Game 3: Illinois (1-1, 0-0) at Ohio State (2-1, 0-0)

RB Daniel Dufrene and his teammates look forward to opening the 2009 Big Ten season in Columbus, Ohio Saturday.
RB Daniel Dufrene and his teammates look forward to opening the 2009 Big Ten season in Columbus, Ohio Saturday.

Sept. 22, 2009

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  • Illinois quarterback Juice Williams can break the Illinois career total offense record with 171 yards against the Buckeyes. In doing so, he would also crack the top-10 on the Big Ten's career total offensive yardage list.
  • The Illini offense ranks second in the Big Ten and 13th in the nation in rushing yards per game (247.0) and ranks third in the conference in total offense (436.5).
  • Illinois rushed for 384 yards against Illinois State, the sixth-highest single game total in the NCAA through the first three weeks of the season. It was also Illinois' first 300-yard rushing performance since racking up 399 yards on the ground vs. Eastern Illinois on Sept. 6, 2008.
  • With 61 rushing yards against Illinois State, senior running back Daniel Dufrene went over 1,000 yards for his career. He is the 35th player in Illinois history to reach the 1,000-yard milestone.
  • Four Illini true freshmen have made their debuts so far this season. Michael Buchanan, Justin Green, Terry Hawthorne and Joelil Thrash all played against both Missouri and Illinois State. In addition, two transfers, Jarred 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 in the opener against Missouri.
  • The win over Illinois State on Sept. 12 was Illinois' 12th straight home-opening win. Illinois is now 82-33-5 all-time in home openers.
  • The victory over Illinois State improved Illinois to 11-0 all-time against the other public universities in the state. The Illini are 3-0 against ISU and Northern Illinois, 2-0 against Eastern Illinois and Southern Illinois and 1-0 against Western Illinois. All but one of those 11 meetings have come since 1985 (Illinois played ISU in 1944).
  • Attendance for the Sept. 12 home-opener was 62,347, the best home-opening crowd since 1995 vs. Michigan. Illinois' next home game, Penn State on Oct. 3, is already sold out as is the Michigan State game on Oct. 10.
  • On September 26th, Coach Zook and other AFCA members will wear a "Coach to Cure MD" logo patch on the sidelines and college football fans will be asked to donate to research projects supported by Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy, the largest nonprofit organization in the U.S. focused entirely on Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

OL Ryan Palmer is one of 14 Fighting Illini players that hail from the state of Ohio.


  • The Sept. 26 game between Illinois and Ohio State will mark the 96th meeting between the two teams, dating back to 1902. OSU holds the series lead, 61-30-4, and also leads in Columbus, 26-18-4.
  • Illinois has won three the last four meetings against the Buckeyes in Columbus and have won seven of the last 10 meetings at the Horseshoe dating back to 1988.
  • The last time the two teams met in Columbus on Nov. 10, 2007, Illinois handed the top-ranked Buckeyes their first loss of the season, 28-21. It was Illinois' first win over a No. 1 team since 1956 and helped propel the Fighting Illini to the 2008 Rose Bowl game.
  • Despite OSU dominating the overall series history, it has been especially competitive lately, with the Buckeyes holding a slight 10-9 edge in the last 19 meetings. The last eight match-ups have been particularly competitive, with the Illini winning three times in Columbus (1999, 2001 and 2007) and dropping four close games during that span (30-20 to No. 10 OSU in 2008, 17-10 to No. 1 OSU in 2006, 23-16 in overtime to No. 2 OSU in 2002, and 24-21 to No. 13 OSU in 2000).
  • This will be Ron Zook's fifth head-to-head meeting with Ohio State. He lost his first two games to OSU, 40-2 in 2005 and 17-10 in 2006 before the victory in Columbus in 2007 and the 30-20 loss in Champaign last season. Buckeye coach Jim Tressel is 4-2 vs. the Illini.
  • Zook was the defensive backs coach on the Ohio State coaching staff from 1988-90 under John Cooper. The Illini were 3-0 vs. Ohio State during that time, including two wins in Columbus.
  • Zook is a native of Loudonville, Ohio, and is a 1976 graduate of Miami of Ohio. He was a three-year letter winning defensive back from 1973-75 and a captain of the 1975 team. During his time, Miami was 32-1-1.
  • The Illini have faced a ranked Ohio State team on 36 occasions in the series history and are 11-25 vs. the Buckeyes in those contests (dating back to 1942 when rankings were recorded in Illinois archives).
  • Illinois has 14 players on its roster from the state of Ohio, including the following players who have seen time on the field in 2009: sophomore defensive tackle Daryle Ballew (Cincinnati/Withrow), senior wide receiver Jeff Cumberland (Columbus/Brookhaven), senior defensive end Antonio James (Massillon/Washington), redshirt freshman defensive end Whitney Mercilus (Akron/Garfield), junior offensive lineman Ryan Palmer (Canton/Glen Oak), sophomore wide receiver Cordale Scott (Cleveland/Glenville), redshirt freshman defensive back Ashante Williams (Mayfield) and senior defensive tackle Sirod Williams (Garfield Heights.


  • This week, Illinois and Ohio State will play for the coveted Illibuck Trophy. Ohio State leads the "Illibuck" series with a 57-23-2 mark.
  • "Illibuck" is--or was--a turtle, destined for long life, it was hoped. But the wear and tear of traveling between Champaign-Urbana and Columbus was too much, even for a hardy marine reptile. "Illibuck" died in the spring of 1927 and his successor is now a wooden replica. Members of two junior honorary societies, Bucket and Dipper of Ohio State and Sachem of Illinois, annually meet at halftime of the Fighting Illini-Buckeye game to present the "Illibuck" trophy to last year's winning school. In the past, the ritual also included the smoking of a peace pipe.
  • Ohio State took back the "Illibuck" with a 30-20 victory over Illinois last season in Champaign after the Illini took it the year before with a 28-21 win in Columbus.


  • In last year's 30-20 loss Illinois outgained the 10th-ranked Buckeyes by over 100 yards (455-354) and held OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor to just 49 yards passing.
  • Illinois has rushed for over 200 yards in each of the last two meeting with OSU, turning out 260 yards on the ground in 2007 and 214 in 2008.
  • In 2007 Illinois beat No. 1 Ohio State, 28-21, in Columbus, marking the first time the Fighting Illini beat a top-ranked team since 1956. The victory ended OSU's 29-game regular season winning streak and 21-game Big Ten winning streak.
  • In the last two years combined, Juice Williams has thrown for six touchdown passes and just one interception against the Buckeyes, while rushing for 118 yards on 25 carries. In Illinois' 2007 victory, Williams kept the final drive alive with a big first down conversion on fourth-and-one with just over six minutes remaining. He would go on to covert three more third downs with his feet to help the Illini run out the clock and pull off the upset.
  • Daniel Dufrene has had big games in his two meetings with Ohio State. The senior running back ran for 106 yards on just eight carries in 2007, including an 80-yard scamper on Illinois' second play of the game, and had 79 yards on eight carries last season. He is averaging 11.6 yards per carry in his career vs. the Buckeyes and has also added five receptions for 42 yards.
  • Senior wide receivers Jeff Cumberland and Chris Duvalt each caught touchdown passes from Juice Williams in last year's game against the Buckeyes.
  • In 2007, senior tight end Michael Hoomanawanui caught a three-yard touchdown pass from Juice Williams in the first quarter for Illinois' first score of the game.
  • Senior defensive back Dere Hicks intercepted a Todd Boeckman pass in the first quarter to set up Illinois' second touchdown in the 2007 victory.


  • The Fighting Illini will be coming off a bye weekend before traveling to Ohio State for the Sept. 26 game. It is the first of two byes for Illinois this season marking just the second time in school history that the team has had more than one open week in a season. The only other time was in 1989, when the Illini were off the week before facing Colorado on Sept. 16 and then before playing Ohio State on Oct. 7.
  • Illinois has played 23 games after a bye weekend in the modern era and is 11-12 in those contests. The Illini have faced Ohio State six times after an off weekend, going 4-2. Those games came in six consecutive years from 1985-90, with the most recent being a 31-20 Illinois win in Columbus Oct. 6, 1990.


  • Illinois will face its first top-25 opponent of the season when it heads to Columbus to face No. 13/11 Ohio State on Sept. 26. In addition, three of the Illini's future opponents are in this week's AP top-25: No. 5/4 Penn State, No. 14/15 Cincinnati and No. 23/22 Michigan.
  • The Illini are 3-6 vs. top-25 opponents over the past three seasons and are 2-3 against top-10 foes (wins over No. 5 Wisconsin and No. 1 Ohio State and a loss to No. 7 USC in 2007, and losses to No. 6 Missouri and No. 10 Ohio State in 2008). In the Ron Zook era, the Illini are 3-13 against ranked teams.
  • In his eight-plus years as a head coach, Ron Zook has posted nine wins over ranked opponents.


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 171 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 four starts for the most career starts as a quarterback
  • Needs 586 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 game.


  • Junior receiver Arrelious Benn needs 1,947 all-purpose yards to break the school's all-time record. He currently ranks seventh on the UI career receiving yards list with 1,740 and eighth on the career receptions list with 122. Hall of Famer David Williams tops both lists by a wide margin, but Benn needs just 843 yards and 48 catches to jump all the way up to second on both lists.
  • Benn did not catch a pass against Illinois State on Sept. 12, marking the first time in his career he didn't have at least one reception in a game, a string of 26 games. Before being snapped, that stood as the seventh-longest active streak in the nation.
  • 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 has racked up 16 tackles for loss in the opening two games, which ranks Illinois second in the Big Ten and 14th in the nation at 8.0 TFL per game.
  • Offensively, Illinois ranks 13th in the nation in rushing yards per game (247.0) and 30th in the nation on total offense (436.5) after the first two weeks of the season.


  • Juice Williams drove Illinois 50-yards on two plays in the first series against Illinois State before leaving the game with a strained right quad. He did not return to action but is expected to be back for the Ohio State game. Williams was injured on a 49-yard run on Illinois' first offensive play and then stayed in to hand off to Jason Ford for a TD on the next play before leaving the game.
  • Three key Fighting Illini who missed most or all of the action in the season opener against Missouri returned to the field against Illinois State. Running backs Daniel Dufrene, who did not play against Mizzou with a sprained ankle, and Jason Ford, who left the game early in the first quarter, both had big games against ISU in their returns. Dufrene ran for 61 yards and a TD on five carries, while Ford had 137 yards and a TD on 10 carries. Wide receiver Arrelious Benn, who missed most of the opener with his own akle injury, also returned to action last week showing no ill effects from the injury.
  • Linebacker Martez Wilson played in the season opener against Missouri, but will miss the remainder of the 2009 season with a herniated disc neck injury.


  • Illinois' 2009 schedule has been rated as the toughest in the Big Ten and the 10th-toughest in the nation by The Sporting News. Five of Illinois' opponents are ranked in the top 25 and one more is receiving votes.
  • In the preseason, the Sagarin ratings ranked Illinois' schedule the 12th-toughest nationally and after two weeks, Illinois' opponents' record is 24-12.
  • 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.
  • After opening against 2008 Big 12 North champion and currently 21st-ranked Missouri, the Illini faced Illinois State on Sept. 12 before starting the Big Ten season at #13/11 Ohio State and then hosting #5/4 Penn State and Michigan State, the top three teams in the preseason Big Ten Coaches poll, in consecutive weeks. Illinois then faces an undefeated 22nd-ranked Michigan squad on Halloween. The Orange and Blue close the regular season with a pair of tough non-conference games at 2008 Big East champion and No. 14/15 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 2,126 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 fifth with 1,018.

  1. Juice Williams, QB, Sr., Illinois - 2,126
  2. Evan Royster, RB, Jr., Penn State - 1,985
  3. Brandon Minor, RB, Sr., Michigan - 1,283
  4. John Clay, RB, So., Wisconsin - 1,140
  5. Daniel Dufrene, RB, Sr., Illinois - 1,018
  6. Demetrius McCray, Sr., Indiana - 900
  7. Adam Weber, Sr., Minnesota - 823


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:


  • The Illinois offense rolled up 548 total yards against Illinois State on Sept. 12, including 384 on the ground on 46 carries (8.3 ypc).
  • Sophomore Jason Ford rushed for 137 yards against ISU, posting the second 100-yard game of his career. He also scored his ninth career touchdown with a one-yard run in the first quarter. Ford had a 68-yard run in the fourth quarter, which is the Illini's longest play of the season. For his performance, Ford was named an honorable mention College Football Performer of the Week by CFPA.
  • With starter Juice Williams missing most the game due to injury, back-up quarterback Eddie McGee stepped-up to have a solid game against ISU. McGee completed 13-of-17 passes for 164 yards and a touchdown and also ran for 55 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Illini to victory.
  • Williams' 49 rushing yards before leaving the game due to injury were enough to move him up to 11th on the Illinois all-time rushing list with 2,126 career yards, surpassing Chubby Phillip's 2,103 yards He also moved to fourth on the Big Ten list for career rushing by a quarterback, passing Ohio State's Cornelius Greene's 2,080 yards.
  • Williams' 49 yards of total offense against ISU brings his career total to 8,710, which keeps him second on the Illinois career list in the category, just 170 shy of Kurt Kittner's school record.
  • True freshman Justin Green rushed for 56 yards on seven carries (8.0 ypc) against ISU and scored his first career touchdown with 22-yard scamper in the fourth quarter.
  • 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.

The Illini need Russell Ellington (33), Evan Frierson and others to step up in the absence junior linebacker Martez Wilson, who last week was declared out for the season due to a neck injury.


  • The Illinois defense forced three turnovers against Illinois State, including two interceptions. In the second quarter defensive tackle Corey Liuget batted a pass up in the air and defensive end Doug Pilcher snared it and returned it 41 yards to set up a TD. Then in the fourth quarter linebacker Russell Ellington picked-off a pass and returned it 78 yards to end an ISU scoring threat.
  • Ellington's return marked the longest non-scoring interception return in school history. He also notched a career-high eight tackles and two passes broken up.
  • The Illini defense held Illinois State to just 44 yards rushing, the first opponent to rush for less than 50 yards against the Illini since Penn State had 40 yards on Oct. 21, 2006.
  • The Illini defense also pitched a first-half shutout against the Redbirds, marking the first scoreless half by a UI opponent since Syracuse (first half) on Sept. 15, 2007.
  • Illinois has recorded 16 tackles for loss and four sacks through the first two games. The Illini rank 14th in the NCAA and second in the Big Ten in tackles for loss with their 8.0 per game average.
  • 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 kicked the 17th field goal of his career with his 38-yarder against Illinois State in the second quarter. That moved him into the Illinois all-time list at 10th.
  • Eller is back for his sophomore season after a stellar debut campaign. His 15 made field goals in 2008 ranked fifth in a season in the Illinois record book and broke the school freshman record. He led the team in scoring and his 84 points were seventh-most in a season in school history.
  • In the first two games of 2009 Illinois has had several different players line-up deep for kickoff returns, including receivers Arrelious Benn and A.J. Jenkins and running backs Troy Pollard and Justin Green. On punt returns, both receivers Jarred Fayson and Jack Ramsey have lined-up as return men. Last year, Benn and Jenkins were Illinois' return men for kickoffs and punts. Jenkins averaged 22.3 yards per kickoff return and Benn averaged 7.6 per punt return.


  • 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.
  • 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 to set the 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.


Of Illinois' 15 seniors, only three are back for their fifth seasons. Center Eric Block has 27 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 returned this fall 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.


  • 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.


  • 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 - NCAA Second Round
    • Men's Oudoor Track & Field - 37th
    • Men's Basketball - NCAA First Round
    • Men's Indoor Track & Field - 47th
    • Softball - NCAA First 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.