Oct. 11, 2010
Complete Illinois-Michigan State Game Notes
GAME 6: Illinois (3-2, 1-1) at #13/11 Michigan State (6-0, 2-0)
Oct. 16, 2010 // Noon ET/11 a.m. CT kickoff // BTN
East Lansing, Mich. // Spartan Stadium (75,005)
The Illinois/MSU game will be nationally televised on the Big Ten Network with an air time of 11 a.m. CT. Eric Collins (play-by-play), Chris Martin (color analyst) and Charissa Thompson (sideline) will call the action with Jim Ressler producing and Dennis Lanius directing.
The 41-station Illini Sports Network will carry the radio broadcast with the pregame show beginning at 10:30 a.m. CT. Calling the action will be Brian Barnhart (play-by-play), Kurt Kittner (color analyst) and Steve Kelly (pregame, halftime and postgame). The broadcast also can be heard on Westwood One radio, with Brad Sham and Eddie George on the call, and on SIRIUS (122) & XM (143) satellite radio.
The team will depart for East Lansing on Friday afternoon via charter flight. Coach Zook will meet with members of the media at the team's walkthrough at Spartan Stadium (approx 5:30 pm ET).
FOLLOW THE ILLINI...
THE OPENING KICK
The Fighting Illini will be looking for their second-straight Big Ten road victory when they head to East Lansing to face #13/11 Michigan State on Saturday. Illinois is fresh off a 33-13 win at Penn State, the school's first-ever victory in State College.
Saturday's game at MSU will be the second of three straight Homecoming games for Illinois. Last week, the Illini handed Penn State its first Homecoming loss since 2004 and will now try to spoil the Spartans' Homecoming celebration, just like they did in 2006. Next week, Illinois will celebrate its 100th Homecoming anniversary when Indiana comes to Champaign.
The Illinois defense has made big strides this year under new defensive coordinator Vic Koenning. Illinois currently ranks 21st nationally in points allowed (17.0 ppg), 20th in total defense (304.8 ypg), 32nd in rushing yards allowed (117.0 ypg) and 56th in pass efficiency defense (121.09). At the end of last season, the Orange and Blue ranked 96th in scoring defense (30.2 ppg), 91st in total defense (403.3 ypg), 76th in rushing defense (154.4 ypg) and 103rd in pass efficiency defense (142.77).
Illinois' two losses this season (Missouri and Ohio State) have come by a combined 21 points against teams that are both currently ranked in the top-25 and are a combined 11-0 this season. In its other four games, Missouri is averaging 38.5 ppg and in Ohio State's other five games, the Buckeyes are averaging 47.0 ppg. Against the Illini defense, those teams had 23 and 24 points, respectively, both season lows at this point in the season.
Illinois is one of only three teams in the nation to score on all of its red zone drives this season. In 16 trips inside the 20, the Illini have scored nine touchdowns and seven field goals. East Carolina (18-18) and Memphis (8-8) are the only other teams with a perfect red zone scoring percentage.
Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase and kicker Derek Dimke were rewarded for stellar performances in the Illini win at Penn State last week. Scheelhaase was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week for the second time this season after completing 15-of-19 passes for 151 yards and one touchdown while also running for 61 yards on eight carries. Dimke, meanwhile, was named Big Ten Co-Special Teams Player of the Week after hitting 4-of-4 field goals vs. PSU, including a 50-yarder.
Doak Walker Award candidate Mikel Leshoure has topped the 100-yard mark in four games this season and in seven of Illinois' last 11 games dating back to last season, including his 119-yard performance last week at Penn State. He had a string of four straight 100-yard games snapped by Ohio State, a streak that tied him with J.C. Caroline and Robert Holcombe for the most consecutive 100+ rushing efforts in school history. So far this season, Leshoure ranks second in the Big Ten and 11th in the nation in rushing with 119.4 ypg.
Ray Guy Award and Campbell Award candidate Anthony Santella ranks second in the nation with an average of 47.9 yards on 24 punts this season, including nine punts of 50+ yards and six inside the 20. He averaged a career-best 50.8 yards per punt in the Southern Illinois game, tying the fifth-best single-game average in school history, and boomed a career-long 67-yarder against Northern Illinois. As a team, Illinois ranks fifth in the nation in net punting (41.96 ypk).
Butkus Award candidate Martez Wilson leads Illinois and ranks in the top-10 in the Big Ten in tackles (9.2 tpg), sacks (2.0 total sacks) and tackles for loss (5.0 total TFLs). Wilson has led the Illini in tackles in each of the last three games, posting 11 stops against Northern Illinois, nine against Ohio State and 12 versus Penn State.
With the win at Penn State last week, Illinois coach Ron Zook became just the fourth coach to ever post road victories at Ohio State, at Michigan and at Penn State in a career. Zook joins former Big Ten coaches Barry Alvarez (Wisconsin), Hayden Fry (Iowa) and Glen Mason (Minnesota) on the exclusive list.
Zook, the 2007 Liberty Mutual National Coach of the Year, is in his sixth season as the Illinois head coach. Entering Saturday's game against MSU, Zook has an overall head coaching record of 47-55 in eight-plus seasons at Florida and Illinois combined and is 24-41 in five-plus seasons at Illinois.
MICHIGAN STATE SERIES NOTES
This week's game marks the 44th meeting between the Fighting Illini and the Spartans and the first at Spartan Stadium since 2006. Michigan State holds a 24-17-2 overall series advantage and leads 12-8-1 when playing in East Lansing. Last season, the Spartans won 24-14 in Champaign after the series took a two-year hiatus in 2007 and '08.
The last time the two teams met in East Lansing, true-freshman quarterback Juice Williams led Illinois on a last-minute drive that ended with a 39-yard Jason Reda field goal with six seconds left to give the Illini a 23-20 win. That 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 1-2 in his career against the Spartans, while MSU coach Mark Dantonio won his only meeting against the Illini as a head coach last season.
Illinois defensive line coach Keith Gilmore is a native of Detroit, Mich., and spent one season as a graduate assistant coach at Michigan State in 1988.
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 2004 for Ron Turner.
HIGHLIGHTS AGAINST THE SPARTANS
Current junior RB Mikel Leshoure accounted for both of Illinois' touchdowns in last year's 24-14 loss to the Spartans. He scored on a three-yard run in the third quarter and a 41-yard reception in the fourth quarter.
Illinois' defense held MSU to just three first downs and 91 total yards in the second half of last year's game. The Spartans were held scoreless by the Illini defense in the second half, as their only points after the intermission came via an interception return on the first series of the half.
Current junior SS Tavon Wilson set a career high in tackles with 13 stops in last year's game and also recorded his first career interception with a pick in the third quarter.
Current senior Anthony Santella averaged 44.8 yards per punt last season against MSU, including four punts of at least 50 yards and two downed inside the 20.
ILLINOIS VS. RANKED OPPONENTS
Illinois will face its second top-25 opponent of the season when it faces #13/11 Michigan State this Saturday in East Lansing, while one of the Illini's future opponents is currently ranked as Michigan is 24th in the USA Today Coaches poll. In addition, one of Illinois' past opponents, Missouri, was not ranked when it played the Illini in the season-opener, but is now ranked 21st in the AP poll and 19th in the Coaches poll.
The Illini are 3-10 vs. top-25 opponents over the past three-plus seasons, including a win over No. 1 Ohio State in 2007. Illinois is 2-4 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, losses to No. 6 Missouri and No. 10 Ohio State in 2008 and No. 5 Cincinnati in 2009. In the Ron Zook era, the Illini are 3-17 against ranked teams.
In his eight-plus years as a head coach, Ron Zook has posted nine wins over ranked opponents.
ILLINI IN THE NCAA RANKINGS
Senior punter Anthony Santella leads the Big Ten and is second nationally in punting with a 47.9 average. As a team, the Illini lead the conference and rank fifth nationally in net punting at 41.96 yards.
Doak Walker Award candidate Mikel Leshoure is averaging 119.4 rushing yards per game this season, which puts him 11th in the nation and the second in the Big Ten. Overall, the Illinois rushing offense is ranked 19th nationally at 217.6 ypg.
Illinois' defense has been stout so far, holding opponents to just 17.0 points per game and 304.8 total yards per game, totals that rank 21st and 20th in the nation, respectively.
After nailing four field goals at Penn State last week, kicker Derek Dimke jumped into a tie for fourth in the nation in field goals made per game at 2.0.
LESHOURE CLIMBING ILLINOIS AND BIG TEN LISTS, FORD GOES OVER 1,000
Junior running back Mikel Leshoure went over the 1,000-yard career rushing mark with his 106 yards on the ground against Southern Illinois, becoming the 36th Illini player to do so. He enters this weekend's contest with 1,457 yards, which puts him 22nd on the UI career rushing list and fourth among active Big Ten players.
Fellow junior Jason Ford also recently passed 1,000 career rushing yards, becoming the 37th Illini player to reach the mark. Ford's 47 yards at Penn State give him 1,020 for his career, a total that ranks 14th among active Big Ten players.
THE BIG TEN'S RUSHING TEAM
During the Ron Zook era (since 2005), Illinois leads the conference in rushing yards per game. The Illini's 198.0 yards per game (12,871 yards in 65 games) in the last 5+ seasons tops Wisconsin's 193.5 ypg (13,739 yards in 71 games) during that same time span.
After rushing for 282 yards against Penn State on Oct. 9, Illinois had posted three games with 200+ rushing yards this season, including a season-high 319 yard effort against Northern Illinois on Sept. 18.
Mikel Leshoure has run for 1,168 yards on 184 carries (6.3 ypc) since the mid-point of last season (11 games). Among Big Ten players, only Wisconsin's John Clay (1,372 yards on 227 carries, 6.0 ypc) has more rushing yardage since Oct. 24 of last season.
The Illini led the conference in rushing yards per game in 2006 and 2007, and were second in 2009. So far this season, Illinois is averaging 217.6 ypg on the ground, which ranks 19th nationally and fourth in the Big Ten.
The Fighting Illini averaged 200.4 yards per game on the ground in 2009, ranking 17th in the nation and marking the third time under head coach Ron Zook that the Illini averaged over 200 yards rushing as a team. It also marked the third time in the last five years that Illinois finished the season ranked among the NCAA Top 20.
Leshoure's 6.8 yards per carry in 2009 led all BCS conference players with at least 100 attempts, and he and teammate Jason Ford (6.1 ypc) ranked 1-2 in the Big Ten in that category last season.
On the Mend: The injury bug hit the Illini hard heading into the 2010 season. Two probable starters are out for the season in OL Corey Lewis, who tore his left ACL during spring ball, and safety Supo Sanni, who ruptured his right Achilles in practice on Aug. 25. In addition, starting FB/TE Zach Becker (feet) missed the first four games of the season and is questionable for this Saturday's game at Michigan State and FS Steve Hull (ankle) missed the Penn State game after being injured against Ohio State and also is questionable for this week's game.
They're Back: Sophomore CB Terry Hawthorne (foot) missed the first four games of this season before returning for 10 snaps last week at PSU. Barring any further setback, look for his role to increase against Michigan State. Senior WR Eddie McGee (missed NIU game with ankle injury) and bandit Nate Palmer (missed first three games with a toe injury) both played against Ohio State and Penn State after missing time earlier in the season.
A pair of Illini defenders have returned from season-ending injuries last season. Linebacker Martez Wilson missed 11 games with a neck injury last season and received a medical redshirt, while cornerback Miami Thomas suffered a knee injury in training camp last year, missing the entire season. Both players went through preseason training camp without further issues. Wilson returned to action in the season-opener and has registered a team-high 46 tackles, 5.0 TFL and 2.0 sacks through five games this season. Thomas saw his first action of the season in the Sept. 18 game vs. NIU.
LAST TIME OUT: ILLINI TAME THE NITTANY LIONS
Illinois picked up its first win at Penn State with the 33-13 victory last week after entering the game 0-6 all-time in Happy Valley. It was also the first time the Nittany Lions lost consecutive games since 2007, when they lost to Michigan and the Illini in back-to-back road games.
The Illini also handed the Nittany Lions their biggest Homecoming defeat since they fell by 20 to Navy in 1955.
The Illinois defense held PSU to season lows of seven first downs, 235 total yards, 2-of-14 third-down conversions and 21:48 time of possession, and kept the Nittany Lions to only 65 rushing yards. Penn State had been averaging 138.2 yards per game on the ground entering the game. The Nittany Lions' seven first downs are the their fewest since gaining six first downs against Iowa on Oct. 23, 2004.
The Orange and Blue also held PSU scoreless in the second half, the second time this season that Illinois has held an opponent scoreless in the second half (also vs. Southern Illinois).
Illinois' defense was especially stingy after turnovers, holding Penn State to a pair of field goals after two muffed punts gave the Lions great field position. PSU managed only 13 yards after the first muff and just five yards after the second turnover before kicking short field goals after each stalled drive.
The Illini offense also was dominant against the Lions, gaining a season-high 437 yards, including 282 rushing yards. It was the third time this year that Illinois has rushed for 200+ yards and was the most rushing yards that PSU had allowed since Minnesota rolled up 288 rushing yards on Oct. 2, 2004.
TOP-RANKED BUCKEYES SLOWED BY ILLINI `D'
The Illinois defense held Ohio State's high-powered offense to season-low totals when the two teams met on Oct. 2 in Champaign. The Buckeyes, who are currently ranked No. 1 in both the AP and Coaches polls, entered the game against the Illini ranked third in the nation in scoring (49.3 ppg) and eighth in total offense (506.8 ypg), but managed just 24 points and 290 total yards against the stingy Illini defense. Both totals are season lows for OSU.
The Illini held the Buckeyes to just 77 yards passing in that Oct. 2 meeting, marking the third-straight year they have held OSU, and Heisman candidate Terrelle Pryor, to under 100 yards passing (49 yards in 2008 and 82 yards in 2009). Pryor piled up 334 yards passing in Ohio State's next game against Indiana on Oct. 2.
Trulon Henry recorded a pair of interceptions in the 24-13 loss to the Buckeyes. He intercepted a Terrelle Pryor pass in the second quarter and picked off a Joe Bauserman pass in the third quarter. Henry is the first Illini defender in six years to tally two interceptions in a game, since Kelvin Hayden against Florida A&M in 2004.
The Illini defense has been much improved over last season. In the first five games of 2009, the Illini allowed 2,043 total yards (408.6 ypg), 928 rushing yards (185.6 ypg) and 143 points (28.6 ppg). In five games this season, the Illini have allowed 1,524 yards (304.8 ypg), 585 rushing yards (117.0 ypg) and 85 points (17.0 ppg).
A CLOSER LOOK AT ILLINOIS' DEFENSIVE IMPROVEMENT
Category 2009 (Final Nat'l Rank) 2010 (Cur. Nat'l Rank)
Points Allowed (ppg) 30.2 (96) 17.0 (21)
Total Defense (ypg) 403.3 (91) 304.8 (20)
Rushing Defense (ypg) 154.42 (76) 117.0 (32)
Passing Defense (ypg) 248.83 (100) 187.8 (37)
Pass Efficiency Defense 142.77 (103) 121.09 (56)
The Illini's defensive turnaround this season is even more impressive when field position is taken into account. Opponents have started 11 drives in plus territory but the UI defense has allowed just one touchdown and five field goals on those 11 drives. The average starting position for opponents is the 32.9 yard line, compared to the 27.2 yard line for the Illini offense.
The Orange and Blue defense has allowed just 12 points (4 field goals) off 10 turnovers this season.
The defense also has been stout in the red zone. In opponents' 18 trips inside the 20 this season, the Illini have allowed just seven touchdowns and seven field goals. Illinois ranks second in the Big Ten by allowing touchdowns on only 39 percent of opponents' trips to the red zone.
Illinois' defense held Penn State to just 65 rushing yards on 26 carries, marking the sixth time in the last two seasons and the third time this season (98 yards vs. Missouri and 46 yards vs. SIU) the Illini have held their opponent under 100 rushing yards. Through five games, the Illini are allowing just 117.0 ypg on the ground, which ranks 32nd in the nation.
The Illini defense held NIU running back Chad Spann to just 15 yards on 13 carries. Spann currently ranks 19th in the nation, averaging 107.0 ypg, and racked up 223 yards on 15 carries against Minnesota on Sept. 25, one week after the Fighting Illini shut him down.
The three points allowed to Southern Illinois on Sept. 11 mark the lowest point total allowed by an Illinois team since shutting out Western Illinois on Sept. 8, 2007.
LB Nate Bussey
had a career day for the Orange and Blue against Penn State, returning an interception 16 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter and also tying his career high with eight tackles. His interception return for a touchdown was the first for an Illini since Terry Hawthorne's
pick-six at Minnesota in 2009. Bussey is tied for second on the team and 14th in the conference in tackles (6.8 tpg).
Defensive tackle Corey Liuget
tied his career high with 2.5 TFLs in the opener against Missouri. After ranking second on the team with 8.0 TFLs in 2009, Liuget dropped 30 pounds in the offseason to get down to 285 in hopes of being more mobile and harder to block. It seems to have paid off, as Liuget has 18 tackles and is tied for the team lead with 5.0 TFLs and 2.0 sacks this season to go along with two hurries and two PBUs.
Linebacker Ian Thomas
tied his career high with 13 tackles against Mizzou. Thomas' 1.5 TFLs in that game also marked a new career high. Thomas is currently tied for second on the team in tackles (34) and is tied for third in TFLs (4.0). Last season, Thomas' 7.7 tackles per game led Illinois and ranked 10th in the conference.
Cornerback Travon Bellamy
recorded a career-high 12 tackles vs. Missouri and then had a team-high seven stops against SIU. His 6.2 tackles per game is fourth on the team and ranks 22nd in the conference. Bellamy also has 4.0 tackles for loss, which ties him for 19th in the Big Ten in that category.
Illinois is tied for first in the nation in red zone offense, scoring on all 16 of its trips inside the 20 this season (nine touchdowns and seven field goals). Only two other teams have scored on 100 percent of their red zone trips.
Illinois' 20 points in the second quarter against Penn State marks the third-highest scoring second quarter in Ron Zook's tenure with the Illini. The high is 21 points against Fresno State in 2009 and Northwestern in 2005.
New offensive coordinator Paul Petrino's offense has shown its versatility early this season. The team's opening drive of the season was a 17-play, 9:14 monster that resulted in a 21-yard field goal. The drive exceeded last year's longest drive by 1:54 and also tied last year's longest drive in terms of plays. Through five games, Illinois had 15 scoring drives of 8+ plays, including all six scoring drives in the Penn State win. In contrast, the Illini have also had three scoring drives that lasted less than a minute: a 45-second drive that led to a field goal at the end of the first half against Missouri and touchdown drives of 37- and 39-seconds against SIU.
Junior running back Mikel Leshoure has taken on a bigger load for the Illini offense this season. He had a career-high 27 carries for 119 yards against the Nittany Lions and is now averaging 20.8 carries per game this season. Entering the season, Leshoure had carried the ball 20+ times just once (21 carries vs. Michigan in 2009). In 2010, he has had three 20+-carry games already and is still averaging a robust 5.7 yard per carry for the season.
Redshirt-freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase has shown his dual-threat ability in Illinois' first five games. He had earned Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors on two occasions already, first on Sept. 13 following his 14-of-18, 229 yard, 1 TD, 0 INT performance against SIU and then again on Oct. 11 after his 15-of-19, 151 yard, 1 TD, 0 INT game at Penn State. His 221.31 passer rating for the SIU is the sixth-highest single-game efficiency rating in school history and 115 rushing yards against NIU is the seventh-best rushing game by a QB in school history.
When Scheelhaase took the field for the first play against Missouri, he became just the third redshirt-freshman in Illinois history to start a season opener. Scott Weaver (1993) and Rich Weiss (1978) are the only other two redshirt-freshmen to take the first snap of a season.
Junior receiver A.J. Jenkins tallied a career-high seven receptions for 76 yards, including an 18-yard TD, in the win at Penn State. Jenkins leads the Illini with 20 catches for 282 yards and three touchdowns so far this season.
Junior running back Jason Ford had a four-yard touchdown pass to freshman Evan Wilson in the third quarter against Penn State, Ford's first career pass and Wilson's first career TD catch. It marked the first time an Illini non-quarterback threw a TD pass since Oct. 7, 2006, at Michigan State, when WR DaJuan Warren threw a 27-yard TD to Jody Ellis.
Ford also had nine carries for 47 yards against PSU, pushing him over 1,000 career yards. He is the 37th player in Illinois history to surpass 1,000 career yards and finished the game with 1,020 yards.
Junior running back Troy Pollard had a season-high eight carries for 55 yards against PSU, including a long of 20 yards. It marked his most productive rushing game since he posted a career-best 92 yards at Syracuse in 2007.
Senior WR Jarred Fayson had a breakout game for the Illini against Ohio State, catching eight passes for 83 yards, setting career highs in both categories. Fayson also completed the first pass of his career, throwing a 23-yarder to quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase in the first quarter, and downed a punt on the one yard line on special teams. Fayson is tied for the team lead with 20 catches through five games.
Weak-side tackle Jeff Allen anchors the Illini offensive line once again. The junior has started every game since the fourth game of his freshman season, giving him a team-high 26 consecutive starts.
THE SPECIAL TEAMS
Junior kicker Derek Dimke was 4-for-4 on field goals last week against Penn State, hitting from 50, 31, 41 and 38 yards. The last time an Illini kicker hit four field goals was on Oct. 21, 2006, at Penn State, when Jason Reda hit four. Dimke is 10-for-11 on field goals this season and is 15-for-16 on field goals and 24-for-24 on extra points for his career since taking over place kicking duties late last season. He started his career with nine straight made field goals, which was the fourth-longest streak in school history.
Dimke booted a career-long 52-yard field goal at the end of the first half against Missouri on Sept. 4. That kick tied the sixth-longest field goal in school history and was the longest Illinois since Jason Reda's 52-yarder at Indiana on Oct. 8, 2005. Dimke also hit a 50-yarder at Penn State on Oct. 9.
Senior punter Anthony Santella is having a stellar final season. He had a career-best 50.8 average on five punts against SIU, equaling the fifth-best single-game punting average in school history, then booted six punts against NIU for a 48.7 average, including a career-long 67-yarder, and has not let up since. Santella currently ranks second in the nation with a 47.9 average on 24 punts.
Santella has vastly improved in each of his four seasons. He's gone from averaging 37.7 yards per punt in 2007 to 39.4 in 2008, 41.3 in 2009 and now 47.9 so far this season. He currently ranks fourth in the Illinois record books in career punting average (40.4), fifth in career punts (204) and sixth in career yardage (8,248).
In addition to his field goal success, Dimke also has excelled on kickoffs. He has booted 11 touchbacks and has a 66.9 yard average in 26 kickoffs this season. This marks Dimke's third year as the Illini kickoff specialist, as he took over duties midway through his freshman season.
The Illini special teams returned a fairly intact group from a year ago as four-year starting punter Anthony Santella and experienced junior kickers Matt Eller and Derek Dimke all returned. The only change to the unit is sophomore long snapper Zak Pedersen, who saw his first action in the season opener against Missouri.
MISCELLANEOUS TEAM NOTES
Attendance at the Oct. 2 game against Ohio State was 62,870, marking the first sellout crowd at Memorial Stadium this season, the 73rd in school history and the 10th since 2007.
Seventeen Illini, including seven true-freshmen, have made their Fighting Illini debuts this season. True-freshmen LB Jonathan Brown, bandit Brandon Denmark, WR Ryan Lankford, WR Darius Millines, QB Miles Osei, FB Jay Prosch and TE Evan Wilson all have seen action this season. In addition, two transfers: FS Trulon Henry and FB Chris Willett; six redshirt-freshmen: RB Bud Golden, FS Steve Hull, DE Tim Kynard, TE Justin Lattimore, QB Nathan Scheelhaase and DT Akeem Spence; and two sophomores: LS Zak Pedersen and TE Eddie Viliunas all have seen the field for the first time in their UI careers this season.
Illinois is 13-0 all-time against the other public universities in the state. The Illini are 4-0 against Northern Illinois, 3-0 against Southern Illinois and Illinois State, 2-0 against Eastern Illinois and 1-0 against Western Illinois. The combined score of those meetings is 511-190 in favor of the Illini and all but one of those 13 meetings have come since 1985 (Illinois played ISU in 1944). This year marked the first time Illinois played more than one in-state public university in the same season.
Following the 35-3 win over Southern Illinois on Sept. 11, Illinois has won 13 straight home openers and improved to 83-33-5 all-time in the first home game of the season.
In five-plus seasons, Zook-coached teams have defeated nine of the 10 teams in the Big Ten at least once, including wins over No. 1 Ohio State, No. 5 Wisconsin and No. 19 Penn State in 2007. The only opponent that has eluded the Illini in the past five years is Purdue, who was off the schedule in 2007 and 2008.
SANTELLA NAMED SEMIFINALIST FOR CAMPBELL AWARD
Illinois senior punter Anthony Santella is on the list of semifinalists for the William V. Campbell Trophy - formerly named the Draddy Trophy - which is given annually to a senior or graduate student in his final year of eligibility who has outstanding football ability and has demonstrated strong leadership and citizenship. It the fourth-straight year that an Illini player has been named a semifinalist, as former Illini J Leman (2007), Ryan McDonald (2008) and Jon Asamoah (2009) all were named to the National Scholar-Athlete Class. Santella graduated with a bachelor's degree in sport management in May 2010 with a 3.54 GPA on a 4.0 scale and currently is pursuing a master's degree in the same field
HISTORIC ILLINI HOMECOMING APPROACHING
The first homecoming celebrated on Illinois' campus was on Oct. 15, 1910, which the Illini won 3-0 over Big Ten rival Chicago, meaning this year's Homecoming on Oct. 23 vs. Indiana marks the 100th anniversary of that historic first.
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.
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.
FOLLOW THE ILLINI ON FACEBOOK AND TWITTER
Get up-to-the-minute info on Fighting Illini football on Twitter (@IlliniFootball) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/IlliniFootball). Not only will you get live game updates and exclusive, behind the scenes insights on your favorites players and coaches, but you'll also find links to photos, videos and stories from around the country as well as interactive contests and giveaways.
The coaching staff designates different team captains for each game week throughout the season. Here is a list of this year's game captains:
MISSOURI: LB Nate Bussey, OL Randall Hunt, WR Eddie McGee, DL Clay Nurse
SOUTHERN ILLINOIS: OL Jeff Allen, LB Nate Bussey, WR Jarred Fayson, DL Clay Nurse
NORTHERN ILLINOIS: OL Jeff Allen, WR Jarred Fayson, LB Ian Thomas, DB Tavon Wilson
OHIO STATE: OL Jeff Allen, WR Jarred Fayson, DL Corey Liuget, LB Martez Wilson
PENN STATE: OL Randall Hunt, RB Mikel Leshoure, DL Corey Liuget, LB Martez Wilson
MICHIGAN STATE: OL Jeff Allen, RB Mikel Leshoure, DL Corey Liuget, LB Martez Wilson
PLAYERS OF THE GAME
Following each Illini victory, the coaching staff names a player of the game for each of the three phases.
GAME OFFENSE DEFENSE SPECIAL TEAMS
Southern Illinois Nathan Scheelhaase, QB Ian Thomas, LB Anthony Santella, P
Northern Illinois Mikel Leshoure, RB Martez Wilson, LB Derek Dimke, PK
Penn State Mikel Leshoure, RB Nate Bussey, LB Derek Dimke, PK