Football
Game 8: Illinois (4-3, 2-2) at Wisconsin (3-4, 0-4)

 
Sophmore WR Arrelious Benn has had four 100-yard-plus reception games in a row, more than any other receiver in the history of Illini football.
Sophmore WR Arrelious Benn has had four 100-yard-plus reception games in a row, more than any other receiver in the history of Illini football.
 

Oct. 21, 2008

Complete Release in PDF format




FOR OPENERS
  • This week's game marks 77th meeting between the Fighting Illini and the Wisconsin Badgers. The Illini hold a 36-33-7 series advantage, but trail 18-16-4 in Madison. The Illini topped the fifth-ranked Badgers last season in Champaign, 31-26, ending Wisconsin's nation-leading 14-game winning streak. Illinois has lost two straight at Camp Randall Stadium, with the last victory coming in 2002, 37-20.
  • Head coach Ron Zook will be wearing a patch on his game shirt on Oct. 25 vs. Wisconsin to bring awareness to "Coach for a Cure" a effort by the American Football Coaches Association to assist fundraising for muscular dystrophy research.
  • Williams has led the Big Ten in total offense since the first week of the season. This week he is averaging 346.1 yards per game, 67.8 on the ground and 278.3 in the air, which ranks eighth nationally. For the past two weeks, he has led the league in passing and is 10th nationall.
  • Illinois is the only school to have two players ranked in the Big Ten's top-10 in rushing. Daniel Dufrene is averaging 72.7 yards a game which is seventh in the league, and Williams ranks ninth with 67.8 per contest.
  • Illini receiver Arrelious Benn is averaging 6.3 catches per game, which is the most for an Illini receiver since David Williams averaged 7.7 catches per contest in 1985. That number also ranks second in the Big Ten. In four Big Ten games, Benn has posted over 135 yards receiving per game, nearly 26 yards more than his next competitor (Decker 109 per game).
  • The Illini offense ranks in the top-two in the Big Ten in all four offensive categories - first in passing (279.7) and total offense (484.6), and second in scoring offense (36.1) and rushing (204.9). Nationally, Illinois ranks in the top-21 in all four categories - total (9), passing (14), scoring (20) and rushing (21).
  • Illinois middle linebacker Brit Miller is averaging 1.8 tackles for loss per game, which ranks fourth in the nation. He also ranks 18th nationally in tackles with 9.7 per contest.
  • As a defense, the Illini are logging 7.7 tackles for loss per game, which is the best in the Big Ten and rates 15th nationally. They also rank 15th in the NCAA in sacks per game with 2.9, third best in the conference.
  • Illinois' Ron Zook has defeated Michigan in "The Big House" and Ohio State in "The Horseshoe." He is one of two active Big Ten coaches (Joe Paterno is the other, beating Michigan in 1994 and 1996, and Ohio State 1978) and he is one of 13 coaches in Big Ten history that has accomplished the feat.
  • Despite being down in turnover margin this season (13 takeaways, 14 giveaways), the Illini offense is taking full advantage of its opportunities, scoring 10 times in 13 tries for 62 points after turnovers, which is 77 percent of the time. On the flipside, the Illini defense has only allowed opposing teams to score off miscues five times in 14 attempts (36 percent).
  • With its 3-1 record at home this year, Illinois has won eight of its last 10 games at Memorial Stadium after posting a 5-1 record in 2007. 4 Fourteen Illini true freshmen have played through the first seven games: RB Mikel LeShoure, WR A.J. Jenkins, WR Cordale Scott, PK Derek Dimke, RB Jason Ford, DB Tavon Wilson, DB Supo Sanni, LB Russell Ellington, FB Zach Becker, OL Corey Lewis, OL Jeff Allen, WR Fred Sykes, TE Hubie Graham and DT Corey Liuget. In addition, junior college transfer Donsay Hardeman and redshirt-freshmen Matt Eller, Ian Thomas and Daryle Ballew also are playing their first seasons of collegiate football.
  • Illinois' attendance for the home opener against Eastern Illinois was 60,131, the most for a home opener since hosting 70,193 against No. 13 Michigan in 1995. In the second game of the home schedule, the Illini drew 58,632. With the four-game Big Ten portion of the schedule already announced as sell outs, the Illini will average over 60,000 fans for the entire season. That number will be the most since the 1995 season.
  • Illinois offense has put up some staggering numbers thus far, leading the Big Ten and ranking ninth in the nation in total yards (484.6 ypg). The Illini have put up over 500 yards five times already this season and have accomplished the feat in three straight games for the first time since 2002 when they rolled up 600 vs. Arkansas State on 9/14, 602 vs. San Jose State on 9/21 and 543 vs. Michigan on 9/28.


EXPLOSIVE OFFENSE

  • Illinois has scored 15 of its 30 touchdown drives in less than two minutes, which ranks seventh nationally. The fastest drive has been a one-play, eight-second drive that culminated in a 13 yard touchdown run by Arrelious Benn.
  • The Illinois offense ranks third nationally with five touchdowns over 50 yards. The Illini are tied with No. 4 Oklahoma with five, and are behind Louisiana-Lafayette's 10 and Tulsa's six 50-plus TD plays.
  • Juice Williams has completed seven passes over 50 yards this season, second most in the country (David Johnson of Tulsa has nine). Five of those have gone for touchdowns, which is second behind Oklahoma' Sam Bradford and Johnson's seven.
  • The Illini also have 15 touchdown-scoring drives of five-plays or less, which ranks fifth nationally.


KING OF THE HOUSE

  • Juice Williams has accomplished a feat unprecedented in history. In back-to-back weeks (Oct. 4 and Oct. 11), he posted total offense numbers which are the best that respective stadium has ever seen. Williams compiled 431 yards of total offense at Michigan Stadium, which is the most ever recorded there. One week later, Williams threw for 462 yards and rushed for another 41, making his 503 total yards an Illinois Memorial Stadium record.
  • Based on research collected by Division I SIDs, there are no other current players who own stadium records in two different places.


STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE

  • Illinois' three losses have come to teams with a combined record of 19-3 (Missouri 5-2, Penn State 8-0, Minnesota 6-1) 4 Five of Illinois' 11 FBS opponents are ranked in the top-25 - Penn State (3), Ohio State (10), Missouri (16), Northwestern (24), Minnesota (25).
  • Illinois' three FBS non-conference opponents have a combined record of 14-7. Missouri is ranked 16th at 5-2, Louisiana-Lafayette is 4-3, but leads the nation in rushing, and Western Michigan is is 5-2.
  • Against third-ranked and undefeated Penn State, the Illini offense posted over 350 total yards, the only team to do so this year. Illinois also put up 24 points, the most scored against PSU this season.


WISCONSIN SERIES NOTES

  • This week's game marks 77th meeting between the Fighting Illini and the Wisconsin Badgers. The Illini hold a 36-33-7 series advantage, but trail 18-16-4 in Madison. The Illini topped the fifth-ranked Badgers last season in Champaign, 31-26, ending Wisconsin's nation-leading 14-game winning streak. Illinois has lost two straight at Camp Randall Stadium, with the last victory coming in 2002, 37-20.
  • Illinois does not have a player from state of Wisconsin on its roster. Wisconsin has 11 players on its roster from Illinois, including starting defensive end O'Brien Schofield (Great Lakes, Ill./North Shore Community) who leads the team in sacks with 3.0.


HIGHLIGHTS VS. WISCONSIN

  • Illinois' victory over No. 5 Wisconsin last season was the first over a top-5 opponent in 18 years and ended the Badger's nation-leading 14-game winning streak.
  • The Illini rushed for 289 yards in last season's win against the Badgers.
  • Cornerback Vontae Davis intercepted a Tyler Donovan pass in the fourth quarter of last year's victory.
  • A pair of true-freshmen picked up their first career sacks in last year's victory. Linebacker Martez Wilson had one sack, while defensive tackle Josh Brent had a half sack.
  • Quarterback Juice Williams had 213 total yards (129 passing, 92 rushing) in last year's win over the Badgers.
  • Back-up quarterback Eddie McGee scored a late TD to put the game out of reach last season.
  • Safety Travon Bellamy had a 41-yard interception return for TD in the Illini's 30-24 loss at Wisconsin in 2006.


RECORDS TO WATCH

  • Juice Williams needs 45 yards to move into the top-14 on the all-time rushing list in the Illinois record books.
  • Williams needs 194 rushing yards to break the 2,000-yard mark. He would be the 14th player in school history to top 2,000 and the first non-running back.
  • Williams already holds the Illinois career record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 1,806 in his first three seasons.
  • Running back Daniel Dufrene needs 197 rushing yards to break the 1,000-yard mark.


ILLINOIS ON A "JOURNEY"

  • The Big Ten Network original series Illinois Football: The Journey airs each Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. CT/9:30 p.m. ET. The eighth show of the season, which airs on Oct. 21, shows Illinois behind the scenes in its homecoming game against Minnesota. The show will give viewers a detailed look at Memorial Stadium on gameday with perspectives from the coaches' booth, the Marching Illini, Block I, game management and the coaches wives.
  • New episodes will air at 8:30 p.m. CT/9:30 p.m. ET every Tuesday during the football season, with the previous week's show preceding the new episode. Viewers can follow The Journey online with a producer's diary, bonus video clips, photos, archived segments and a five-minute video preview of the season premiere by visiting www.BigTenNetwork.com/Journey.


BIG TEN 1,000-YARD RUSHERS

The Big Ten boasts 11 career 1,000-yard rushers. Illinois quarterback Juice Williams ranks sixth among active players and is tops among the two quarterbacks in the rankings. Indiana's Kellen Lewis is the only other signal-caller on the list.

  1. Javon Ringer, RB, Sr., Michigan State 3,940 yards
  2. Tyrell Sutton, RB, Sr., Northwestern 3,695 yards
  3. P.J. Hill, RB, Jr., Wisconsin 3,409 yards
  4. Kory Sheets, RB, Sr., Purdue 2,943 yards
  5. Beanie Wells, RB, Jr., Ohio State 2,804 yards
  6. Juice Williams, QB, Jr., Illinois 1,806 yards
  7. Kellen Lewis, QB, Jr., Indiana 1,582 yards
  8. Shonn Greene, RB, Jr., Iowa 1,523 yards
  9. Evan Royster, So., Penn State 1,406 yards
  10. Marcus Thigpen, RB, Sr., Indiana 1,335 yards
  11. Jaycen Taylor, RB, Sr., Purdue 1,237 yards
    - Daniel Dufrene, Jr., Illinois 803 yards
    - Adam Weber, So., Minnesota 664 yards


DRINKING THE JUICE

  • Juice Williams is a candidate for the Davey O'Brien Award, given to the nation's top quarterback. He ranks first in the Big Ten in passing and total offense, ninth in the conference in rushing and is the only quarterback in the country to break two stadium records (total offense in Michigan Stadium and Illinois' Memorial Stadium).
  • Williams has twice been named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week this season. He earned the honor for his performance at Michigan after posting 431 yards of total offense against the Wolverines, breaking a Michigan Stadium record and against Missouri throwing for a career-high five TDs, 451 yards on a career-high 26 completions. His 451 passing yards rank fourth all-time at Illinois. He out-passed Chase Daniel 451 yards to 323 and threw two more TDs than the Missouri Heisman candidate.
  • With 310 yards passing and 121 yards rushing vs. Michigan on Oct. 4, Illinois quarterback Juice Williams became just the third player in Big Ten history to rack up over 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing in single game. He joins Northwestern's Zak Kustok (421 passing, 111 rushing vs. Bowling Green on 11/17/2001) and Michigan State's Drew Stanton (308 passing, 102 rushing vs. Minnesota on 10/16/2004) in the Big Ten record books. Williams accomplished the feat for the 24th time in NCAA history and is the only player in the nation to do it this year. It was also the first time in school history
  • Williams now owns two of the top spots in the Illinois record books for passing yardage per game with his 462 yards vs. Minnesota and 451 vs. Missouri. He is third and fourth behind Dave Wilson's 621 yards (11/8/80), Tony Eason's 479 (10/23/82). He also holds three of the top-10 in total offense - 2nd, 503 vs. Minnesota; 4th, 461 vs. Minnesota; 7th, 431 at Michigan.
  • Williams has four career TD passes of 69 or more yards, the most by any quarterback in school history. Jack Trudeau and Tony Eason are the only other two Illini QBs to throw two TD passes of 69 or more yards and there have only been 15 such plays in school history.
  • Williams' 271 passing yards against Indiana marks his seventh game over 200 yards. His 462 yards vs. Minnesota was his third over 300.
  • Williams is averaging 15.8 yards per completion, with a high of 23.8 vs. Michigan.
  • Williams has rushed for over 100 yards six times in his career and twice this season.
  • Williams' quarterback efficiency against Indiana was 221.20, the sixth-best single-game rating in school history. He leads the Big Ten and ranks 10th in the NCAA with 158.8 for the season.
  • Williams continues to have a hot hand when it comes to converting third down tries, especially on third-and-6 or less. Williams is 11-for-18 in converting third downs through the air and 13-for-16 on the ground in those situations.
  • Williams' 77-yard touchdown pass to Cumberland against Michigan was the longest play from scrimmage this season for the Illini and the longest Illinois reception since 1985, when Cap Boso caught an 83-yarder from Jack Trudeau.
  • Williams has put together three perfect passing quarters this season, the latest being a 5-for-5 third-quarter outing for 47 yards against Indiana. He was 4-of-4 through the air for 68 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter at Penn State and completed 5-of-5 passes for 67 yards in the third quarter against Eastern Illinois on Sept. 6.
  • Williams became just the fourth quarterback in Illinois history to throw for five or more touchdowns in a game, joining Dave Wilson (6), Tom O'Connell (5) and Jeff George (5), with his five-touchdown performance against Missouri.
  • Williams has accounted for 70.0 of Illinois' first downs for the season, 107-of-153, rushing for 27 and passing for 80. He engineered 92.0 percent of Illinois' first downs vs. Minnesota and 91.7 percent vs. Missouri.
  • From The Sporting News on Oct. 5 - Standing O goes to ... Juice Williams. The Illinois QB had dropped off the national radar a bit after losses to Missouri and Penn State. Another performance or two like Saturday's win over Michigan (310 passing yards, 121 rushing yards, four total TDs) and the Juice might be squeezing in a December trip to New York for the Heisman ceremony.


JUICE AGAINST THE NATION'S TOP QUARTERBACKS

Top Quarterbacks YPG Rank Pct. TD's Yds./completion Efficiency Tot. Off. Rank Rush Yds.
Juice Williams, Illinois 278.2 13th 60.0 16 15.8 162.3 346.1 8th 475
Sam Bradford, Oklahoma 360.0 3rd 71.4 26 14.8 192.2 358.0 4th -14
Chase Daniel, Missouri 339.0 5th 75.9 18 12.5 175.8 355.0 6th 112
Graham Harrell, Texas Tech 394.4 1st 69.8 23 12.4 163.5 394.4 2nd 0
Colt McCoy, Texas 270.5 15th 81.2 19 11.8 190.8 323.6 9th 371
Tim Tebow, Florida 205.8 51st 62.4 10 13.3 152.8 235.7 40th 179


JUICE IN THE RECORD BOOKS

  • 15th - career rushing yards (1,806) - needs 45 for 14th
  • 5th - career total offense (6,979) - needs 23 for 4th / 267 for 3rd
  • 8th - career passing yardage (5,180) - needs 9 for 7th / 10 for 6th / 113 for 5th
  • 8th - career pass completions (378) - needs 54 for 7th
  • 8th - career pass attempts (733) - needs 40 for 7th
  • 5th - career passing touchdowns (38) - needs 1 for 4th
  • 1st - career rushing yards by a quarterback (1,806)
  • 1st - season rushing yards by a quarterback, 2007 (755) - already holds record
  • 2nd - season rushing yards by a quarterback, 2006 (576) - record was broken in 2007
  • 3rd - season rushing yards by a quarterback, 2008 (475) - needs 101 yards for 2nd


BENN THERE

  • Illini receiver Arrelious Benn is a candidate for the Biletnikoff, Maxwell and Walter Camp Awards. The Biletnikoff is awarded to the nation's best receiver, while the other two awards go to the offensive MVPs.
  • Benn is averaging 6.3 catches per game, which is the most for an Illini receiver since David Williams averaged 7.7 catches per contest in 1985. Benn's numbers rank second in the Big Ten in both categories.
  • Benn has recorded four-straight 100-yard receiving games, (4-110 at Penn State, 6-122 at Michigan, 12-181 vs. Minnesota, 7-130 vs. Indiana). It is the first time an Illinois player has put together four-consecutive 100-yard receiving games in school history.
  • Benn had a career day against Minnesota, compiling a career-high 12 catches for 181 yards, which marked the fifth-most receiving yards in a game in Illinois history. His 181 yards are the most by an Illini since David Williams racked up a school-record 208 yards on Sept. 1, 1984.
  • Benn's 12 catches against Minnesota marked the first double-digit reception performance by an Illini receiver since 2005 when Kyle Hudson had 10 receptions vs. Wisconsin. Benn's 12 catches are tied for the third-most in school history and were the most by an Illini since Brandon Lloyd caught 13 passes against Northwestern on Nov. 22, 2001.
  • He is averaging 99.0 receiving yards per game, which ranks second in the Big Ten. He has scored five touchdowns - two rushing and three receptions.
  • Benn has converted first downs on 35 of his 44 catches (79.5 percent).
  • Benn was the 2007 Big Ten Freshman of the Year and earned honorable mention Freshman All-America honors, after he broke Illinois' freshman receiving and receptions record.


BENN AGAINST THE NATION'S TOP RECEIVERS

Top Receivers YPG Rank Yds./Rec. 100-Yd. Gms. Rec./Gm. Rank TD's
Arrelious Benn, Illinois 99.0 15th 15.8 4 6.29 25th 3
Austin Collie, Brigham Young 112.7 4th 14.8 5 7.57 8th 8
Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech 103.4 9th 14.2 3 7.17 12th 12
Eric Decker, Minnesota 111.7 5th 13.2 3 8.43 3rd 5
Jeremy Maclin, Missouri 95.1 19th 14.7 3 6.71 18th 5


IT'S MILLER TIME

  • Senior Brit Miller, who is a four-year starter at linebacker, moved to the middle this season with All-American J Leman gone to graduation and the NFL. Through seven games, he ranks among the top-3 in the Big Ten in tackles with 9.7 per game, which 18th nationally.
  • Miller also is averaging 1.8 tackles for loss per game, which ranks fourth in the NCAA.
  • Miller earned his first Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honor after his performance at Michigan. He recorded nine tackles, four for loss and two sacks. The four tackles for loss ranked 10th in the Illinois record book.
  • Miller is nominated for the Ronnie Lott award, which combines athletic excellence with off the field character. He also was named to the American Football Coaches Association's Good Works team.
  • Miller is a staple in the Champaign and Decatur communities, volunteering every week with elementary and middle schools, military veterans and children's hospitals.


RECEPTION STREAKS

Sophomore receiver Arrelious Benn has caught a pass in every game of his career, 18, since he was a true-freshman in 2007. He leads a group of receivers that are averaging of 16.2 catches per game. Here is a list of the receivers and their current reception streaks (2 or more games):

Senior OT Xavier Fulton



ILLINI UP FOR NATIONAL AWARDS

Eight Illini football players were named to preseason watch lists for national awards. Arrelious Benn for the Belitnekoff, Maxwell and Walter Camp Awards, Juice Williams for the Davey O'Brien Award and Brit Miller for the Ronnie Lott Award, are three of the eight. See their individual notes for more on their accomplishments. Here are details on the other five.

  • Vontae Davis - Thorpe, Nagurski, Bednarik: Davis leads the conference in forced fumbles with three and ranks fourth in passes defended with 1.00 per game. For the season he has 53 tackes, which ranks 12th in the Big Ten, 5.5 TFL, one QB hurry and one fumble recovery in seven games. Last year, Davis was the only sophomore on the the semifinal list for the Jim Thorpe Award. He was a first-team All-Big Ten selection in 2007 and earlier this year was named to the Playboy All-America team.
  • Will Davis - Hendricks, Lombardi: Davis has 20 tackles, 4.5 TFL, two sacks, two QB hurries, two pass break-ups and a forced fumble this year. He is now 10th on the Illinois career sacks list with 13.5. He was a second-team All-Big Ten selection in 2007 after leading the team in tackles for loss with 12.5 and sacks with 9.5.
  • Ryan McDonald - Rimington, Draddy: McDonald is in his fourth year as a starter on the offensive line. He has helped pave the way for Illinois' 484.6 total yards and 204.9 rushing yards per game this year. The Illini offense has piled up over 500 yards in five games this season, including a season-high 563 total yards last week against Indiana. Last season, he started every game for an offensive line that posted the best rushing and total offensive numbers in school history and earned second-team All-Big Ten honors. The line also set a school mark for fewest sacks allowed in a year with 1.23 per game. In his first two years as starting center for the Illini, the offense led the Big Ten in rushing.
  • Xavier Fulton - Lombardi: Fulton is in his second year as a starter on the offensive line. He has helped pave the way for Illinois' 484.6 total yards and 204.9 rushing yards per game this year. The Illini offense has piled up over 500 yards in five games this season, including a season-high 563 total yards last week against Indiana. In 2007, he earned second-team All-Big Ten honors in his first year on the offensive line. He played a team-high 997 offensive snaps last year and led the team with 109 knockdowns. He also was instrumental in protecting QB Juice Williams and allowing only 1.23 sacks per game.
  • Martez Wilson - Butkus: Wilson had a career-high 13 tackles, including a career-high eight solos, two weeks ago against Minnesota. For the seaosn he is averaging 8.1 tackles per game, which ranks second on the team and seventh in the Big Ten. For the season he has 4.5 TFLs and also has 2.0 sacks, two pass break-ups, three QB hurries and one fumble recovery this year. Prior to the season, Wilson was added to the Butkus Watch List before even starting a game at Illinois. His athleticism has earned him the nickname of "Freak 2" and he runs a 4.4 40.


KEEPING UP WITH THE DAVISES

  • Illinois defenders Vontae and Will Davis (no relation) are two of the leaders on the Illinois defense.
  • Vontae, a two-year starting cornerback earned unanimous first-team Freshman All-America honors in 2006 and emerged as one of the best corners in the Big Ten last season, earning first-team All-Big Ten honors. He is a 2008 Playboy All-American, ranks 12th in the Big Ten in tackles, has totaled five interceptions and 21 passes broken up in his career, while also blocking two punts.
  • Will, a senior defensive end, exploded last season with 9.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss. He was named second-team All-Big Ten and was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after his four-sack, five-TFL performance vs. Indiana. This season, he broke into the Illinois all-time quarterback sack list and ranks 10th with 13.5 career sacks. He has totaled 19 tackles, 4.5 for loss, two sacks and a forced fumble this year.


ILLINI ON THE RUN

  • The Illinois offense is averaging 204.9 rushing yards per game, which ranks second in the Big Ten and 21st in the nation.
  • QB Juice Williams and Dufrene combine for 140.6 rushing yards per game with 984 total yards this year. Dufrene ranks seventh in the Big Ten with 72.7 yards and Williams is rushing for 67.9 ypg, which is ninth in the conference. Illinois is the only team with two players ranked in the league's top-10.
  • True-freshman running back Jason Ford broke out against Indiana rushing for 172 yards and three touchdowns. His yards are the second-most by a freshman at Illinois behind Rocky Harvey's 215 against Middle Tennessee in 1998. They are the most by a freshman against a Big Ten team.
  • The Illini offense rushed for 292 yards against the Hoosiers, marking the second time this season they have surpassed the 200-yard mark in a game (399 vs. Eastern Illinois, 292 vs. Indiana).
  • With 121 yards against Michigan, Williams rushed for over 100 yards for the sixth time in his career and second time this season. He ranks 15th on the Illinois all-time rushing list with 1,806 yards.


POSITION CHANGES

Five of Illinois' 2008 starters came to Illinois on a different path than the one they currently find themselves.

  • Wide receiver Chris Duvalt spent his first two seasons as an Illini at cornerback. He played a key role on special teams, but was spending too much time behind other players. This spring, he gave offense a try and the rest is history. He has immediately made an impact with three touchdown catches in the first seven games. He is averaging 14.9 yards a catch.
  • Junior Rahkeem Smith played a season as a linebacker before seeing a straight shot to a starting role at fullback.
  • Senior Will Davis came to Illinois as a 235-pound tight end, but quickly saw a chance at success on the defensive side of the ball with his addition of 40 pounds and a move to defensive end. In three seasons, he has totaled 21 tackles for loss, 13.5 quarterback sacks and 19 hurries.
  • One of the most immediately effective moves came before the 2007 season when former defensive end Xavier Fulton switched to offensive tackle and earned All-Big Ten honors that same season. In his only year as a starter, the offensive line set new school records for total offense and rushing yards. This season, the Illini are curently ranked No. 1 in the conference in passing and total offense and second in scoring and rushing.
  • Jeff Cumberland moved from tight end to receiver in the middle of last season. As a receiver in his final four games of 2007, he caught 11 passes for 221 yards, including 131 yards against Northwestern. He has played in five games this season after sitting out the beginning of the year with a foot injury. He caught his first pass of the season against Michigan, a 77-yard touchdown reception, the longest play from scrimmage in 2008 and the longest pass play since 1983. After five games played, Cumberland has five catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns.


NATIONAL CONSECUTIVE STARTS

Illinois senior center Ryan McDonald has started 43 consecutive games during his four-year career. That number is among the best in the nation, ranking as the fourth-longest active streak. He is tied for the 11th-longest starting streak in the nation. Below is the list of consecutive starts among Division I collegiate football players.

  • 46 - Andrew Hartline, OL, Central Michigan; Andrew Gardner, OL, Georgia Tech
  • 45 - Cody Lubojasky, LB, Houston; Dallas Reynolds, OL, BYU; Pat Brown, OL, UCF; Jason Phillips, LB, TCU; Kevin Grant, LB, Akron
  • 44 - Matt Kroul, DL, Iowa; Kenneth Fontenette, S, Houston; Clint Sintim, LB, Virginia
  • 43 - Ryan McDonald, OL, Illinois; Maurice Crum, LB, Notre Dame; Robbie Felix, OL, UTEP; Dan Gerberry, OL, Ball State; Adam Korby, OL, Idaho
  • 42 - Alex Derenthal, OL, Temple; Jervonte Jackson, DL, Florida Atlantic


OFFENSIVE NOTES

  • Illinois has scored 40 points or more four times in 2008 - 55 vs. Indiana, 45 at Michigan, 47 vs. Eastern Illinois and 42 against Missouri. It is also the sixth time in the Illini's last 11 games that they have topped 40 points, dating back to last season. The 55-point game vs. Indiana is the highest in the Ron Zook era at Illinois and the third-most by a Ron Zook coached team (65 and 63 by Florida).
  • Illinois' 55 points scored against Indiana is the most Illinois has ever scored in a Big Ten game at Memorial Stadium (previous high was 50 in a 50-0 shutout over Iowa in 1973) and the most points the UI has scored in a conference game since winning at Northwestern, 63-14, in 1989.
  • The Fighting Illini have thrived in the second and third quarters this season, outscoring their opponents 117-58 over those two stanzas.
  • Illinois scored 45 points against Michigan, the most the Illini have put up against the Wolverines in school history, and the most points against Michigan in the Big House since 1991 when Florida State scored 51. It also was the most points scored by a Big Ten opponent at Michigan Stadium since Ohio State won, 50-20, in 1961.
  • The Illinois offense has put up over 500 yards in five of its seven games of 2008. The Illini posted 532 against Missouri, 533 against EIU, 501 at Michigan, 550 vs. Minnesota and 563 against Indiana. It is the first time since 2002 that the Illini have had 500 yards or more in three consecutive games.
  • Illinois took care of the ball in its 45-20 win at Michigan, not committing a turnover. Proving that holding onto the ball can be a catalyst for big wins is the fact that the last time Illinois did not commit a turnover in a game was when it defeated No. 1 Ohio State, 28-21, in Columbus on Nov. 10, 2007. VThe Illini passed for 451 yards against Missouri and 462 yards vs. Minnesota, marking the third and fourth-best passing performances in Illinois history.
  • In seven games, the offense has put together 46 big plays over 20 yards, including 13 over 40 yards. Among those 46 are 28 big passing plays and 15 rushes (one special teams and two defense). Illinois has five touchdowns this season on plays of more than 50 yards, which ranks third nationally behind Louisiana-Lafayette's nine 50-plus touchdowns.
  • Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui is emerging as a first-down machine, catching 13 passes, which have gone for first downs. Out of his 16 catches so far this season, 13 have gone for first downs and two others were touchdowns. Hoomanawanui has become a much larger part of the Illinois offense in his third season, with 16 catches and 208 yards so far in 2008 after catching five passes for 64 yards in his first two seasons combined.
  • Five of Illinois' top receivers average more than 14 yards per reception - Jeff Cumberland (27.6), Will Judson (23.7), Arrelious Benn (15.8), Chris Duvalt (14.9) and A.J. Jenkins (30.8).
  • Senior receiver Will Judson made the most out of his first collegiate start vs. Missouri, hauling in five catches for 177 yards. At the time, his performance was the best for an Illini receiver since Walter Young's 178 yards against LSU?in the 2002 Nokia Sugar Bowl. Of his 15 catches for the year, 11 have converted first downs.
  • Judson and Chris Duvalt each hauled in two touchdown receptions in the season opener against Missouri, marking the first time since the 2002 Sugar Bowl that Illinois had two receivers with two TDs catches in a game (Walter Young and Brandon Lloyd vs. LSU).
  • Duvalt caught a touchdown pass (2 vs. Missouri and 1 vs. EIU) in each of the first two games of the season, which also were his first two games as a receiver after switching from cornerback in spring practice. He has three TDs in eight career receptions.
  • The 94 total points scored by Missouri and Illinois (52-42) marks the highest combined scoring game in school history.


Senior DE Derek Walker


DEFENSIVE NOTES

  • The Fighting Illini defense put a great deal of pressure on Michigan's offense, racking up 11 tackles for loss and four sacks against the Wolverines. It is the second time this season that Illinois has notched double-digit TFL numbers, recording 11 TFLs against Louisiana-Lafayette. Three times this year the Illini have posted four sacks (against Michigan, Eastern Illinois and Indiana).
  • The defensive line features a rotation of nine players with those guys accounting for 26.5 tackles for loss and 14 sacks through seven games. Ends Derek Walker, Doug Pilcher and Will Davis and tackle David Lindquist are veteran returning starters. From those four, the Illini defense has gotten 78 tackles, 19 for loss and 10.5 sacks this season.
  • The Illinois defense has held opponent offenses on six-of-10 fourth-down attempts for the season.
  • Illinois has scored two defensive touchdowns this year. In the season opener against Missouri, Derek Walker intercepted a screen pass by Chase Daniel and returned it 34 yards for a touchdown, his first career touchdown and the first INT by a lineman since Jeff Ruffin's pick-six against Purdue on Oct. 12, 2002. The defense scored its second touchdown of the season, against Louisiana, when linebacker Brit Miller stripped an option handoff from Louisiana's quarterback and returned it 27 yards for the score.
  • The defense has forced 13 turnovers this season - three interceptions and 10 fumbles. DE Derek Walker, LB?Brit Miller and DB Dere Hicks each have one interception and nine different Illini players have recovered fumbles for Illinois this year. Illinois' aggressive defense has forced a whopping 15 fumbles in seven games, falling on 10 of them. The Fighting Illini have now surpassed last year's total of fumbles recovered, eight (forced 19).
  • Junior college transfer safety Donsay Hardeman returned from an injury, which kept him out of the first three games of the season, to start in the Big Ten opener against Penn State. In four games, he has recorded 21 tackles, including 17 solos and has forced and recovered a fumble.


RUN DEFENSE

  • Illinois has held three teams under 100 yards rushing this season, including Louisiana Lafayette who currently leads the nation in rushing with 311.7 yards per game. The Illini kept the Ragin' Cajuns under 100 with 87 yards and star running back Tyrell Fenroy to just 20 yards (now ranks fifth in the nation with 138 ypg).
  • Michigan averaged 2.0 yards per carry on the ground for 69 total rushing yards in the game, while Minnesota managed just 88 yards, 2.7 yards per carry.


SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES

  • True-freshman receiver A.J. Jenkins has quickly emerged as a solid kick returner and recorded his first touchdown with a 96-yard return against Indiana. With many of the teams kicking away from Arrelious Benn, Jenkins has picked up 13 returns in six games. He is averaging 26.5 yards per return, which ranks fourth in the league and 25th in the nation.
  • Illinois features an new kicking battery of snapper Tad Keely, holder, Jared Bosch, and kicker, Matt Eller. Eller, in seven games, has been successful for eight field goals, including a 51-yarder vs. ULL, and 29-of-31 extra points. Eller leads the team in scoring and ranks seventh in the league with 7.6 points per game.
  • Defensive end Will Davis blocked a field goal attempt at Michigan. It was Illinois' first blocked field goal since 2005 when Chris Norwell blocked one against California on Sept. 17.


ILLINI IN THE NATIONAL RANKINGS

Illinois dropped out of the top-25 after being ranked for the first five weeks of the season. Before falling to undefeated No. 6 Penn State, the Illini had spent seven consecutive weeks in the polls, dating back to the 2007 season. That number was the most since the 1989, '90 and '91 squads put together 24 consecutive weeks in the top-25 and ranked as the fourth-longest streak in Illinois history.


HE'S A ROCKET SCIENTIST

Maybe you don't have to be a rocket scientist to play football, but Illinois senior center Ryan McDonald thinks it doesn't hurt. In four years, McDonald finished an undergraduate degree in aeronautical engineering with a 3.83 GPA. After completing a bachelor's degree and having one more year of eligibility remaining, McDonald began a master's degree in the same program this fall. Illinois' College of Engineering is ranked among the top-5 in the nation, with some programs notching the top spot.


DAVIS' FAMILY INSTRUMENTAL IN LIBERIAN GOVERNMENT

Illinois defensive end Will Davis' family are natives of the Republic of Liberia. He has spent his entire life in the United States, and was able to visit Liberia as a young child before civil war broke out. Now that the war has ended, his mother, Pearine Davis-Parkinson, recently returned home to become the Deputy Minister in the Ministry of State office (Chief of Staff). The Ministry of State supports the work of the President of the Republic of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The major departments of the Ministry of State are the Office of the President, Administration, and Public Affairs and Communications Technology. Davis' mother played basketball for the Liberian national team and at the University of Liberia. His uncle, John Davis, played soccer for Liberia


HOOMANAWANUI HONORING HIS POLYNESIAN DECENT

  • Junior tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, while growing up in Bloomington, Ill., lived much of the Hawaiian heritage passed down by his father, Isy. Isy came to the mainland to play football at Illinois State then stayed to raise his family.
  • When Michael came to Illinois, he began many of the traditions carried on by Polynesian and Samoan football players. He entered his freshman year with clean-cut short hair, but then began to grow it out to the long black mane that can be seen out the backs of football helmets. This tradition dates back to Samoan warriors to signify battle. It also is very noticeable to the public in the stands and draws attention to their heritage.
  • Hoomanamwanui also has three tattoos, called Aumakua, which means "protectors." His family's protectors are the shark and the turtle, two images that have been passed down for centuries and are now tattoos on Michael's arms and shoulders.
  • Michael also can be seen on campus wearing what looks to be a brightly adorned skirt. However, it is called a kikepa and is traditional dress for men in Hawaii.


BO KNOWS FOOTBALL ... AND BASEBALL

Sophomore safety Bo Flowers turned 24 the day after Illinois' upset of Ohio State last season and he is the oldest player on the Illini roster. Flowers began his college career last season after four years in professional baseball. He was a fifth-round draft pick in 2003 by the Detroit Tigers. After spending three seasons in the Detroit organization, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs, where he played the 2006 season. Currently, Flowers is a walk-on on the Illini team because the Tigers are footing the college bill.


AFRICAN ILLINI

On this year's Illini football roster, there are five members who are direct descendents of Africa. Starting left guard Jon Asamoah's father, Samual Asamoah, is from Ghana in West Africa, and senior defensive end Will Davis' mother is from Liberia (see note on page 5), while four others' parents are Nigerian. Newcomers Supo Sanni, Ugochukwu Uzodinma, Chudi Aguanunu and Wisdom Onyegbule's parents were born and raised in Nigeria, also in West Africa. Sanni's parents are Sesis and Olarunji Sanni, Uzodinma's parents are Florence and Joel Uzodinma, Aguanunu's parents are Chika and Kate Aguanunu, and Onyegbule's parents are Onyemuwa and Grace Onyegbule.


ILLINOIS VS. RANKED OPPONENTS

  • Illinois has faced two current top-20 teams early in the season, losing to No. 16 Missouri in the season opener and No. 3 Penn State in game four. The Illini also have three more opponents on the schedule ranked in the top-25, No. 11 Ohio State, No. 24 Northwestern and No. 25 Minnesota.
  • Last season, the Illini were 3-2 vs. top-25 opponents and 2-1 against top-10 foes (wins over No. 19 Penn State, No. 5 Wisconsin and No. 1 Ohio State and losses to No. 24 Michigan and No. 7 USC). In the Ron Zook era, the Illini are 3-10 against ranked teams.
  • In his seven years as a head coach, Ron Zook has posted nine wins over ranked opponents


TV SHOW GETS OVERHAUL

The 2008 edition of the Ron Zook TV Show has seen a complete overhaul. Not only can it be seen on a brand-new network, WICD/WICS, but it sports a format unlike any other coaches' show. The Ron Zook Show features the latest and best in graphics and creative video. Each week, Zook and the show's host Brian Barnhart will discuss the previous week's game, issues in college football and the current Illini team in a Sportscenter-like format. The show begins with a recap of the game and ends with a quick-hitting music video. This year's show is sponsored by Dish Network.

HEADLINES