Illini Looking Forward To Penn State
Oct. 16, 2000
Illinois (4-2, 1-2 Big Ten) moved back on the winning side of the ledger with a 31-0 shutout victory over Iowa Saturday at Memorial Stadium. The shutout was Illinois' first since 1995 (7-0 over East Carolina) and first in Big Ten play since a 34-0 win over Purdue in 1990. The victory broke a two-game losing streak for the Illini and moved Illinois within two wins of qualifying for a postseason bowl. Junior quarterback Kurt Kittner completed 17-of-25 passes for 248 yards and three touchdowns, while running back Rocky Harvey rushed 14 times for 104 yards. Receiver Aaron Moorehead caught four passes for 125 yards, including two of Kittner's three scoring tosses.
The Illini defense bounced back with its strongest performance of the season. Iowa completed just 18-32 passes for 181 yards with two Illini interceptions. The Hawkeyes were held to just 86 yards of net rushing on 32 attempts.
Illinois travels to Happy Valley where the Illini have not won in two visits. Penn State is 2-5 on the season, and just 3-8 since the second-ranked Nittany Lions beat the Illini 27-7 in Champaign last year. Penn State is coming of a bye week after losing at Minnesota Oct. 7.
THE COACHES' CORNER
RON TURNER (15-25 in his fourth year at Illinois, 22-29 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. 21 contest at Penn State with a 22-29 head coaching record, 15-25 at Illinois. The Illini have won nine of their last 12 games stretching back to 1999 and had a seven-game winning streak snapped Sept. 23 against Michigan.
Turner is 0-3 against Penn State as a head coach. Last year, the Nittany Lions took a 27-7 win over the Illini at Champaign as the only Illini loss in the final six games of the 1999 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 Micronpc.com 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.
JOE PATERNO (319-88-3 in his 35th year as head coach at Penn State and at the college level) ? The legendary Joe Paterno is in his 51st year of collegiate coaching, including his 35th year as head coach at Penn State. He enters the Illinois game just four wins shy of Bear Bryant's Div. 1A record of 323 all-time victories. Paterno is 6-0 all-time against Illinois, including two victories at Happy Valley.
Penn State leads the all-time series, 8-1, including a 2-0 mark at Beaver Stadium and 6-0 record under Joe Paternon. Since joining the Big Ten, Penn State has won all five previous meetings. Illinois' only victory in the series came 10-8 in 1960 at Memorial Stadium in Champaign. The teams also met at Cleveland Stadium in 1959 when the Nittany Lions posted a 20-9 victory.
Last year in Champaign, Penn State brought a No. 2 national ranking into Champaign. Illinois jumped out to a 7-0 lead on a 34-yard TD run by Rocky Harvey and the score was tied at 7-7 at the half following a Kevin Thompson to Chafie Field TD pass late in the second quarter. The Nittany Lions dominated the second half, outscoring the Illini 20-0. Kurt Kittner completed just seven of 26 passes for 92 yards, while Harvey finished the game with 145 yards on 23 carries.
Illinois Director of Football Operations Deryk Gilmore is a 1990 graduate of Penn State and a two-year letterman for the Nittany Lions, playing on the 1986 National Championship squad.
NO PASSING ZONE
Illinois is one of just seven schools to allow three or fewer passing touchdowns so far in 2000. The Illini rank 37th nationally in pass efficiency defense.
Illinois' 31-0 shutout over Iowa Oct. 14 was its first since a 7-0 victory over East Carolina Sept. 23, 1995 and the first in Big Ten play since a 34-0 win over Purdue on Oct. 13, 1990, a streak of 82 straight games.
The Illini head to State College for the first of two consecutive road games. Illinois has a 1-1 record on the road this year with a 49-13 win over San Diego State and a 44-10 loss to No. 23 Minnesota. Prior to the trip to Minneapolis, the Illini were sporting a four-game road winning streak dating back to the 1999 season, when the team was 5-1 on the road.
Illinois' seven-game winning that was snapped against Michigan streak ranks among the best in school history. Here's a look at the longest winning streaks in Fighting Illini football history.
ILLINOIS RECORD UNDER RON TURNER...
ILLINI IN THE POLLS After spending six weeks in botht he Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches Polls, the Illini fell out of the Top-25 following two tough conference losses to Michigan and Minnesota. 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.
THIS KITT'S FOR REAL 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 12-touchdown, 59 percent completion performance in the last six games, Kittner is on-track to continue his productivity of a year ago. Kittner broke the 1,000-yard mark for 1,109 yards after his 248-yard performance against Iowa. He has connected with five different receivers for TDs (11 different receivers in 1999), including four touchdown passes to sophomore flanker Greg Lewis. He is impressivley continuing to take care of the ball with an astonishing 4:1 touchdown to interception ratio (12 touchdowns and only three picks). The stellar numbers also have earned him recognition as a All-America, Heisman Trophy and Davey O'Brien Award candidate.
TWO-HEADED TAILBACK 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, 145.2 yards per game, (73.5 yards a game for Harvey and 71.7 ypg for Harris) and they would be ranked sixth in the nation, according to this week's NCAA stats. Harvey also recorded his eighth 100-yard game of his career on Saturday with 104 yards against Iowa, to break into the Top-10 all-time rushing in the Illinois record books. He has posted 1,853 yards in three years and needs only 341to reach the Top-5. 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.
LARGE AND IN CHARGE 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.
ITS A FAMILY AFFAIR
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, including 12 to 15 plays against Minnesota where the four played simultaneously. The foursome have combined for 13 tackles and one sack in the two-game stretch. 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).
WAKEFIELD EARNS SECOND BIG TEN HONOR
Senior defensive end Fred Wakefield earned his second conference defensive player of the week honor of the season after his eight-tackle, two-sack performance in the Illini's 31-0 blanking of Iowa. Wakefield also recorded four tackles for a loss of 18 yards, one quarterback hurry and one forced fumble.
WAKEFIELD NAMED BIG TEN DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
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.
SULLIVAN NAMED TO PLAYBOY PRESEASON ALL-AMERICAN TEAM
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.
YOUNG NAMED BUTKUS AWARD CANDIDATE
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.
ABDULLAH NAMED THORPE AWARD CANDIDATE
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 Micronpc.com 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.
RON TURNER RADIO SHOW
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:
RON TURNER TELEVISION SHOW
The Ron Turner Show, taped after each week's game, will air on the following dates and times: