Nate Bussey and the Illini host Indiana this Saturday at Memorial Stadium
Oct. 18, 2010
The Illinois/Indiana game will be nationally televised on the Big Ten Network with an air time of 11 a.m. CT. Tom Hart (play-by-play), Anthony Herron (color analyst) and Lisa Byington (sideline) will call the action with Bryan Carter producing and Tom Huet 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 SIRIUS (127) & XM (198) satellite radio.
A limited number of tickets are available for Saturday's Homecoming game against Indiana. Tickets can be purchased at the UI Athletic Ticket Office at Assembly Hall, by calling 1-866-ILLINI-1 or online at fightingillini.com.
THE OPENING KICK
The Fighting Illini will help celebrate the university's 100th anniversary of Homecoming on Saturday when Indiana comes to Memorial Stadium. Illinois is looking to bounce back from a 26-6 loss at #13/11 Michigan State last week.
The Illinois defense has made big strides this year under new defensive coordinator Vic Koenning. Illinois currently ranks 20th nationally in total defense (303.0 ypg), 23rd in rushing yards allowed (113.0 ypg), 24th in points allowed (18.5ppg). At the end of last season, the Orange and Blue ranked 91st in total defense (403.3 ypg), 76th in rushing defense (154.4 ypg) and 96th in scoring defense (30.2 ppg).
While Illinois' record is 3-3 heading into this weekend's game, the Illini have faced the second-toughest schedule in the nation thus far according to the official NCAA schedule strength rankings. Illinois' opponents have a combined record of 26-7 this season vs. Division I opponents (not counting their game vs. Illinois). Only Iowa State has played a tougher slate so far (29-7 combined opponent record).
Illinois' three losses this season (Missouri, Ohio State and Michigan State) have a combined record of 19-1 and all are currently ranked in the top-11 of the Oct. 17 BCS standings.
The Fighting Illini have yet to allow more than 26 points in a game this season despite facing the nation's second-toughest schedule. Illinois held the high-powered offenses of Missouri (23) and Michigan State (26) to season-low point totals and held an Ohio State offense averaging 49.3 points per game to 24 points.
Illinois' defense has held its opposition to under 100 yards rushing four times in six games this season (98 vs. Missouri, 46 vs. SIU, 65 vs. Penn St. and 93 vs. Michigan St.) and seven times in the last two seasons. Through six games, the Illini are allowing just 113.0 ypg on the ground, which ranks 23rd in the nation.
Illinois ranks fourth in the nation in red zone scoring percentage, picking up points on 18 of its 19 trips inside the 20 this season (95 percent). The Illini have nine touchdowns and nine field goals in the red zone so far this season. The only time the Illini didn't convert a red zone trip into points was when the second half clock ran out at Michigan State.
Conversely, the Illini defense ranks fifth in the nation in red zone touchdown percentage defense. The Orange and Blue have allowed just eight touchdowns on 23 opponent trips inside the 20 (34.8 percent).
Doak Walker Award candidate Mikel Leshoure has topped the 100-yard mark in four games this season and in seven of Illinois' last 12 games dating back to last season. So far this season, Leshoure ranks third in the Big Ten and 14th in the nation in rushing with 113.3 ypg.
Ray Guy Award and Campbell Award candidate Anthony Santella ranks fourth in the nation with an average of 46.7 yards on 28 punts. As a team, Illinois ranks fifth in the nation in net punting (41.14 ypk).
Butkus Award candidate Martez Wilson leads Illinois and ranks in the top-10 in the Big Ten in tackles (8.7 tpg) and sacks (2.0). Wilson has led the Illini in tackles in three of the last four games, posting 11 stops against Northern Illinois, nine against Ohio State and 12 in the win at Penn State.
With Illinois' win at Penn State on Oct. 9, Illini coach Ron Zook became just the sixth coach ever to defeat both Penn State's Joe Paterno and Florida State's Bobby Bowden on the road. Zook defeated Bowden's Seminoles in 2004 while coaching at Florida. He joins Larry Coker (Miami), Foge Fazio (Pitt), Dennis Erickson (Miami), Tom O'Brien (Boston College) and Howard Schnellenberger (Miami) as the only coaches to defeat the two winningest coaches in college football history on the road. (source Stats, Inc.)
ILLINOIS 100TH ANNIVERSARY HOMECOMING FACTS
The first homecoming celebrated on Illinois' campus was on Oct. 15, 1910, which the Illini won 3-0 over Chicago, meaning this year's Homecoming vs. Indiana marks the 100th anniversary of that historic first. It is also the 100th Homecoming game in school history due to a flu pandemic canceling the 1918 game.
Illinois has an all-time record of 42-55-2 in Homecoming games. This year will mark the fifth time the Illini have hosted Indiana on Homecoming. Illinois holds a 3-2 a Homecoming advantage against the Hoosiers, with the most recent Homecoming meeting being a 34-32 Hoosier victory in 2006.
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.
For more information about Illinois' 2010 Homecoming, visit http://www.uiaa.org/illinois/homecoming/index.html
INDIANA SERIES NOTES
This week's game marks the 68th meeting between the Fighting Illini and the Indiana Hoosiers. The Illini hold a 43-21-3 series advantage and are 28-8-1 against Indiana in Champaign. The Illini won 55-13 the last time the two teams met at Illinois' Memorial Stadium in 2008, while the Hoosiers won last year's meeting, 27-14, in Bloomington, Ind.
Illinois coach Ron Zook is 2-3 in his career against the Hoosiers, while Indiana coach Bill Lynch is 1-2 as a head coach against the Illini.
HIGHLIGHTS AGAINST THE HOOSIERS
The Illini's 55 points in the 2008 win over the Hoosiers mark the highest scoring game of the Zook era and are the most points Illinois has ever scored in a Big Ten game at Illinois' Memorial Stadium (previous high was 50 in a 50-0 shutout over Iowa in 1973).
In the last two meetings with Indiana, the Illini have rolled up 1,006 total yards, including 477 on the ground.
Junior WR A.J. Jenkins has had big games in his two previous meetings against Indiana. He returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown in the 2008 game and had four catches for 77 yards and a touchdown in last year's game at IU.
Junior RB Mikel Leshoure ran for 78 yards on 12 carries in last year's meeting with the Hoosiers, which was his career high at the time.
Junior RB Jason Ford ran for a career-high 172 yards and three TDs as a true-freshman in the Illini's win 2008 over the Hoosiers.
Sophomore OG Hugh Thornton saw the first playing time of his career when he got the start at right tackle as a true-freshman in last year's game against Indiana.
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 196.7 yards per game (12,985 yards in 66 games) in the last 5+ seasons tops Wisconsin's 193.4 ypg (13,923 yards in 72 games) during that same time span.
Illinois has posted three games of 200+ rushing yards this season, including a season-high 319-yard effort against Northern Illinois on Sept. 18 and 282 yards on the ground at Penn State on Oct. 9.
Mikel Leshoure has run for 1,251 yards on 207 carries (6.0 ypc) since the mid-point of last season (12 games). Among Big Ten players, only Wisconsin's John Clay (1,476 yards on 248 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 200.3 ypg on the ground, which ranks 29th nationally.
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, FS Steve Hull (ankle) has missed the last two games after being injured against Ohio State and 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 to action Oct. 9 at Penn State. Senior WR Eddie McGee (missed NIU game with ankle injury) and bandit Nate Palmer (missed first three games with a toe injury) both returned against Ohio State after missing time earlier in the season. Junior FB/TE Zach Becker (feet) returned to action last week at Michigan State after missing the first five games.
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 52 tackles, 5.5 TFL and 2.0 sacks through six games this season. Thomas saw his first action of the season in the Sept. 18 game vs. NIU.
ILLINI DEFENSE IN HABIT OF SHUTTING DOWN HIGH POWERED OFFENSES
The Illini `D' has held some of the top offenses in the nation in check this season:
The UI defense held No. 13 Michigan State 179 total yards below its season average and 132 yards below its rushing average. The Spartans were averaging 473 total yards per game and 225 yards on the ground - which both ranked in the top 15 in the nation - but were held to season-low totals of 294 total yards and 93 rushing yards by the Orange and Blue.
In Illinois' 33-13 win at Penn State on Oct. 9, the 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. PSU's seven first downs marked the fewest since gaining six first downs against Iowa in 2004.
On Oct. 2, No. 2 Ohio State came to town 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.
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.
The UI defense held NIU running back Chad Spann to just 15 yards on 13 carries. Spann currently ranks 18th in the nation, averaging 107.6 ypg, and racked up 223 yards on 15 carries against Minnesota on Sept. 25, one week after the Fighting Illini shut him down.
MORE DEFENSIVE NOTES
The Illini defense has been much improved over last season. In the first six games of 2009, the Illini allowed 2,525 total yards (420.8 ypg), 1,077 rushing yards (179.5 ypg) and 170 points (28.3 ppg). In six games this season, the Illini have allowed 1,818 yards (303.0 ypg), 678 rushing yards (113.0 ypg) and 111 points (18.5 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) 18.5 (24) Total Defense (ypg) 403.3 (91) 303.0 (20) Rushing Defense (ypg) 154.42 (76) 113.0 (23) Passing Defense (ypg) 248.83 (100) 190.0 (35) Pass Efficiency Defense 142.77 (103) 123.35 (55) The Illini's defensive turnaround this season is even more impressive when field position is taken into account. Opponents have started 14 drives in plus territory but the UI defense has allowed just one touchdown and seven field goals on those 14 drives. The average starting position for opponents is the 33.7 yard line, compared to the 27.0 yard line for the Illini offense.
The Illini offense also was dominant in the win over Penn State on Oct. 9, 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 in 2004.
Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase and kicker Derek Dimke were rewarded for stellar performances in the Illini win at Penn State. 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.
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 ball control capabilities during the first half of this season. The team's opening drive of the year 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 six games, Illinois had 16 scoring drives of 8+ plays and 14 scoring drives of 4+ minutes.
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 21.2 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 four 20+-carry games already and is still averaging a robust 5.4 yard per carry for the season.
Leshoure had a string of four straight 100-yard games snapped earlier this season 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. His four 100+-yard games this season and seven career 100+-yard games are both tied for the 10-most in school history.
Redshirt-freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase has shown his dual-threat ability in Illinois' first six 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 346 yards and three touchdowns on 24 catches 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 currently has 1,034 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 leads the team with 25 catches through six 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 27 consecutive starts.
THE SPECIAL TEAMS
Junior kicker Derek Dimke was 4-for-4 on field goals against Penn State Oct. 9, 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. After two more field goals at MSU last week, Dimke is 12-for-13 on field goals this season and is 17-for-18 on field goals and 24-for-24 on extra points for his career since taking over place kicking duties. He started his career with nine straight made field goals, which was the fourth-longest streak in school history, and has a current string of eight straight makes heading into this week's Indiana game.
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.
In addition to his field goal success, Dimke also has excelled on kickoffs. He has booted 13 touchbacks and has a 66.3 yard average in 29 kickoffs this season, already exceeding last year's season total of 12 touchbacks. This marks Dimke's third year as the Illini kickoff specialist, as he took over duties midway through his freshman season.
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 fourth in the nation with a 46.7 average on 28 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 46.7 so far this season. He currently ranks fourth in the Illinois record books in career punting average (40.4), fourth in career yardage (8,406) and fifth in career punts (208).
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.
LESHOURE CLIMBING ILLINOIS AND BIG TEN LISTS, FORD GOES OVER 1,000
Junior running back Mikel Leshoure went over the 1,500-yard career rushing mark with his 83 yards on the ground at Michigan State last week, becoming the 22nd Illini player to do so. He enters this weekend's contest with 1,540 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 with 47 yards during the Oct. 9 win at Penn State. Ford now has 1,036 yards for his career, a total that ranks 13th among active Big Ten players.
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
INDIANA: OL Jeff Allen, DL Corey Liuget, WR Eddie McGee, LB Martez Wilson