Terry Hawthorne and the Illini will try to avenge last year's 10-7 loss in Happy Valley.
Sept. 25, 2012
|GAME 5: Illinois (2-2, 0-0) vs. Penn State (2-2, 0-0)|
|When||Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012 | 11:01 am CT|
|Where||Champaign, Ill. | Memorial Stadium (60,670) | Seating Chart|
|Gameday Information||Illini Gameday Central | Fan Guide | Parking Map | Street Fest | Promotions|
|Stripe the Stadium||Color Map | Information|
|Television||ESPN (Dave Pasch, Brian Griese, Jenn Brown) | ESPN3D | WatchESPN.com
|Radio||Illini Sports Network | Affiliates | Listen | Sirius/XM 85|
|Tickets||Buy Online or call 1-866-ILLINI-1|
|Live Coverage||Live Blog | GameTracker | Mobile Live Stats|
|Monday Interviews||Beckman | QB Scheelhaase | WR Lankford | LB Brown | DT Spence | TE Davis|
|Tuesday Interviews||Beckman | Co-OC Beatty | Co-OC Gonzales|
|Wednesday Interviews||Beckman | DC Banks|
|Printable Game Notes||Illinois | Penn State | Big Ten|
|Statistics||Illinois | Penn State | Big Ten|
|Social Media||@IlliniFootball | #Illini | Facebook|
The Fighting Illini (2-2, 0-0) open Big Ten Conference play when the Penn State Nittany Lions (2-2, 0-0) come to Memorial Stadium on Saturday (11 a.m. CT, ESPN). Illinois is looking to get back over .500 after a 52-24 loss to Louisiana Tech last weekend.
Illinois has controlled time of possession in all four games this season, owning a margin of more than eight minutes per game over its opponents. The Illini are ranked ninth nationally and second in the Big Ten in time of possession after week four (34:17).
Illinois is holding opponents to a third-down conversion rate of just 26.5 percent (13-of-49), which ranks 13th in the nation and second in the Big Ten (Michigan State, 23.6 percent). In the last two games, the Illini have allowed just three first downs on 24 attempts (12.5 percent). In the Sept. 15 win over Charleston Southern, the Illini did not allow a third down conversion in 13 attempts. Last week, Louisiana Tech was just 3-of-11 on third down.
Illinois also is one of only 10 teams in the nation that has not allowed a fourth-down conversion (0-1).
Illinois ranks 17th in the nation and second in the Big Ten in net punting at 41.05 ypk.
The Illini rank 22nd nationally in rushing defense (105.3 ypg) and 35th in total defense (329.3 ypg).
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.
Sophomore QB Reilly O'Toole had a record-breaking day against Charleston Southern on Sept. 15. 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.
O'Toole currently ranks 24th nationally and third in the Big Ten in passing efficiency (158.9). His single-game passing efficiency rating 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 16 receptions for 243 yards and four TDs.
As expected, junior LB Jonathan Brown has been a force to start the season, leading the team with 26 tackles, 5.0 TFLs and 1.5 sacks through the first four 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).
ILLINI STAFF TO PARTICIPATE IN COACH TO CURE MD WEEK
Illinois coach Tim Beckman and staff join forces with coaches around the country this weekend to support the Coach to Cure MD program. All the Fighting Illini coaches will be wearing patches on their sleeves for the Penn State game on Sept. 29 to raise awareness of Doo-Shin Muscular Dystrophy. To donate $5 to Coach to Cure M.D., text the word "cure" to 90999, or visit www.coachtocuremd.org to make a donation.
FIGHTING ILLINI PARTNER WITH EASTERN ILLINOIS FOOTBANK TO "BEET PENN STATE & HUNGER"
The University of Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics is partnering with the Eastern Illinois Foodbank to "Beet Penn State & Hunger" as the foodbank kicks off its annual Food for Families Drive at Saturday's game. In the 26th year of the campaign, the organization will be collecting non-perishable food items and monetary donations outside the corners of Memorial Stadium beginning at 9 a.m. Gameday Spirit locations inside and outside the stadium also will be accepting cash donations. Fans also can text the word "meals" and a monetary amount to the number 95495 to make a pledge. Foodbank volunteers will call the prospective donor at a later date to fulfill the donation.
PENN STATE SERIES NOTES
This week's game marks the 20th meeting between the Fighting Illini and the Nittany Lions. PSU holds a 15-4 overall series advantage and a 7-3 edge in Champaign. The Illini dropped a heartbreaking 10-7 game at Beaver Stadium last season in the snow, when Derek Dimke's last-second field goal attempt bounced off the right upright with snowballs sailing through the air. It was the final game for longtime PSU head coach Joe Paterno.
The series returns to Champaign for the first time since 2009, as the Illini grabbed a 33-13 win in Happy Valley in 2010 before falling 10-7 in State College in 2011, a game that marked the first measurable snowfall at an October Penn State home game. Penn State won the last meeting in Champaign in 2009, 35-17.
Illinois has won two of the last five meetings (2007 and 2010), which is an improvement compared to the rest of the all-time series. Prior to 2007, PSU had won 11 of 13 meetings, including seven in a row from 1972-2000.
Illinois has two players who hail from Pennsylvania on its roster: senior offensive lineman Corey Lewis (Cresco/East Stroudsburg South), who has missed the last two-plus seasons with multiple knee injuries, and senior offensive lineman Tyler Sands (Boyertown/Area Senior). In addition, redshirt-freshman offensive lineman Ryan Nowicki transferred to Illinois in August after being a member of the Penn State team in 2011. Nowicki is immediately eligible to play but has yet to see any action. Penn State has one player on its roster from the state of Illinois: redshirt-freshman linebacker T.J. Rhattigan (Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley), who has yet to play this season.
PLAYER HIGHLIGHTS AGAINST THE NITTANY LIONS
LB Jonathan Brown had a huge game against the Nittany Lions in 2011, recording a team-high 11 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, one sack, two PBUs, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
FS Supo Sanni added eight tackles and a half-TFL in 2011 game.
DE Michael Buchanan posted seven tackles and one sack against the Nittany Lions in 2011.
DT Akeem Spence had six tackles and one TFL at PSU in 2011 and five tackles in the 2010 win.
CB Terry Hawthorne notched an interception to go along with three tackles last season at PSU.
CB Justin Green and DT Glenn Foster each had three tackles and two PBUs in the 2011 game, while Foster added a sack in the 2010 meeting.
In last year's game, QB Nathan Scheelhaase rushed for 89 yards on 14 carries while completing 9-of-16 passes for 63 yards and a touchdown. In the 2010 Illini win at PSU, Scheelhaase was 15-for-19 passing for 151 yards and one touchdown while running eight times for 61 yards.
WR Spencer Harris caught two passes for 24 yards and a TD in 2011.
In the 2010 game at PSU, TE Evan Wilson caught a four-yard touchdown pass from running back Jason Ford, Wilson's first career TD reception.
ILLINI HAVE HUGE NFL PRESENCE
There were 22 former Fighting Illini on 2012 opening day NFL rosters.
Illinois had four players drafted in the first two rounds of the 2012 NFL Draft, including two first-rounders in Whitney Mercilus (26th pick, Houston Texans) and A.J. Jenkins (30th pick, San Francisco 49ers).
Illinois has had five first-round picks since 2008, the most of any Big Ten team during that span. The 2012 duo of Mercilus and Jenkins joins running back Rashard Mendenhall (23rd overall by the Steelers in 2008), defensive back Vontae Davis (25th overall by Miami in 2009) and defensive tackle Corey Liuget (18th overall by San Diego in 2011) as Illini first-round draft picks in the last five years.
Of the five recent Illini first-rounders, all but Jenkins were underclassmen who left Illinois with eligibility remaining. Illinois' four underclassmen chosen in the first round since 2008 is tied for the second-most by any team in the nation. Alabama leads the way with nine underclassman first-rounders in the last five years, while Florida and USC both match Illinois' four.
Mercilus was the seventh Illini in the last five years to enter the draft with eligibility remaining. All seven were taken in the first three rounds, including four first-rounders.
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.
For complete Illinois-Penn State Game Notes, click HERE.