No. 22 Illinois Visits Minnesota

Kurt Kittner and the Fighting Illini visit Minnesota Saturday.
Kurt Kittner and the Fighting Illini visit Minnesota Saturday.

Sept. 24, 2000

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No. 22/24 ILLINOIS (3-1, 0-1) at Minnesota (2-2, 0-1)

Sept. 30, 2000
11:10 a.m. CT * ESPN
HHH Metrodome (63,669)
Minneapolis, Minnesota

FOR OPENERS Illinois (3-1, 0-1 Big Ten) looks to bounce back from a tough loss to 10th-ranked Michigan when the Illini travel to Minnesota for their first Big Ten road game of the season. Game time is 11:10 a.m. as the contest will be nationally televised by ESPN.

Illinois, ranked 22nd by the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll and 24th in the Associated Press Poll, is coming off a 35-31 loss to the Wolverines in front of sold-out Memorial Stadium depite a scintillating performance by UI quarterback Kurt Kittner, who completed 27-of-38 passes for 352 yards and two touchdowns. Minnesota (2-2, 0-1) is coming off a 38-24 loss to Purdue at West Lafayette.

Against the Wolverines, Illinois jumped out to a 21-7 lead in the third quarter, and led 31-21 in the fourth quarter before an Anthony Thomas three-yard TD rush with 2:30 remaining game Michigan the lead. Thomas finished the game with 228 yards and two touchdowns on 35 carries. The teams combined for 960 yards in total offense with Michigan piling up 341 rushing yards and Illinois totaling 352 passing yards. Illinois was trying to improve to 4-0 for the first time since 1951.

The Golden Gophers fell behind 24-0 as Purdue's Drew Brees threw for 409 yards and two tuchdowns and ran for 88 yards and another TD. Minnesota junior quarterback Travis Cole came of the bench to complete 17-of-27 passes for 180 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Illinois will be seeking a bit of revenge after Minnesota's 37-7 win at Champaign last season.

RON TURNER (14-24 in his fourth year at Illinois, 21-28 overall) - In his fourth year at the helm of the Fighting Illini Football program, head coach Ron Turner has Illinois geared toward one of the greatest turnarounds in college football. He enters the Sept. 30 contest against Minnesota with a 21-28 head coaching record, 14-24 at Illinois. The Illini had a seven-game winning streak snapped Saturday against Michigan and enter the Minnesota game having won eight of the last 10 stretching back to 1999.

Turner is 0-1 against Minnesota as a head coach after a 37-7 loss to the Gophers last year in Champaign.

After sub-par seasons in 1997 and `98, Turner led the Illini to an 8-4 record and a 63-21 thumping of Virginia in the Bowl. For his efforts, Turner finished fourth in the Associated Press's Coach of the Year voting. Turner came to Illinois after a four-year stint as the offensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears (1993-96). In 1992, he was the head coach for San Jose State where he turned in a 7-4 record and a second-place finish in the Big West Conference. Turner has served as an assistant at Stanford, Texas A&M, Southern California, Pittsburgh, Northwestern and Arizona working mainly with quarterbacks and receivers during his 20-plus years in college coaching.

GLENN MASON (18-21 in his fourth year at Minnesota and 77-85 in his 15th year overall) - Glenn Mason is in his fourth season at Minnesota and led the Golden Gophers to an 8-4 record in 1999 on his way to being named the Big Ten Coach of the Year. Mason spent one season in Champaign as the offensive line coach for the Illini in 1977 under Gary Moeller. Mason moved to Ohio State in 1978 where he coached until 1986 when he became head coach at Kent State through 1987. After coaching at Kansas from 1988-96, Mason made the move back to the Big Ten at Minnesota. Mason is 1-0 all-time against Illinois as a head coach after the victory in Champaign last season.

Minnesota leads the all-time series by a slim 27-25-3 margin, including a 16-10-2 series mark in Minneapolis. Since 1982 when the Gophers moved their games to the Metrodome, Illinois is 3-2-1 against Minnesota at Minneapolis.

Minnesota head coach Glen Mason served on Gary Moeller's Illinois staff as offensive line coach in 1977. Illinois was 3-8 during Mason's one season in Champaign. Illinois tight ends/special teams coach Greg McMahon was a graduate assistant on the Golden Gopher staff in 1983 and 1984 under Joe Salem in 1983 and Lou Holtz in 1984.

Illinois has played inside a dome a total of eight times, including six at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. All-time, the Illini are 4-3-1 in domes. Other Dome appearances have come at the Houston Astrodome against Houston in 1992 (L, 31-13) and at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse (W, 47-10). All-Time Dome Appearances (5-3-1)

S 18, 1982 Illinois 47, Syracuse 10, Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.
O 2, 1982 Illinois 42, Minnesota 24, Metrodome, Minneapolis
N 5, 1983 Illinois 50, Minnesota 23, Metrodome, Minneapolis
N 10, 1984 Illinois 34, Indiana 7, Hoosier Dome, Indianapolis
O 29, 1988 Illinois 27, Minnesota 27, Metrodome, Minneapolis
S 19, 1992 Houston 31, Illinois 13, Astrodome, Houston
O 3, 1992 Minnesota 18, Illinois 17, Metrodome, Minneapolis
N 5, 1994 Illinois 21, Minnesota 17, Metrodome, Minneapolis
N 16, 1996 Minnesota 23, Illinois 21, Metrodome, Minneapolis

Illinois will be making its second appearance of the season in a stadium also used by the NFL. The Illini defeated San Diego State, 49-13, at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego on Sept. 9. All-time, the Illini have made several appearances at stadiums also used for professional football that year.

O 27, 1923 Illinois 29, Northwestern 0, Cubs Park, Chicago
N 8, 1930 Army 13, Illinois 0, Yankee Stadium, New York
N 14, 1942 Ohio State 44, Illinois 20, Cleveland Stadium, Cleveland
N 18, 1944 Ohio State 26, Illinois 12, Cleveland Stadium, Cleveland
O 11, 1947 Illinois 0, Army 0, Yankee Stadium, New York
O 24, 1959 Penn State 20, Illinois 9, Cleveland Stadium, Cleveland
O 28, 1961 USC 14, Illinois 10, Coliseum, Los Angeles
S 27, 1969 Missouri 37, Illinois 6, Busch Stadium, St. Louis
S 25, 1971 USC 28, Illinois 0, Coliseum, Los Angeles
O 2, 1982 Illinois 42, Minnesota 24, Metrodome, Minneapolis
N 5, 1983 Illinois 50, Minnesota 23, Metrodome, Minneapolis
S 13, 1986 USC 31, Illinois 16, Coliseum, Los Angeles
S 10, 1988 Arizona State 21, Illinois 16, Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Ariz.
O 29, 1988 Illinois 27, Minnesota 27, Metrodome, Minneapolis
S 4, 1989 Illinois 14, USC 13, Coliseum, Los Angeles
J 1, 1991 Clemson 30, Illinois 0, Tampa Stadium, Tampa
S 19, 1992 Houston 31, Illinois 13, Astrodome, Houston
O 3, 1992 Minnesota 18, Illinois 17, Metrodome, Minneapolis
D 30, 1992 Hawaii 27, Illinois 17, Jack Murphy Stadium, San Diego
S 1, 1994 Washington State 10, Illinois 9, Soldier Field, Chicago
N 5, 1994 Illinois 21, Minnesota 17, Metrodome, Minneapolis
N 16, 1996 Minnesota 23, Illinois 21, Metrodome, Minneapolis
D 30, 1999 Illinois 63, Virginia 21, Pro Player Stadium, Miami
S 9, 2000 Illinois 49, San Diego St. 13, Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego

Illinois' seven-game winning that was snapped Saturday against Michigan streak ranks among the best in school history. Here's a look at the longest winning streaks in Fighting Illini football history.

131909-11 (4-1909, 7-1910, 2-1911)
1923-24 (8-1923, 5-1924)
91927-28 (5-1927, 4-1928)
1919-20 (4-1919, 5-1920)
1914-15 (7-1914, 2-1915)
81946-47 (6-1946, 2-1947)
1925-26 (4-1925, 3-1926)
1999-2000 (4-1999, 3-2000)

Illinois set a school record in 1999 by scoring an average of 32.3 points per game. After four games in 2000, Illinois has upped that to an average of 33.0 points per game. Scoring so far has been balanced with nine rushing TDs and nine passing.

Illinois has scored at least 30 points 184 times in 110+ seasons of football and has come out on top 178 times. The six losses when Illinois scores at least 30 points came to Ohio State in 1980 (42-49) and 1984 (38-45), to Penn State (31-35) in 1994, to Oregon (31-34) in 1994 to Indiana in overtime (31-34) in 1999 and to Michigan (31-35) Saturday at Memorial Stadium.


When the Illini score 30+ points: 11-2
When the Illini score 20-29 points: 5-8
When the Illini score 0-19 points: 2-20
When the Illini allow 0-19 points: 8-0
When the Illini allow 20-29 points: 5-8
When the Illini allow 30+ points: 1-16
In Overtime: 0-1

After a disappointing 31-35 loss to the Michigan Wolverines, the Illini drop to No. 22 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' poll, and 24th in the Associated Press rankings. The Illini entered the 2000 season with a Top-25 national ranking by both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll for the first time since prior to the 1995 season when they were rated No. 24. The Illini finished the 1999 season ranked 24th by the AP and 25th in the Coaches Top-25. Here is a look at the Illini week-by-week in 2000:

WeekAPCoachesNo. 1Big Ten Teams
Aug. 2921st20thNebraska6
Sept. 321st21stNebraska6
Sept. 1019th19thNebraska6
Sept. 1719th17thNebraska6
Sept. 2424th22ndNebraska6

No one can deny the impact quarterback Kurt Kittner made on the Illini in `99 with his 2,702 yards passing, school record 24 touchdown passes and only five interceptions. After his nine-touchdown, 64 percent completion performance in the last four games, Kittner is on-track to continue his productivity of a year ago. With his career-best 352 yards posted against the Michigan Wolverines, Kittner is nearing the 1,000 mark with 758 yards passing in four games. He has connected with four different receivers for TDs (11 different receivers in 1999), including four touchdown passes to sophomore flanker Greg Lewis. The stellar numbers also have earned him recognition as a All-America, Heisman Trophy and Davey O'Brien Award candidate.

Although the Illini's equal use of two tailbacks the past two years has kept the Illinois running backs from posting individual 1,000-yard seasons (last time 1997 Robert Holcombe, 1,253), the running game is more prosperous than ever. Junior Rocky Harvey and sophomore Antoineo Harris each posted 100-yard rushing games against Middle Tennessee and San Diego State, marking the first time in school history two Illinois tailbacks have had 100+ yards in back-to-back games. The consecutive performances prove that together they are one of the premier running back duos in college football. Combine the numbers of the tandem, 175.3 yards per game, (96.0 yards a game for Harris and 79.3 ypg for Harvey) and they would be ranked third in the nation, according to this week's NCAA stats. The two-tailback combo of Harvey and Havard rushed for 1,564 yards in 1999 which combined ranked third in the Big Ten. The 2,082 yards rushing by the Illini team in 1999 is the most since 1978 when the squad ran for 2,186 yards. Harvey is also looking to break into the Illinois top-10 career yardage list. He is currently 12th with 1,725 yards and needs 126 for 10th.

With his start in the season opener against Middle Tennessee, Steve Fitts became the first player since 1953 to handle both the responsibilities of punting and extra point/field goal kicking (Ken Miller, 1953). After four games, Fitts is a perfect 18-of-18 on extra point attempts and is averaging 41.2 yards per punt, including a 50- and 59-yarder and dropping three of his 19 attempts inside the 20 yardline. He also has hit 2-of-4 field goals. Fitts holds the Illinois all-time career punting average mark and is listed seventh on the career list for punts and punting yardage. For his performances as a sophomore, Fitts earned All-Big Ten honors. Fitts has been named a Ray Guy Award candidate, which is given to the top collegiate punter in the nation.

The starting Fighting Illini offensive line coached by Harry Hiestand is the largest in school history at a total of 1,540 pounds, or an average of 308 per player across the front line from tackle-to-tackle. The average of 308 pounds per player is larger than the starting offensive lines on 11 NFL teams, including last year's Super Bowl teams St. Louis and Tennessee. The five starting offensive line group (from left tackle to right tackle) of Marques Sullivan (6-5, 320), Jay Kluga (6-5, 306), Luke Butkus (6-4, 287), Ray Redziniak (6-5, 297) and Tony Pashos (6-6, 330) average 6-foot-4.6-inches and 308 pounds per man. Total pounds of starting offensive line since 1991:

2000 - 1,540 (308 avg.)
1999 - 1,505 (301)
1998 - 1,519 (303.8)
1997 - 1,511 (302.2)
1996 - 1,486 (297.2)
1995 - 1,480 (296)
1994 - 1,471 (294.2)
1993 - 1,458 (291.6)
1992 - 1,486 (297.2)
1991 - 1,428 (285.6)


  • Don't be too surprised when you're seeing double in the Illini secondary. The brother safety duo of Marc and Bobby Jackson are prominent fixtures in the defensive backfield. Bobby, a junior, sat out last season with a torn ACL, while his younger brother, Marc, got experience as a true-freshman. To make things even more of a family affair Robert Jackson, the duo's father, serves as the team's wide receivers coach.
  • This year's dynamic duo at the wide receiving positions are very familiar with each other. Not only did flanker Greg Lewis and split end Walter Young grow up as high school rivals, but they are cousins as well.
  • Another pair of brothers are members of the Illinois squad. Brian Hodges is a junior tight end and his brother Aaron is an offensive guard who redshirted during the 1999 season.

    This fall, senior offensive tackle Marques Sullivan became the first Illini player in five years to earn the prestigious honor of preseason All-American by Playboy magazine. Athletes selected to the team traveled to the Playboy ranch in Arizona in May and were honored in the October football preview issue of Playboy. The last time an Illinois player earned these honors were by linebackers Simeon Rice and Kevin Hardy in 1995.

    Senior linebacker Michael Young has been named to the preliminary list of candidates for the Butkus Award, which honors the nation's top collegiate linebacker. He is making his first appearance on the list and is one of 10 players selected from the Big Ten Conference. The watch list will be trimmed to 10 semi-finalists on Oct. 19 and the three finalists will be announced on a national teleconference on Nov. 9. The winner will be announced Friday, Dec. 8 at the Hard Rock Live in Universal Studios.

    Junior safety Muhammad Abdullah was named among 40 players as a candidate for the 2000 Thorpe Award which honors the nation's top collegiate defensive back. Abdullah, the two-year starter, is one of only four Big Ten players selected to the list. Abdullah, who is an All-Big Ten candidate, is making his first appearance on the list. He led the team in interceptions with five picks and 52 return yards in 1999. His defensive efforts, which also included recovering four fumbles, helped lead the Illini to a No. 2 national ranking in turnover margin. With his interception, Abdullah led the Illini in total tackles in the 63-21 win over Virginia in the Bowl. Finalists will be invited to ESPN's College Football Award Show at Disney World in Orlando, Fla. Where the winner will be announced Dec. 7.