Oct. 14, 2013
Beckman Press Conference: Video | Quotes
Monday Interviews: OC Cubit | DC Banks | QB Scheelhaase | LB Brown
WISCONSIN GAME PROMOTIONS
Coca-Cola Family 4-Pack Tickets - 4 tickets, 4 hot dogs & 4 drinks for $99
Illini Street Fest - 4-6:30 pm on First St. west of Memorial Stadium (Free admission, food, games & more)
Illini Walk - 4:30 pm starting at First and Kirby through Street Fest area
The Henningsens Concert - Country music trio and Atwood, Ill., natives to perform live at Street Fest
Postgame - Fireworks show inside Memorial Stadium
The Fighting Illini (3-2, 0-1) welcome No. 25 Wisconsin (4-2, 1-1) to Memorial Stadium on Saturday for a prime-time Leaders Division clash. Illinois is coming off a bye week, while the Badgers defeated No. 19 Northwestern 35-6 at home last week.
Senior LB and Butkus Award candidate Jonathan Brown leads the Big Ten and ranks fourth nationally in tackles per game (12.0). Brown had a game-high 13 tackles and four TFLs at Nebraska, the second-highest single-game TFLs total in the nation this season.
Sophomore running back Josh Ferguson leads the nation in receiving yards by a running back with 344 on 20 receptions (17.2 ypc). He ranks third in the Big Ten and 17th in the natioin in yards from scrimmage with 654 (310 rush, 344 rec.), after piling up 196 all-purpose yards (114 rush, 82 rec.) at Nebraska.
The revamped Illinois offense, directed by new offensive coordinator Bill Cubit, has jumped at least 75 spots in the national rankings from last year to this year in first downs, long scrimmage plays, scoring offense, turnovers lost, total offense, passing efficiency and passing offense, with the biggest turnaround a whopping 99-place improvement in first downs. The results have been astounding:
| ILLINOIS' OFFENSIVE IMPROVEMENT IN 2013
|Category||2012 (Final Nat'l Rk)||2013 (Current Nat'l Rk)||Difference|
|First Downs (per game)||16.4 (120)||25.0 (21)||+99
|Scrim. plays of 20+ yd||34 (122)||31 (35)||+87
|Scoring Offense (ppg)||16.67 (119)||36.0 (33)||+86|
|Turnovers lost||30 (107)||7 (24)||+83|
|Total Offense (ypg)||296.67 (119)||457.2 (39)||+80|
|Passing Efficiency||113.42 (102)||153.53 (22)||+80|
|Passing Offense (ypg)||138.83 (107)||281.4 (29)||+78|
|Rushing Offense (ypg)||127.86 (97)||175.8 (60)||+37|
Senior QB Nathan Scheelhaase has thrived in Cubit's system, ranking in the top three in the Big Ten and top 40 in the nation in passing efficiency (159.2, 2nd/17th), passing yards per game (259.4, 3rd/33rd) and total offense (267.8 ypg, 3rd/37th) through week seven.
Sophomore V'Angelo Bentley leads the Big Ten and ranks fifth in the nation in kick return average (32.1 ypr), including a 100-yard kickoff return for TD against Southern Illinois. As a team, Illinois ranks 20th in the nation in kick return average (25.2 ypr) after ranking 107th in 2012 (18.83 ypr).
The Fighting Illini are expected to wear all orange uniforms on Saturday, marking the first time they'll wear orange helmets, jerseys and pants together since Sept. 25, 2004, against Purdue.
Illinois is 14-8 all-time in night games at Memorial Stadium. The last time the Illini hosted a Big Ten opponent in prime time was on Oct. 18, 2008, a 55-13 win over Indiana. The most recent home game under the lights was last season's 52-24 loss to Louisiana Tech. See the complete Game Notes for a full list of night games at Memorial Stadium.
The Orange and Blue have scored 180 points so far this season, the third-most in school history over the first five games of a season and the most since the 1944 Fighting Illini scored 190 in their first five games.
WISCONSIN SERIES NOTES
The Last Meeting
October 6, 2012
This week's game marks the 80th meeting between the Fighting Illini and the Badgers. The all-time series is all square at 36-36-7 with Wisconsin winning seven of the last eight meetings. Illinois' lone victory in that stretch was by a 31-26 score over the fifth-ranked Badgers in Champaign in 2007.
Last season, the Illini and Badgers were tied 7-7 at halftime and UW led just 10-7 after three quarters, but Wisconsin scored 21 fourth-quarter points to pull away for a 34-14 win in Madison.
Illinois holds a 20-15-3 advantage in the series in games played in Champaign, but Wisconsin has won three of the last four meetings at Memorial Stadium (2003, 2005, 2011). Illinois' last home win against the Badgers also is the Illini's last win in the series, a 31-26 victory over the fifth-ranked Badgers in 2007.
The last time Wisconsin came to Memorial Stadium in 2011, the Illini led the 15th-ranked Badgers at halftime 17-7. However, Russell Wilson and Montee Ball accounted for 21 unanswered points in the second half in the 28-17 UW victory.
The last 10 games in Champaign between the two teams are nearly split evenly, with Wisconsin holding a slim 6-4 advantage dating back to 1989.
Illini head coach Tim Beckman
is 0-1 against Wisconsin, while Badger head coach Gary Anderson has never faced the Illini.
HIGHLIGHTS AGAINST THE BADGERS
LB Jonathan Brown was a man possessed against Wisconsin in 2011, posting 10 tackles, four TFLs, one sack, a QB hurry and a 28-yard fumble return. In 2012, Brown had nine tackles and 1.5 TFLs in three quarters before getting hurt. In two career games against UW, Brown has 19 tackles, 5.5 TFLs, one sack, one QB hurry and a fumble return.
QB Nathan Scheelhaase rushed for 84 yards and a touchdown in last year's contest against Wisconsin.
Steve Hull, who was a free safety at the time, recorded his first career interception last year at Wisconsin, returning it 17 yards.
RB Donovonn Young scored two touchdowns in 2011, rushing for 43 yards on eight carries.
TE Jon Davis had a break-out game against the Badgers in 2011, catching five passes for 53 yards.
ILLINOIS VS. RANKED OPPONENTS
Illinois faces its second Associated Press top-25 opponent of the season on Saturday as Wisconsin is ranked No. 25 in this week's AP poll. The Badgers are receiving votes in the USA Today coaches poll.
The Illini are 0-1 against AP-ranked teams this season, falling to #19/23 Washinton at Soldier Field on Sept. 14. The Huskies are ranked 20th in the AP poll and 25th in the coaches poll this week.
The Illini have lost six straight and 15 of their last 16 against foes ranked in the AP poll since beating No. 1 Ohio State 28-21 on Nov. 10, 2007. The lone win during came on Sept. 17, 2011, over No. 22/18 Arizona State, 17-14. Illinois has lost its last two home games against ranked foes since beating ASU at Memorial Stadium.
In 2010, the Illini defeated a Northwestern team that was ranked No. 25 in the coaches poll, 48-27, at Wrigley Field, however, the Wildcats were not ranked in the AP poll at the time. Illinois' last opponent, Nebraska, also was ranked No. 25 in the coaches poll, but unranked in the AP top-25.
Illinois coach Tim Beckman is 0-7 against AP-ranked ranked opponents in his 4+ years as a head coach.
BYE WEEK FACTS
The Fighting Illini are coming off an open weekend heading into Saturday's Wisconsin game. It's the second of two byes for Illinois this season (the other was Sept. 21), marking just the fourth time in school history that the team has more than one open week in a season. The only other times were in 1989, 2009 and 2010.
The Illini defeated Miami (Ohio), 50-14, after after their first bye week this season to snap a 10-game post-bye week losing streak. Prior to that victory, their last win after a bye was on Oct. 26, 2002, over Indiana.
Illinois has played 33 games after a bye in the modern era (since 1985, when bye weeks became commonplace) and is 12-21 in those contests.
WHOSE HOUSE? SCHEEL-HOUSE
Senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase already has blown past his 2012 season totals for touchdown passes, 20-plus-yard pass plays, 30+ pass plays and 50+ pass plays. And he is only 65 yards from surpassing his passing yardage total from 2012 despite having 54 fewer completions. Take a look at his five-game 2013 numbers versus his 10-game 2012 numbers below:
| Scheelhaase Passing 2012 vs. 2013|
Scheelhaase enters the weekend ranked fourth on the Illinois career total offense list with 8,430 yards (1,837 rushing, 6,593 passing). He needs 210 yards to catch Jack Trudeau (1981-85) for third place and 450 yards to catch Kurt Kittner (1998-2001) for second place. Juice Williams is the Illinois all-time total yardage leader with 10,594.
Scheelhaase has found great success on first down, completing 52-of-69 (75.4 percent) passes on first down for 788 yards and six touchdowns for a 194.2 passing efficiency rating. He ranks third in the nation in first-down QB rating among QBs with 50 or more first-down attempts behind only Florida State's Jameis Winston (229.4) and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater (194.4).
Scheelhaase has attacked opponents early in games, with nine of his 12 TDs coming in the first half, which is tied for the 10th-most first-half TDs in the nation. He also has 13 first-half plays of 25-plus-yards, tied for sixth in FBS. Oregon's Marcus Mariota (18) leads the nation in that category.
Scheelhaase ranks fourth on the Illinois career passing efficiency list (129.9) and has UI record-holder Tony Eason (133.8) in his sights. Scheelhaase also ranks fourth at Illinois in career touchdown passes (46), fourth in total offense (8,430 yards), fifth in completions (583), fifth in attempts (949), sixth in passing yardage (6,593) and 18th in rushing yardage (1,837) - second among quarterbacks - at Illinois.
Scheelhaase set a school record for TD passes in a quarter with four in the second quarter against Miami (Ohio). He tossed a career-high five TDs against the RedHawks, all in the first half, one more than he had all of last season. Those five TDs in a half tied the Illinois record shared by Dave Wilson and Tom O'Connell.
Scheelhaase threw for a career-high 416 yards in the season-opener against Southern Illinois, the 10th-best single-game passing performance in school history and the fifth-most by an Illinois quarterback at Memorial Stadium. He had 340 of his 416 yards in the first half, marking the most ever for an Illini in the first half and the most in any half since Juice Williams totaled 347 passing yards in the second half against Minnesota on Oct. 11, 2008.
After starting the first five games this season, Scheelhaase now has 41 career starts under his belt, tied with Louisiana-Monroe's Kolton Browning for the fourth-most in the nation by a quarterback behind only Georgia's Aaron Murray (47), Troy's Corey Robinson (43) and Nebraska's Taylor Martinez (42).
Scheelhaase led Illinois to bowl victories in each his first two seasons (2010 Texas Bowl and 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl), making him one of only two QBs in Big Ten history to start and lead their teams to bowl wins during both his freshman and sophomore seasons (Brooks Bollinger, Wisconsin). After missing a bowl in 2012, Scheelhaase is looking to end his UI career with a third bowl win, something no Illini QB has done previously.
LINEBACKER U: NOT WHERE YOU THINK IT IS
Like many Illini teams over the years, the 2013 Illini defense is led by its linebacking corps. This year, senior Jonathan Brown
, a 2012 Butkus Award semifinalist, and sophomore Mason Monheim
, a 2012 Freshman All-American key the attack. Brown has piled up 227 tackles, 35.5 TFLs and 10.0 sacks over the last two-plus seasons, while Monheim became the first true-freshman ever to lead the Illini in tackles and led all Big Ten freshmen with 86 stops last season. Not surprisingly, the duo is leading the team in tackles so far this season as Brown is averaging a Big Ten-best 12.0 stops per game, fourth-best in the NCAA, and Monheim ranks fifth in the Big Ten and 67th nationally with 8.4 tackles per game.
Illinois' history at the linebacker position is up there with any program in the nation. It begins with football legend Ray Nitschke, who donned the Orange and Blue from 1955-57, and the greatest linebacker in football history, Dick Butkus, who was a two-time All-American and led the Fighting Illini to a 1964 Rose Bowl win over Washington. The Orange and Blue boast two Butkus Award winners, Dana Howard in 1994 and Kevin Hardy in 1995, and several first-team All-Americans like Darrick Brownlow (1990), Simeon Rice (1994 & `95) and J Leman
(2007), in addition to Butkus, Howard and Hardy. Illinois linebacker lore also includes multi-year NFL players Scott Studwell, Danny Clark
, Martez Wilson
and Nate Bussey
WHAT CAN BROWN DO FOR YOU?
Butkus Award candidate Jonathan Brown leads the Big Ten with 60 tackles and ranks fourth in the nation at 12.0 tackles per game. He has led Illinois in tackles in every game this season.
Brown had a monster game at Nebraska, racking up a game-high 13 tackles and tying his career-high with 4.0 TFLs. He now has 37.0 career career TFLs at Illinois, which ranks seventh all-time. He's close to cracking the UI career top-five, as he enters the Wisconsin game one behind Kevin Hardy for sixth and 1.5 behind J Leman for fifth all-time at Illinois. Both Hardy and Leman were first-team All-Americans.
Over the last two years, Brown has put up monster numbers when healthy. He was leading the Illini with 59 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks in 2012 before having his season cut short by a shoulder injury. That followed a breakout 2011 season, when he earned All-Big Ten honors with 108 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. He ranked sixth in the nation in TFLs per game (1.63) and led the Big Ten in TFLs per game during conference play (2.07).
Brown is a member of preseason watch lists for the Butkus Award, Bednarik Award and Nagurski Trophy. Last season, he was one of 12 semifinalists for the Butkus Award, which goes annually to the nation's top linebacker and is named after Illinois legend Dick Butkus.
FERGUSON A DUAL THREAT
Sophomore running back Josh Ferguson is having a breakout season for the Illini. He leads the nation in receiving yards by a running back (344) and the Illini in rushing yards (310).
Ferguson ranks eighth in the nation among running backs in yards per touch, avering 9.5 yards each time he gets his hands on the ball (654 scimmage yards on 69 plays).
Ferguson is averaging 130.8 scrimmage yards per game (62.0 rushing, 68.8 receiving), which ranks 17th nationally and third in the Big Ten behind only Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah (158.8 ypg) and Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon (145.8 ypg).
Ferguson had three career 100-yard games, two rushing and one receiving. He ran for 114 yards on 19 carries (6.0 ypc) at Nebraska on Oct. 5 and also ran for 101 yards at Arizona State on Sept. 8, 2012. His 100-yard receiving game came in the 2013 season opener against Southern Illinois, when he had four catches for 103 yards.
In 2012, Ferguson led all Big Ten freshmen in all-purpose yards per game (90.7).
FORMER ILLINI IN SPACE
Former Illini defensive back and current NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins is in the middle of his first space flight. Hopkins and crewmates Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy launched from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, at 3:58 p.m. CT on Sept. 25, and arrived at the International Space Station six hours later. Hopkins will remain on board as a flight engineer on Expedition 37/Expedition 38, which is scheduled to end with the Soyuz landing in March 2014. During its time on the station, the crew will conduct science experiments and maintenance.
Hopkins played for coach John Mackovic at Illinois, helping the Fighting Illini reach four straight bowl games from 1988-91. He started his career as a walk-on and by the time he was a senior, he was a team captain. He graduated from Illinois in 1991 with a degree in aerospace engineering and earned a master's degree in aerospace engineering from Stanford in 1992. A colonel in the U.S. Air Force, Hopkins was selected in July 2009 as one of 14 members of the 20th NASA astronaut class. More on Hopkins and his mission can be found at www.nasa.gov/station and on Twitter @AstroIllini.
Complete Illinois-Wisconsin Game Notes