Oct. 5, 2009
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Saturday's game against Michigan State marks the 99th Homecoming celebration on the University of Illinois campus. Illinois is 42-54-2 all-time in Homecoming games.
Illinois rushed for 38
- yards against Illinois State, the seventh-highest single game total in the NCAA through the first five 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.
Five Fighting Illini true freshman - Walter Aikens, Michael Buchanan, Justin Green, Terry Hawthorne and Joelil Thrash - have played so far this season. 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 Michigan State at Memorial Stadium is sold out, as was the Oct. 3 game against Penn State. With those two sellouts, 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. 1
- 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.
This week's game marks the 43rd meeting between the Fighting Illini and the Spartans and the first since 2006. Michigan State holds a 23-17-2 series advantage and is 11-9-1 when playing in Champaign.
The last time the two teams met Illinois came away with a dramatic 23-20 victory on a 39-yard field goal by Jason Reda with six seconds left. The victory snapped a nine-game losing streak against Michigan State and was Illinois' first win over the Spartans since 1992.
Illinois coach Ron Zook is 1-1 in his career against the Spartans, while MSU coach Mark Dantonio has yet to face the Illini as a head coach.
Illinois assistant head coach/running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Reggie Mitchell served as running backs/wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator under John L. Smith and Bobby Williams at Michigan State from 1999-2004.
Michigan State offensive line coach Dan Roushar has served two stints as an assistant at Illinois. He was the quarterbacks coach for the Illini in 1995 and then became the offensive tackle/tight ends coach in 1996 under Lou Tepper. Then in 2003 he returned to Illinois to coach the running backs for one season before becoming the offensive coordinator/running backs coach in 200
- for Ron Turner.
Making his second career start the Spartans in 2006 as a true-freshman, quarterback Juice Williams completed 9-of-16 passes for 122 yards and a touchdown and ran for another 103 yards on the ground to lead the Illini to the thrilling 23-20 road victory.
Williams engineered a 10-play, 58-yard drive in the final minutes that led to Reda's game-winning field goal with six seconds left. Williams was 3-for-3 for 33 yards and also ran three times for 12 yards on the drive, including a big eight-yard run on third-and-6 to keep the drive alive.
Senior defensive back Chris Duvalt, who was then a true-freshman wide receiver, returned four kick-offs for 80 yards in the 2006 victory over the Spartans.
The University of Illinois boasts being one of the first universities to celebrate Homecoming, a tradition on almost every college campus. It was conceived in 1909 by students C.F. Williams and W. Elmer Ekblaw, members of the Shield and Trident senior society. They joined with another society, Phoenix, to organize the three-day event. The first homecoming celebrated on Illinois' campus was on Oct. 15, 1910, which the Illini won 3-0 over Big Ten rival Chicago.
For years, there has been a debate over which university had the first homecoming. Historians from various schools found research that puts Illinois among one of the first five universities to celebrate the Homecoming tradition. Baylor has documented proof of a formally named Homecoming celebration in 1909, but then took a six-year hiatus before celebrating the second event at the school in 1915. Northern Illinois had alumni events beginning in 1906, but didn't use the proper noun "Homecoming" until 1911. Indiana University renamed their 1909 Gala Day, Homecoming on Nov. 5, 1910, and Michigan began inviting alumni back to campus in 1897, but the formal name began on the Ann Arbor campus in 1916.
Junior receiver Arrelious Benn needs 1,662 all-purpose yards to break the school's all-time record. He is currently just outside of the Illinois career top 10 in all-purpose yards with 3,075, just behind Antoineo Harris' 10th-place total of 3,116 yards. Robert Holcombe holds the school record of 4,737 yards.
Benn currently ranks seventh on both the UI career receiving yards (1,869) and career receptions (131) lists. Hall of Famer David Williams tops both lists by a wide margin, but Benn needs 717 yards and 39 catches the rest of the way to jump all the way up to second on both lists this season.
Benn moved up to seventh on the Illinois career kickoff return yardage list with his 33-yard return last week against Penn State. He moved past James Coleman and now has 823 yards in his career. Next on this list is Darryl Usher with 950 career kickoff return yards.
With five catches for 96 yards last week against Penn State, Benn continued his stallar play against the Nittany Lions. In three games against PSU, Benn has 15 catches for 290 yards and three touchdowns, plus three kickoff returns for 147 yards and one touchdown.
Benn has caught a pass in 28 of his 29 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.
Fighting Illini fans currently have the chance to place bids on four once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for the upcoming football game against Michigan State. Illinois fans can win two tickets in the exclusive Memorial Stadium Colonnades Club for each of the sold-out game. In addition, 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.
Three Illini left Saturday's game against Penn State with injuries, but all three are likely to return for this week's Michigan State game. Defensive back Garrett Edwards (neck strain), tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (ankle sprain) and defensive tackle Cory Liuget (ankle sprain) are all probable to play against the Spartans.
Junior linebacker Martez Wilson will miss the remainder of the 2009 season with a herniated disc neck injury. Wilson played in the season opener against Missouri, but sat out against Illinois State and Ohio State before having surgery to repair the injury on Sept. 28. He will spend the rest of the season recovering and helping to lead the Illini from the sidelines.
Sophomore cornerback Miami Thomas suffered a season-ending knee injury in preseason training camp.
Illinois' 2009 schedule was rated as 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 five weeks of play. Four 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 36-22. Two teams remain undefeated through five weeks, as Missouri is 4-0 and Cincinnati is 5-0.
- 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.
This season, the Big Ten's career rushing leader is not a running back. With 2,202 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 1,086.
- Juice Williams, QB, Sr., Illinois - 2,202
- Evan Royster, RB, Jr., Penn State - 2,159
- John Clay, RB, So., Wisconsin - 1,466
- Brandon Minor, RB, Sr., Michigan - 1,335
- Daniel Dufrene, RB, Sr., Illinois - 1,086
- Terrelle Pryor, So., Ohio State - 929
- Demetrius McCray, Sr., Indiana - 902
- Carlos Brown, Sr., Michigan - 881
- Duane Bennett, So., Minnesota - 812
- Stephfon Green, So., Penn State - 768
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:
- The Illini offense ranks fourth in the Big Ten and 43rd in the nation in rushing yards per game (176.5).
- 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 and currently sits at 1,086 yards, which ranks 32nd on the UI career rushing list.
- The Illinois offense rolled up 548 total yards against Illinois State on Sept. 12, including 38
- on the ground, the seventh 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 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 16
- 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 22-yard scamper in the fourth quarter.
- With 321 total yards against Penn State last Saturday, quarterback Juice Williams broke the Illinois career total offense record. He now has 9,126 total yards in his career to move past Kurt Kittner's record total of 8,880.
- William's also moved into the top 10 on the all-time Big Ten total offense list, jumping past Kittner and Michigan's John Navarre (8,995 total yards) and into ninth place. He enters this Saturday's game against Michigan State needing just nine yards to move past Purdue's Mark Herman for eighth and 175 yards to jump up to seventh, past Michigan's Chad Henne.
- Williams cracked the top-10 on the Illinois all-time rushing list with 18 yards on the ground at Ohio State. He now ranks ninth with 2,202 career yards, surpassing Keith Jones' total of 2,19
- yards with 58 yards on the ground against Penn State.
- Williams also moved up to ninth on Illinois' all-time rushing list past Keith Jones' 2,19
- yards. He is 283 yards behind Howard Griffith's eighth place total of 2,485.
- Williams' 58 yards on the ground against PSU moved him up two places and into second on the all-time Big Ten quarterback rushing list with 2,202 career yards. Second is likely where Williams' will stay, however, as Antwaan Randle El's conference record of 3,895 rushing yards appears out of reach.
- Williams is sixth on the Illinois all-time rushing attempts list with 543, just behind Rocky Harvey's 545 carries and Thomas Rooks' 560 carries.
- 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 2,03
- rushing yards from the 2008 season and 87 percent of its 3,232 receiving 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 Illinois defense held 15th-ranked Penn State to seven first-half points last week, marking a season low for points in the first half by PSU.
- Safety Donsay Hardeman had a career-high 10 tackles to lead the Illini against Penn State, while safety Garrett Edwards tied his career-high with eight stops.
- Illinois held Ohio State to 82 passing yards in the Sept. 26 matchup, marking the first time since last years' 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 4
- 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.
- 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.
- Benn moved up to seventh on the Illinois career kickoff return yardage list with his 33-yard return last week against Penn State. He moved past James Coleman and now has 823 yards in his career. Next on this list is Darryl Usher with 950 career kickoff return yards.
- Sophomore Matt Eller kicked the 18th field goal of his career with his 22-yarder against Penn State in the second quarter. That gave him sole possesion of 10th on the Illinois all-time field goals list moving in out of a tie with Bart Macomber.
- 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 8
- 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, running backs Troy Pollard and Justin Green and defensive back Terry Hawthorne. 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.
- 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.
- Illinois has faced two top-25 opponent this season and could face more down the road. The Illini have already faced #13/11 Ohio State and #15/13 Penn State and future opponent Cincinnati is ranked No. 9 in this week's AP poll, while Michigan is receiving votes after being ranked No. 22 last week.
- The Illini are 3-8 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 3-15 against ranked teams.
- In his eight-plus years as a head coach, Ron Zook has posted nine wins over ranked opponents.
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 senior quarterback Juice Williams has a chance to leave the Illini program as one of the most productive signal callers in school history.
- Already holds the Illinois total offense records for a career (9,126) and season (3,892)
- Already holds the Illinois quarterback rushing records for a career (2,202), season (755) and game (174)
- Needs 1,802 passing yards to become the school's all-time passing yardage leader
- Needs two starts for the most career starts as a quarterback
- Needs 510 rushing yards to break into the Illinois top-5 all-time career rushing list
- Needs 26 touchdown passes to set the record for career scoring strikes
- Ranks second in rushing yards by a quarterback in Big Ten history behind Antwaan Randle El
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.
- 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.
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
- MISSOURI: TE Michael Hoomanawanui, DE Doug Pilcher, QB Juice Williams, DT Sirod Williams
- ILLINOIS STATE: TE Michael Hoomanawanui, DE Doug Pilcher, OL Jon Asamoah, S Garrett Edwards, LB Ian Thomas
- OHIO STATE: OL Jon Asamoah, S Garrett Edwards, DE Doug Pilcher, QB Juice Williams