Football
Game 4: Penn State (3-1, 0-1) at Illinois (1-2, 0-1)

 
Arrelious Benn and the Fighting Illini host the Penn State Nittany Lions Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium.
Arrelious Benn and the Fighting Illini host the Penn State Nittany Lions Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium.
 

Sept. 29, 2009


Complete release in PDF format


FOR OPENERS

  • Illinois quarterback Juice Williams can break the Illinois career total offense record with 76 yards against the Nittany Lioins. In doing so, he also would crack the top-10 on the Big Ten's career total offensive yardage list.
  • Williams has moved to 10th on Illinois' all-time rushing list with 2,144 yards, moving past Johnny Karras' 2,135 yards. He is 50 yards behind Keith Jones' ninth place total of 2,194. Williams also ranks fourth on the all-time Big Ten quarterback rushing list and needs just six yards to catch Rickey Foggie for third (2,150 yards) and 32 yards to catch Rick Leach for second (2,176 yards).
  • The Illini offense ranks third in the Big Ten and 35th in the nation in rushing yards per game (192.0).
  • Illinois rushed for 384 yards against Illinois State, the sixth-highest single-game total in the NCAA through the first four weeks of the season. It also was 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.
  • True-freshman Walter Aikens saw his first action of the season at Ohio State to become the fifth Illini true freshman to play this season, joining Michael Buchanan, Justin Green, Terry Hawthorne and Joelil Thrash. 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 - have made their Fighting Illini debuts this season.
  • Saturday's game against Penn State at Memorial Stadium is sold out, as is the Oct. 10 game against Michigan State. With all tickets sold for those two games, Illinois has now had 10 sellouts in the last three seasons and tickets for the final three homes games of the season - Oct. 31 vs. Michigan, Nov. 14 vs. Northwestern and Dec. 5 vs. Fresno State are in short supply.
  • Student season tickets have sold out for the Illinois football season this year. It marks the second straight season that all 10,000 student tickets have sold out.
  • Illinois is dubbing Saturday's game against Penn State an "Orange Out." Coca-Cola is providing orange metallic shakers for the first 60,000 fans in Memorial Stadium. Nearly all Illinois fans already wear their orange to Memorial Stadium, but everyone is asked to do so for this game. The "Orange Out" is being sponsored by The News-Gazette, WHMS, and WDWS.
  • Illinois will host the Eastern Illinois Food Bank's annual Food for Families canned food drive prior to the Fighting Illini-Penn State game. Drop off locations will be available at the four street corners of Memorial Stadium for non-perishable food items and cash donations. This is the second year, the athletic department and the food bank have paired up to "Sack Hunger."


PENN STATE SERIES NOTES

  • This week's game marks the 17th meeting between the Fighting Illini and the Nittany Lions. PSU holds a 13-3 series advantage, including a 6-3 edge over the Illini in Champaign. The Illini won the most recent contest vs. Penn State at Memorial Stadium, 27-20, in 2007. Last season the Nittany Lions topped the Orange and Blue in State College, 38-24.
  • PSU coach Joe Paterno is 11-2 vs. the Illini, while Ron Zook is 1-3 vs. Penn State.
  • Illinois has three players from the state of Pennsylvania on its roster - sophomore tight end Hubie Graham (Scranton/West), sophomore offensive lineman Corey Lewis (Cresco/East Stroudsburg) and redshirt freshman offensive lineman Tyler Sands (Boyertown/Area Senior). Penn State has one player returning the state of Illinois - sophomore runing back Joe Suhey (Deerfield, Ill./Loyola Academy).


HIGHLIGHTS AGAINST THE NITTANY LIONS

  • Arrelious Benn has had big games in both times he has face Penn State. Last season in Happy Valley, Benn had four catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns of 33 and 54 yards. In 2007, he had six catches for 84 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown catch, as well as a first-quarter 90-yard kickoff return for a TD. Benn's career numbers in two games against PSU look like this: 10 catches for 194 yards and three touchdowns, two kickoff returns for 114 yards and one touchdown.
  • Junior defensive back Travon Bellamy posted a career-high nine tackles, including eight solos, in last year's game against the Nittany Lions.
  • Sophomore offensive lineman Jeff Allen made his first career start against PSU last season to become the first Illini true-freshman to start on the offensive line since 1997.
  • Sophomore running back Jason Ford scored his first career touchdown last year against the Nittany Lions with a two-yard plunge in the first quarter.
  • Illinois' win over 19th-ranked Penn State at Memorial Stadium in 2007 was its first victory over a top-25 opponent since 2001. The Illini have had two more wins over ranked teams since then.


ILLINOIS VS. RANKED OPPONENTS

  • Illinois will face its second top-25 opponent of the season when it hosts #15/13 Penn State this weekend. The Illini already have faced #13/11 Ohio State and two future opponents are in this week's AP top-25: No. 10 Cincinnati and No. 22 Michigan.
  • The Illini are 3-7 vs. top-25 opponents over the past three seasons, including a win over No. 19 Penn State in 2007. Illinois is 2-3 against top-10 foes during that span with 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 3-14 against ranked teams.
  • In his eight-plus years as a head coach, Ron Zook has posted nine wins over ranked opponents.


JUICE PUTS SQUEEZE ON ILLINI RECORD BOOK

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 76 yards of total offense to set the Illinois career mark (holds the season record)
  • Needs 2,065 passing yards to become the school's all-time passer
  • Needs three starts for the most career starts as a quarterback
  • Needs 568 rushing yards to break into the Illinois top-5 all-time rushing list
  • Needs 33 rushing yards to become the No. 2 rushing quarterback in Big Ten history
  • 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.


BENN THERE

  • Junior receiver Arrelious Benn needs 1,817 all-purpose yards to break the school's all-time record. He currently ranks seventh on the UI career receiving yards list with 1,773 and eighth on the career receptions list with 126, two behind Ty Douthard for seventh. Hall of Famer David Williams tops both lists by a wide margin, but Benn needs 813 yards and 44 catches the rest of the way to jump all the way up to second on both lists this season.
  • Benn has caught a pass in 26 of his 27 career games. He had a streak of 25 consecutive games with a catch, which at the time ranked seventh 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.


UNIQUE FOOTBALL EXPERIENCES UP FOR AUCTION

Fighting Illini fans currently have the chance to place bids on four once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for the upcoming football games against Penn State and Michigan State. Illinois fans can win two tickets in the exclusive Memorial Stadium Colonnades Club for each of these sold-out games. In addition, they can bid on the chance to win a pregame tour, pregame field passes, and game tickets to the Penn State game. Finally, for the first time, fans are being given the chance to have their son or daughter run onto the field to retrieve the tee after an Illini kickoff during the Michigan State game. For more information, visit the online auction site on fightingillini.com: http://fightingillini.cstvauctions.com/gallery.cfm.


ILLINI IN THE NCAA RANKINGS

  • The Illinois defense has racked up 20 tackles for loss in the opening three games, which ranks Illinois third in the Big Ten and 37th in the nation at 6.7 TFL per game.
  • Offensively, Illinois ranks third in the Big Ten and 35th in the nation in rushing yards per game (192.0).


INJURED ILLINI

  • Junior 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. He had surgery to repair the injury Sept. 28 and will spend the rest of the season recovering. He traveled with the team to Ohio State to help lead the Illini from the sidelines.
  • Sophomore cornerback Miami Thomas suffered a season-ending knee injury in preseason training camp.


TOUGH SCHEDULE

  • Illinois' 2009 schedule was rated the toughest in the Big Ten and the 10th-toughest in the nation by The Sporting News entering the season and looks even tougher after four weeks of play. Five of Illinois' opponents are ranked in this week's USA Today coaches poll and one more is receiving votes.
  • In the preseason, the Sagarin ratings ranked Illinois' schedule the 12th-toughest nationally and after four weeks, Illinois' opponents' record is 30-18. Three teams remain undefeated through four weeks, as Missouri, Michigan and Cincinnati are all 4-0.
  • 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 Missouri, the Illini faced Illinois State on Sept. 12 before starting the Big Ten season at #13/11 Ohio State and then hosting #15/13 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. 10/11 Cincinnati on Nov. 27 and home against 2008 New Mexico Bowl participant Fresno State on Dec. 5.


BIG TEN RETURNING LEADING RUSHERS

This season, the Big Ten's career rushing leader is not a running back. With 2,144 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 1,032.

  1. Juice Williams, QB, Sr., Illinois - 2,144
  2. Evan Royster, RB, Jr., Penn State - 2,054
  3. Brandon Minor, RB, Sr., Michigan - 1,333
  4. John Clay, RB, So., Wisconsin - 1,282
  5. Daniel Dufrene, RB, Sr., Illinois - 1,032
  6. Demetrius McCray, Sr., Indiana - 901
  7. Terrelle Pryor, So., Ohio State 866
    Carlos Brown, Sr., Michigan 866
  8. Adam Weber, Sr., Minnesota - 823
  9. Duane Bennett, So., Minnesota 792


WATCH OUT FOR THESE ILLINI

Five different Illini players have been named to eight different preseason watch lists for national awards. Here is a list of the some Illini to keep an eye on this season:


RB Jason Ford


THE ILLINI OFFENSE

  • Quarterback Juice Williams cracked the top-10 on the Illinois all-time rushing list with 18 yards on the ground at Ohio State. He ranks 10th with 2,144 career yards, surpassing John Karras' 2,135 yards and moving within 50 yards of Keith Jones' ninth-place total of 2,194 yards.
  • Williams' 95 yards of total offense against OSU brings his career total to 8,805, which keeps him second on the Illinois career list in the category, just 75 shy of Kurt Kittner's school record of 8,880.
  • Williams moved up to sixth on the Illinois all-time rushing attempts list with his 15 carries against Ohio State. He now has 523 career rushes, moving past Rich Johnson's total of 521 carries.
  • The Illinois offense rolled up 548 total yards against Illinois State on Sept. 12, including 384 on the ground, sixth highest single-game total in the nation this season, 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.
  • True-freshman Justin Green rushed for 56 yards on seven carries (8.0 ypc) against ISU and scored his first career touchdown with a 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.


DEFENSIVE NOTES

  • Illinois held Ohio State to 82 passing yards last week, marking the first time since last year's game against the Buckeyes (49 yards) that an opposing team has been held under 100 yards passing. OSU had 0 passing yards in first half.
  • Clay Nurse had a career-high 2.0 tackles for loss against the Buckeyes, helping to keep OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor relatively in check with 141 total yards.
  • 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 20 tackles for loss and four sacks through the first three games. The Illini rank 37th in the NCAA and third in the Big Ten in tackles for loss with their 6.7 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.


K Matt Eller


THE SPECIAL TEAMS

  • Arrelious Benn had 89 yards in kickoff returns against Ohio State, which moved him up to eighth on the school's career list with 790. He entered the day at No. 10 and passed Rocky Harvey's 738 yards and Keith Jones' 739.
  • 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 three 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 back Troy Pollard. 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.


TEAM NOTES

  • 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.


KING OF THE HOUSE

  • 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.


BLOCK, PILCHER, WILLIAMS RETURN FOR 5TH YEAR

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.


TRIO OF COACHES LEARNING THE LINGO

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.


HOOMANAWANUI HONORING HIS POLYNESIAN DESCENT

  • 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.


ILLINOIS ATHLETICS HAS BANNER YEAR

  • 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


TEAM CAPTAINS


PLAYERS OF THE GAME


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