap up their non-conference slate when 2011 WAC champion Louisiana Tech (2-0) comes to Memorial Stadium for a Saturday primetime game (7 p.m. CT, BTN). Illinois is coming off a 44-0 shellacking of Charleston Southern last Saturday.
Illinois is 14-7 all-time in night games at Memorial Stadium and is on a four-game winning streak in home games that begin after 6 p.m. The most recent home game under the lights was last season's 17-14 win over No. 22 Arizona State on Sept. 17. See page 2 for a full list of night games at Memorial Stadium.
The 44-0 win over Charleston Southern was the first shutout by an Illinois team since beating Western Illinois 21-0 on Sept. 8, 2007. It also marked the Illini's largest margin of victory in a shutout since beating Wisconsin 51-0 on Nov. 13, 1965.
Illinois did not let CSU convert a third down in 13 attempts on Saturday. On the season, the Illini defense is holding opponents to a 24.3 percent conversion rate (9-for-37) on third downs, which is tops in the Big Ten and 10th-best in the nation.
Illinois also is one of only 15 teams in the nation that has not allowed a fourth-down conversion (0-1).
The Illini rank in the top-25 nationally in both total defense (25th, 298.0 ypg) and rushing defense (94.0 ypg). Illinois also ranks 20th in net punting (40.3 ypk).
Sophomore QB Reilly O'Toole had a record-breaking day while making his second-straight start in place of an injured Nathan Scheelhaase. Against CSU, O'Toole completed 26-of-31 passes (.839) to set the Illini single-game completion percentage record. The old record was .800 by Scheelhaase against Purdue in 2010.
O'Toole also passed for five touchdowns against CSU, becoming just the fifth Illini to toss at least five TDs in a game and the first since Juice Williams against Missouri on Aug. 30, 2008. O'Toole had a career-high 333 passing yards as well, shattering his previous career high of 63 yards last season at Minnesota.
After his big game on Saturday, O'Toole leads the Big ten and ranks eighth nationally in passing efficiency (181.03). His single-game passing efficiency ratioing of 220.9 against Charleston Southern is the ninth-best in school history.
Junior WR Ryan Lankford also had a career game against CSU, hauling in seven catches for 97 yards and two touchdowns. For the season, Lankford leads the Illini with 11 receptions for 192 yards and three TDs.
As expected, junior LB Jonathan Brown has been a force to start the season, leading the team with 20 tackles, 3.5 TFLs and one sack through the first three 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).
STREET FEST EVENTS FOR SATURDAY'S GAMES
Lots of free, family-friendly activities are lined up for Saturday's primetime game against Louisiana Tech. Atlantic Records country music recording artist and Paris, Ill., native Brett Eldredge will perform live at Illini Street Fest prior to the game.
Street Fest will begin three hours before kickoff at 4 p.m., fans will be able to cheer on the Illini as they walk down First Street into Memorial Stadium during the Illini walk at 4:40 p.m., and then Brett Eldredge will take the stage at 5 p.m.
After the game, the there will be a postgame fireworks show inside Memorial Stadium.
ILLINI AT HOME UNDER THE LIGHTS
A complete list of all Illini home night games (start after 6 p.m.):
Date Opponent Time Result
9/4/82 Northwestern 6 pm W, 49-13
9/17/83 Stanford 6 pm W, 17-7
9/1/84 Northwestern 6 pm W, 24-16
9/22/84 Michigan State 7 pm W, 40-7
9/14/85 Southern Illinois 6 pm W, 28-25
9/6/86 Louisville 6 pm W, 23-0
9/20/86 #6 Nebraska 6 pm L, 14-59
9/12/87 #15 Arizona State 6 pm L, 7-21
9/5/92 Northern Illinois 6 pm W, 30-14
9/6/97 Southern Mississippi 6 pm L, 7-24
9/12/98 Middle Tennessee State 6 pm W, 48-20
9/23/00 #10 Michigan 6:30pm L, 31-35
10/22/05 #12 Penn State 6 pm L, 10-63
9/2/06 Eastern Illinois 6 pm W, 42-17
10/14/06 Ohio 6 pm L, 17-20
9/8/07 Western Illinois 6 pm W, 21-0
10/20/07 #25 Michigan 7 pm L, 17-27
10/18/08 Indiana 6:30pm W, 55-13
9/12/09 Illinois State 6 pm W, 45-17
9/11/10 Southern Illinois 7 pm W, 35-3
9/17/11 #22 Arizona State 6 pm W, 17-14
LOUISIANA TECH SERIES NOTES
Illinois and Louisiana Tech are meeting for the first time on Saturday. The game will mark only the second time the Fighting Illini have squared off against a current Western Athletic Conference team, as Illinois also played pair of games against San Jose State in 2002 and 2005. Louisiana Tech is in the midst of a nine-game regular-season winning streak after winning its final seven games of 2011 and starting 2012 2-0 (their season-opener against Texas A&M was postponed to Oct. 13 because of Hurricane Isaac). The Bulldogs did falter in the 2011 Poinsettia Bowl, dropping a 31-24 decision to TCU.
The game is only the third matchup between the Illini and a team from the state of Louisiana as Illinois beat Louisiana-Lafayette, 20-17 in 2008, and lost a 47-34 shootout to LSU in the 2002 Sugar Bowl. Illinois has two players who hail from Louisiana, with sophomore linebacker Houston Bates calling Covington, La., home and sophomore offensive lineman Alex Hill residing in Slidell, La.
Louisiana Tech enters the weekend with one of the most prolific offenses in the nation, ranking in the top-10 nationally in scoring offense (3rd, 56.0 ppg), total offense (5th, 603.5 ypg) and rushing offense (9th, 289.0 ypg).
On the flipside, the Bulldogs ranks 120th in the nation (out of 120) in total defense (585.0 ypg) and pass defense (392.5 ypg), 119th in punt returns (-3.0 ypr) and 118th in scoring defense (43.0 ppg).
ILLINI EXCEL IN THE CLASSROOM
One area that head coach Tim Beckman has stressed since his arrival has been academics and Illinois is already starting to show results. The Illini posted a 3.09 team GPA during the 2012 summer session, 19 players had a perfect 4.0 GPA and 54 of 91 (59 percent) players enrolled in summer classes had a 3.0 GPA or higher. Below are more notes on Illinois' recent academic success:
QB Nathan Scheelhaase and DT Akeem Spence, both redshirt-juniors athletically, are on pace to complete their bachelor's degrees in December 2012, a span of only three-and-a-half years on campus.
Ten current Illini seniors have already completed their bachelor's degrees, with five pursuing a master's and five pursuing a second bachelor's degree. Tommy Davis, James Hallendorff, Corey Lewis, Tyler Sands and Zak Pedersen are currently in graduate school, while Glenn Foster, Graham Pocic, Supo Sanni, Justin Staples and Ashante Williams are working toward a second bachelor's degree.
Seniors Zach Becker, Jack Ramsey and Eddie Viliunas are on track to finish their bachelor's degrees in December 2012.
Sophomore linebacker Houston Bates and senior offensive lineman Tyler Sands both have posted consecutive semesters with perfect 4.0 GPAs (Spring 2012, Summer 2012).
Four freshmen entered Illinois with impressive academic credentials, with DB V'Angelo Bentley, WR Justin Hardee and LB Mason Monheim all transferring in more than 20 hours of college credit that they took in high school, giving them a leg up on a degree. Freshman LS Michael Martin also enters UI as a member of the James Scholar honors program in mechanical engineering.
Senior DB Supo Sanni participated in the NCAA Career in Sports Forum in Indianapolis during the summer, while junior DB Kaeman Mitchell served an internship with Northwestern Mutual. Sophomore LB Ralph Cooper transferred into the College of Media and will pursue a degree in broadcast journalism.