Illini Play Host To No. 2 Nittany Lions
Oct. 25, 1999
#2 PENN STATE
? Oct. 30, 1999
Illinois looks to carry the momentum from its victory at Michigan into this week's match-up against the Penn State Nittany Lions, ranked second in the nation. While the Fighting Illini are coming off an epic come-from-behind victory at Michigan, Penn State enters the game after a dramatic win of their own at Purdue. The Nittany Lions, 8-0 overall and 4-0 in the Big Ten, enter Memorial Stadium riding the second-longest Division I-A winning streak, 10 games, dating back to 1998.
Last season, Penn State shut out the Illini 27-0 at State College, Pa. and lead the overall series 7-1. In games played at Champaign, Penn State leads 4-1, including a 41-6 victory in 1997, when the Lions were also ranked second in the nation.
Ron Turner is 0-2 vs. Penn State while PSU coach Joe Paterno has a 5-0 career record against Illinois. The Lions are led by a trio of nationally acclaimed defenders, DE Courtney Brown, and LB's LaVar Arrington and Brandon Short, both Butkus Award semifinalists. Short leads the team in tackles with 56 tackles, including six for loss. Brown leads the team with 10 sacks and 17 tackles for loss, while Arrington ranks second in both categories with six sacks and 12 tackles for loss.
The Nittany Lion offense ranks 13th nationally in both total offense (440.9 yds/gm) and scoring offense (36.0 ppg). The balanced attack is led by quarterbacks Kevin Thompson (155.74 pass efficiency rating) and Rashard Casey (165.28 rating) and big-play receiver Chafie Fields. Fields has five touchdowns on the season, four receiving and one rushing, including a 79-yard TD reception and a 70-yard TD run.
THE COACHES? CORNER
RON TURNER - Turner is in his third season with the Illini with a record of 7-22 at Illinois, 14-26 overall as a head coach. 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 served as an assistant at Stanford, Texas A&M, Southern California, Pittsburgh, Northwestern and Arizona working mainly with quarterbacks and receivers.
JOE PATERNO - The legendary coach is in his 50th season at Penn State, 34th as head coach, with a record is 315-80-3. His 315 wins rank third on the all-time list of major-college coaches and within eight of Bear Bryant's record total. Paterno has coached two National Champions (1982 and 1986) and five undefeated teams (1968, '69, '73, '86, and '94). Since Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1993, Paterno has a record of 68-13 overall, 40-12 in conference, and one Big Ten Championship (1994). Through his five-decade career, Paterno has led teams to 19 bowl victories (most of any coach in history), posted 11 or more victories in 12 seasons, and has won four national coach-of-the-year awards (as selected by the American Football Coaches Association).
PLAYING THE NATIONALLY RANKED
The Illini?s win over No. 9 Michigan was the first win against a ranked opponent under Ron Turner. It was also the first time UI has defeated a ranked-team since Sept. 16, 1995 when they won 9-7 against No. 17 Arizona. Saturday's win was the first over a top-10 ranked team and the highest ranked opponent Illinois has defeated since Sept. 4, 1989, a 14-13 win at No. 5 USC.
Illinois is looking for their first back-to-back wins over ranked opponents since 1991 when they defeated No. 21 Houston (9/21, 51-10) and No. 11 Ohio State (10/12, 10-7).
GREATEST COMEBACK WIN IN SCHOOL HISTORY
When the Illini came back to win at Michigan after trailing 27-7, the margin was the largest an Illinois team has ever faced and overcome to be victorious. The Illini trailed 27-7 at the 6:01 mark of the third quarter before rallying to win 35-29. No Illinois team has ever faced a deficit of 20 or more points and won the game.
PENN STATE-ILLINOIS CONNECTIONS
Penn State has one player from the state of Illinois, fullback R.J. Luke, who hails from Aurora (Waubonsie Valley HS) and was born in Bloomington.
Illinois freshman linebacker Jerry Schumacher's sister, Katie Schumacher, is a sophomore outside hitter for the Penn State volleyball team.
Illini safety Asim Pleas and Penn State receivers Sam Crenshaw and Antwaan Floyd all hail from Youngstown, Ohio. Illinois fullback Chris Hoffman and PSU defensive end T.J. Gholston are both from Cincinnati.
This season's 203 points to date by the Illini eclipses the 1996, 1997, and 1998 entire season totals. The 1999 average of 29.0 points per game is the highest points per game average for Illinois since the 1984 team averaged 29.3 (323 points in 11 games).
Illinois has scored 30+ points in five games this season, the highest since the 1994 scored 30+ points five times in 12 games in 1994.
ILLINI STORM BACK FROM 20-POINT DEFICIT TO SHOCK NO. 9 MICHIGAN
The Fighting Illini upset No. 9 Michigan in stunning fashion, rallying from a 20-point deficit to score 28 points in the game's final 17:41, for their first Big Ten win of the 1999 season. Illinois opened the scoring in the first quarter on Kurt Kittner's six-yard TD pass to Jameel Cook. Michigan answered on their ensuing drive by going 80 yards on nine plays, capped by a touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Marquise Walker, knotting the score at 7-7.
The Wolverines added two more touchdowns in the second quarter with scores on a 31-yard catch by Marcus Knight and a 25-yard run by Anthony Thomas to take a 20-7 lead. The extra point attempt following Thomas' TD was blocked by Fred Wakefield in a play that would later prove to be key. A 46-yard field goal attempt by Jeff Del Verne was also blocked by Wakefield for a halftime score of 20-7.
In the third quarter Michigan extended their lead to 27-7 when Thomas added a one-yard TD run on the 15th play of an 88-yard drive. The Illini rebounded on the next drive, going 80 yards in nine plays, capped by Kittner's 31-yard TD strike to Walter Young, cutting the lead to 27-14. Illinois mounted an impressive, 17-play, 77-yard drive in the fourth quarter. The 7:11 march through the Maize and Blue defense ended with a three-yard TD pass from Kittner to tight end Brian Hodges that put the Illini within six points at 27-21. After the defense held and forced the Wolverines to punt, Illinois continued its fourth quarter offensive explosion on their next drive.
Facing a critical third-and-four situation, Kittner stepped up to avoid the oncoming pass rush and completed a short pass to Rocky Harvey which the elusive back turned into a 59-yard score. Neil Rackers' extra point gave the Illini their first lead of the afternoon, 28-27, with just 2:42 remaining in the contest. Michigan took the ball on their next possesion and drove to Illinois' 28 yard line. On second down, Tom Brady had to retreat and recover and errant center snap on a play that lost 25 yards and gave Michigan a daunting third down and 30 yards to go. After an incompletion, Illini defensive back Trayvon Waller intercepted the fourth down pass to give the Orange and Blue posession with 1:27 remaining. On Illinois' second play after the turnover, Rocky Harvey broke free and darted 54 yards for a touchdown, extending the Illini lead to 35-27.
Michigan had yet another chance at redemption, driving to the Illinois 16 yard line. On third-and-10, Tony Francis intercepted a Brady pass at the two yard line but fumbled it into the endzone. Muhammad Abdullah recovered for Illinois and the play was ruled a safety giving Michigan two points and one last posession, trailing 35-29. After the free kick, Tom Brady's hail mary fell incomplete and Illinois was victorious in a dramatic come-from-behind win at Michigan Stadium.
SPREADING OUT THE OFFENSE
With touchdowns passes to quarterback-turn-receiver Walter Young and fullback Jameel Cook, sophomore quarterback Kurt Kittner has now connected with 11 different receivers for 16 touchdown passes. That number is the second-most nationally. Only Oklahoma quarterback Josh Heupel has found more receivers open for TD strikes (14 different receivers). Kittner has thrown touchdown passes to tight ends: Josh Whitman, Brian Hodges, Mike Craciuniou, receivers: Brandon Lloyd, Michael Dean, Greg Lewis, Aaron Moorehead, Young, fullbacks: Cook, Elmer Hickman and running back Rocky Harvey.
ILLINOIS? SIGNAL CALLER
Sophomore quarterback Kurt Kittner is protecting the ball as well as anyone in the country, only throwing two interceptions in 244 attempts. His two interceptions are the fewest by a Division I team. He has tallied 1655 yards passing and his 16 touchdown passes are good enough for ninth on the Illinois single season touchdown pass list. His career touchdown totals are 17 which ranks 10th in the Illinois record books. He is completing 56 percent of his passes and ranks 27th in the nation in passing offense and 28th in total offense.
MIXING IT UP
The Illinois offense has seen some changes lately and the position switches have resulted in an offensive explosion. Backup quarterback Walter Young began training for his career at receiver during fall drills in an effort to get the best athletes in the game. The change has resulted in six catches for 83 yards and a 31-yard touchdown against Michigan that spurred the 20-point comeback over the ninth-ranked Wolverines. Sophomore tailback Jameel Cook was moved to fullback to utilize his speed against Michigan, The move gave the Illini their first score against the Wolverines and a six-reception, 32-yard performance. Senior fullback Chris Hoffman put his blocking skills to use when he saw a majority of his playing time at tight end against Michigan. Tailbacks Rocky Harvey and Steve Havard complement each other with a combination of speed and power. The use of the two backs have given the Illini the boost in big plays and confidence in the short yardage game. Harvey turned on the gas with a run of 54 yards and 59-yard touchdown reception to cap
A majority of the Illini?s offense can be credited to Illinois? version of the 4-H?s: the Illini backfield of Elmer Hickman, Steve Havard, Rocky Harvey and Antoineo Harris.
ELMER HICKMAN - Hickman, starting fullback, led the Illini in receiving against Minnesota with seven catches. He has 30 receptions for 220 yards for the season.
STEVE HAVARD - Havard, with his performance against Michigan, has pulled within 28 yards of the top-20 all-time Illinois rushers. He is averaging 67.3 yards a game and leads the team with 471 rushing yards.
ROCKY HARVEY - Harvey, the all-purpose back, has three rushing TDs and two receiving and is second on the team in scoring. His two touchdowns against Michigan sealed the win against the No. 9 Wolverines in one of the greatest comebacks in school history. He has compiled 281 yards rushing and 223 yards receiving, including a team-season long catch of 67 yards vs. Louisville.
ANTOINEO HARRIS - Harris posted his first career touchdown against Indiana on an 11-yard run. He is averaging 5.3 yards per carry and erupted for a 47-yard run against Louisville.
After starting the season without turnovers in the first two games, the Illini defense has forced 13 in the last five games combined. Interceptions by Trayvon Waller and Tony Francis stopped a driving Michigan offense and sealed a win over the ninth-ranked Wolverines. The Illini took advantage of three Indiana turnovers for two touchdowns and a field goal in the contest. Junior defensive lineman Jason Eberhart forced four fumbles vs. the Hoosiers, while safety Muhammad Abdullah has two interceptions and a fumble recovery. Senior linebacker Eric Guenther recorded his first career interception in the second half against Michigan State, while Danny Clark got his first of the year in the fourth quarter. Senior safety Asim Pleas had the team?s first turnover of the season with an interception against Louisville. Against Minnesota, the Illinois defense stopped the driving Gophers with a sack-fumble by Mon Long at the Illini?s eight-yard line and senior corner Tony Francis intercepted his first of the season in the endzone.
DEAN OF RECEIVERS
After three years without a touchdown reception, senior receiver Michael Dean has four touchdown receptions in seven games. Dean has led all receivers in four of the seven games and has had two 100-yard receiving games (100 yards vs. Indiana, 124 yards vs. Louisville). He has 30 catches for 418 yards. His first collegiate touchdown came on a 12-yard strike from QB Kurt Kittner against Arkansas State, then followed that up with a spectacular 38-yard grab vs. San Diego State. His third came on an eight-yard catch against Louisville. His fourth made ESPN Plays of the Week on a eight-yard, one-handed grab around the defender.
EXTRA SPECIAL TEAMS
Sophomore sensation Steve Fitts ranks seventh in the nation in punt yardage average with 44.43, while the team ranks 29th in net punting. Fitts has blasted punts of 74, 70 and 58 yards, and has landed 12 punts inside the 20 yard line. Senior placekicker Neil Rackers is a perfect 24-for-24 in PATs and is 9-for-12 in field goals with his longest of the year being a 45-yarder vs. Arkansas State. Of Rackers? 40 kickoffs only 10 have been returnable, 29 have been touchbacks and the average starting field position for opponents is on the 23 yardline.
WHERE THERE?S A WILSON THERE?S A WAY
With a punt return for a touchdown against Arkansas State and a near-touchdown return against San Diego State, true-freshman Eugene Wilson has become a huge asset to Illinois? special teams. Wilson?s 65-yard return for a touchdown was Illinois? first since 1982 when Kirby Wilson took a punt 42-yard for a score. Eugene also had a 56-yard return vs. SDSU which took him to the two yardline. He has returned 20 punts for 224 yards, averaging 11.2 yards a return and ranks 29th in the nation.
By the near-flawless play of the Illini vs. Arkansas State you would have never guessed that 18 Illini made their collegiate debut, including five true-freshmen. Illinois went without a penalty until late in the fourth quarter and had no turnovers, while at the same time starting two redshirt-freshmen. The players making their debut were: starting flanker Greg Lewis, starting right tackle Tony Pashos, Marc Jackson, Brandon Lloyd, Trayvon Waller, Walter Young, Quincy Washington, Eugene Wilson, Antoineo Harris, Carlos Lattimore, Brett Kautter, James Brown, David Diehl, Brian Scott, Terrell Washington, Aaron Moorehead and Mike O?Brien.
ILLINI TICKET OFFICE ONLINE
Fans can now order their season and single game tickets online at www.fightingillini.com. Football tickets for the Penn State and Northwestern games are still on sale as well as season tickets for the nationally ranked men?s and women?s basketball teams. Visit www.fightingillini.com to order now.
ILLINOIS ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT PRAISED
According to The Sporing News, Illinois ranks among the top 20 of the 1999 Best Collegiate Athletic Departments. Released in USA Today, Illinois ranks 18th in a list of 20 dominated by the Big Ten Conference. The Fighting Illini were one of nine Big Ten schools selected in the top 20, Penn State took top honors. The 112 participating Division I schools were graded on win-loss record, graduation rates, fan support and ethics. Illinois received A- marks in fan support, graduation rates and ethics.
CLARK AND KITTNER GARNER BIG TEN ACCOLADES
Illinois senior linebacker and Butkus Award Candidate Danny Clark was named the co-Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after his 17-tackle performance against San Diego State on Sept. 11 and sophomore QB Kurt Kittner landed the offensive award a week later for his four-touchdown performance in the Illini?s win over Louisville. Clark had 5 solo tackles and 12 assisted tackles and two tackles for loss in the SDSU win, while Kittner completed 17-of-24 passes and set a single game career-high for completion percentage (70.8%). His 67-yard TD pass to Rocky Harvey was a career-long. The last time the Illini had back-to-back winners was in 1994 when Simeon Rice was honored following the Washington State game (9/1/94), and the entire Illinois defense won the award for their performance vs. Missouri (9/10/94) when they allowed only one first down and 46 yards total offense.
THE JACKSON THREE
The Jackson Three, two-year starter Bobby, true-freshman Marc and first-year coach Robert have been reunited. The Harvey, Illinois natives have come home to Illinois after stints in Corvallis, Oregon. Bobby and Marc both enjoyed standout careers at Crescent Valley High School, while Dad was the receivers coach and director of football operations at Oregon State. After the departure of Illini offensive coordinator Buddy Teevens, who also served as receivers coach, it seemed only right to bring back a natural coach at the position who also had ties with recruiting in the state of Illinois (coached at Northern Illinois 1985-89). Marc is listed in the two-deep at safety this season, while Bobby underwent knee surgery and is expected to be out indefinitely.
ILLINI WINS GAIN INTEREST
Busey Bank?s ?Illini Fan CD? has fans banking on the team?s fortunes. The certificate of deposit?s annual percentage yield climbs with each Illinois victory on the gridiron. A minimum $2,500 deposit is required on the 10-month CD with a starting 5.70 percent annual percentage yield. Each time the Illini win, a 0.03 percentage point is added to the rate. A bowl bid adds another 0.05 percentage point, while a trip to the Rose Bowl adds 0.10 percentage points.
RON TURNER TELEVISION SHOW
The Ron Turner Show, taped after each week?s game, will air on the following dates and times:
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:
Oct. 25 4-H House sorority
Nov. 1 Koinonia Christian Group
Nov. 8 Alpha Tau Omega fraternity
Nov. 15 Delta Delta Delta sorority
Single-Game Career Highs set or tied in 1999
Illinois Sports Network Jim Turpin, play-by-play Jim Grabowski, color
ABC, 2:30 p.m. CT
The Athletic Ticket Office estimates a crowd of 45,000- 50,000 for Saturday?s game vs. Penn State.
players that appear on the depth chart
Greg Lewis (ankle) probable ?
HOW THE OPPONENTS HAVE FARED ??
ILLINOIS SPORTS NETWORK
Aledo, WRMJ-FM 102.3
THE MINI NOTEBOOK
? Did you know ? the Illini handed the Michigan Wolverines their first home conference loss since 1996 when 16th-ranked Penn State won 29-17 over the 11th ranked Wolverines.
? Did you know ? the last time the Illini defeated a top-5 team was in 1989 when Illini topped No. 5 Southern Cal, 14-13.
? Did you know ? Illinois quarterback Kurt Kittner has connected with 11 different receivers for 16 touchdown passes this season.
? Did you know ? quarterback Kurt Kittner?s 323 yards passing against Michigan State is the first 300+ yard passing game since Jason Verduzco threw for 341 vs. Houston in 1991.
? Did you know ? 18 Illini made their collegiate debut vs. Arkansas State, including five true-freshmen.
? Did you know ? only 18 games into his career at Illinois punter Steve Fitts ranks ninth on Illinois career punting yardage list and 10th on the all-time punts list. He also etched his name into the books with his single season marks of 77 punts (4th), punting yardage (4th), and punting average (3rd) in 1998.
? Did you know ? that Rocky Harvey was named a ?Top 10 Rookie? by Sports Illustrated last season, leading the Illini with 634 yards rushing and six touchdowns.
USA TODAY/COACHES POLL
Mississippi 65, Arkansas 59, Minnesota 21,
Maryland 19, Notre Dame 18, Virginia 14,
Kentucky 7, Colorado State 3, Rice 2.
ASSOCIATED PRESS POLL
Utah 59, Syracuse 57, Minnesota 47, Arkansas 25,
Illinois 10, Clemson 3, Louisiana Tech 3, Maryland 3.
NCAA TEAM rankings
NCAA INDIVIDUAL rankings
BIG TEN team rankings
BIG TEN individual rankings
BIG TEN STANDINGS
BIG TEN OVERALL
BIG OFFENSIVE PLAYS
ILLINOIS FOOTBALL - RECORDS TO WATCH
QB SACKS (CAREER)
PUNTING YARDAGE (CAREER)
TOUCHDOWN PASSES (SEASON)
TOUCHDOWN PASSES (CAREER)
PASSING YARDAGE (SEASON)
PASSING YARDAGE (CAREER)
RECEIVING TOUCHDOWNS (SEASON)