Illinois Returns Home To Face Iowa

Kurt Kittner and the Illini prepare for the Homecoming game against Iowa.
Kurt Kittner and the Illini prepare for the Homecoming game against Iowa.

Oct. 9, 2000

Weekly Illinois Football Release
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ILLINOIS (3-2, 0-2) vs. Iowa (1-5, 1-1)

October 14, 2000
1 p.m.
Memorial Stadium (70,900)
Champaign, Illinois


Illinois (3-2, 0-2 Big Ten) hopes to snap a two-game losing streak when the Iowa Hawkeyes (1-5, 1-1) visit Memorial Stadium for the Fighting Illini's 90th Homecoming celebration on the UI campus. The University of Illinois is credited with conceiving the original idea of Homecoming in 1910. Illinois is 38-49-2 all-time in Homecoming contests and will try to snap a six-game Homecoming game losing streak with the last victory in the series coming in 1993 against Northwestern. Illinois is 3-3 against Iowa in Homecoming contests on the UI campus.

Illinois is coming off a bye week following a 44-10 loss at Minnesota. After winning seven straight games, the Illini have lost two in a row. Iowa, with its 21-16 win over Michigan State on Saturday, snapped a 13-game losing streak that dates back to the third game of last season. Illinois is 0-3 under Ron Turner following bye weeks. Illinois and Iowa are not scheduled to play each of the next two seasons.


RON TURNER (14-25 in his fourth year at Illinois, 21-29 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 Oct. 14 contest against Iowa with a 21-29 head coaching record, 14-25 at Illinois. The Illini had a seven-game winning streak snapped Sept. 23 against Michigan and enter the Iowa game having won eight of the last 11 stretching back to 1999.

Turner is 1-2 against Iowa as a head coach. Last year, the Illini took a 40-24 victory over the Hawkeyes at Iowa City to start a four--game winning streak to end the season.

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.

KIRK FERENTZ (2-15 in his second year at Iowa and 14-36 in his fourth year as a collegiate head coach) - Kirk Ferentz is in his second year as leader of the Hawkeyes and has amassed a 2-15 mark entering Saturday's game. Ferentz came to Iowa following six years as the offensive line coach of the Cleveland Browns/Baltimore Ravens. Before his three-year stint as head coach at Maine from 1990-92, he was the offensive line coach at Iowa under Hayden Fry from 1981-89. Ferentz is 0-1 all-time against Illinois as a head coach after the loss at Iowa City last season.


Fans attending the football game Oct. 14 will be able to preview the 2000-01 Fighting Illini men's and women's basketball teams following action at Memorial Stadium. Both basketball teams will treat fans to short scrimmages open the public (free admittance) at the Assembly Hall immediately following the football game. Doors are scheduled to open at 4 p.m. with activities planned to start at 4:30 p.m.


The University of Illinois is credited with inventing the idea of Homecoming on a collegiate campus. The Oct. 14 game against Iowa marks the 90th year for the campus-wide celebration which began the weekend of Oct. 14-16, 1910. The Homecoming celebration was conceived in 1909 by UI students Dab Williams and Elmer Ekblaw, members of the Shield and Trident senior society. The very first Illinois Homecoming saw more than 1,500 graduates return to Champaign-Urbana, one-third of all its graduates.

2000 Illinois Homecoming Schedule

Oct. 8 Homecoming 5K Race, Quad Cinema
Oct. 10 Homecoming Kickoff, Lunch on the Quad
Oct. 12 Mud Wars, Homecoming Block Party
Oct. 13 Homecoming Parade, Pep Rally, Illini Union Bookstore Variety Show
Oct. 14 Pancake Breakfast, Illinois vs. Iowa Football Game, IUB African-
American Comedy Show, IUB African-American Homecoming Dance
Oct. 15 Marching Illini Concert
The Homecoming web site address is:


Illinois leads the all-time series, 36-24-2, including an 18-10 margin in games played at Champaign. Iowa has won six of the last 10, including four of five at Memorial Stadium.


Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker served on Gary Moeller's Illinois staff as outside linebackers coach from 1977-79.


University of Iowa has 16 players on the roster from the state of Illinois, while Illinois has no players from Iowa on its roster. Iowa's redshirt freshman starting quarterback Jon Beutjier connected with Illinois redshirt freshman wide receiver Eric McGoey at Wheaton Warrenville South High School for 60 passes, 21 touchdowns and 1,276 yards during the 1998 6A IHSA Championship season. Other notables are strong safety D.J. Johnson from Naperville, wide receiver Chris Oliver from Flossmoor, defensive end Anthony Herron from Bolingbrook, Kevin Kasper from Homewood and wide receiver Ryan Barton from Burr Ridge. Herron was a prep teammate of Illinois linebacker Eric Garrett and running back Antoineo Harris.


Illinois' seven-game winning that was snapped against Michigan streak ranks among the best in school history.


Eight true-freshmen have played on this Illini team in 2000, four players alone on the defensive line. In a conference where it is uncommon to see so many young faces on the defensive lines, four freshmen, Charles Gilstrap (DT), Clark Collins (DT), Derrick Strong, DE, and Jemari Perry, DE, have lined up and played significant time in key backup roles. During this 2000 season, the Illini lost five d-linemen to a number of different factors (Karleton Thomas, DT, academics, Tim McGill, DE, academics, Shaheed Richardson, DT, transfer, Mike O'Brien, DE, injury, and Jeff Ruffin, DT, injury).


When the Illini score 30+ points 11-2
When the Illini score 20-29 points 5-8
When the Illini score 0-19 points 2-21
When the Illini allow 0-19 points 8-0
When the Illini allow 20-29 points 5-8
When the Illini allow 30+ points 1-17
In Overtime 0-1


After spending six weeks in botht he Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches Polls, the Illini fell out of the Top-25 following a 44-10 loss to the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The six-week stint is the longest for Illinois since 1990 when the team spent the entire season in the 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.


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, 58 percent completion performance in the last five games, Kittner is on-track to continue his productivity of a year ago. With his career-best 352 yards posted against the Michigan Wolverines two weeks ago, Kittner is nearing the 1,000 mark with 861 yards passing in five 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, 149.0 yards per game, (81.6 yards a game for Harris and 67.4 ypg for Harvey) and they would be ranked sixth in the nation, according to this week's NCAA stats. The two-tailback combo of Harvey and Steve 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 1,749 yards and needs 102 for 10th.


With his start in the season opener, Steve Fitts became the first player since 1953 to take on both the responsibilities of punting and extra point/field goal kicking (Ken Miller, 1953). After five games, Fitts is a perfect 19-of-19 on extra point attempts and is averaging 40.3 yards per punt, including a 50- and 59-yarder and has landed 19 attempts inside the 20 yardline. He also has hit 3-of-5 field goals, including a career-long 47-yarder. Fitts holds the Illinois all-time career punting average mark and is listed sixth and seventh on the career list for punting average and punts, respectively. For his performances as a sophomore, Fitts earned All-Big Ten honors. Fitts also 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 Kulaga (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.


Following his two pass deflection, six solo tackle, two sack performance in the Illini's 17-15 win over California, defensive end Fred Wakefield was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week. The senior from Tuscola, Ill., had two passes broken up in the game, including one on the two-point conversion attempt by Cal which secured the Illinois win. He also came up with two key sacks which improved his career total to 16 moving him to sixth on Illinois's all-time sack list.


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.


The Ron Turner Show will air every Monday during the season at 6:05 p.m. Each week the radio show travels to different locations on campus. The following is a list of locations for the show:

Oct. 9 Beta Sigma Psi fraternity
Oct. 16 Phi Kappa Psi fraternity
Oct. 23 Nabor House fraternity
Oct. 30 Koinonia Christian Cooperative
Nov. 6 Alpha Gamma Sigma (IlliDell) fraternity
Nov. 13 Alpha Delta Phi fraternity


The Ron Turner Show, taped after each week's game, will air on the following dates and times:

Alton AT&T Cable - Tuesday 6:30 p.m.
Belleville AT&T Cable - Tuesday 9:30 p.m., Thursday 10 p.m., and Friday 4 p.m.
Champaign WCIA - Sunday 10:45 p.m.
Chicago Fox Sports - Tuesday 2:30 p.m.
Maryville Charter Cable - Thursday 6 p.m. & 8:30 p.m.
Peoria AT&T Cable - Wednesday 7 p.m. & 11 p.m. and Thursday 7 p.m. & 11 p.m.
St. Louis AT&T Cable Tuesday 10:30 p.m., Thursday 9:30 p.m., and Friday 10:30 p.m.