Upset-Minded Illinois Looks To Topple Mighty Penn State
Oct. 26, 1999
By ANDY LEFKOWITZ
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Posting its first win over a ranked team in four years should be the highlight of Illinois' season.
But don't tell that to coach Ron Turner, whose team goes up against No. 2 Penn State, the lone unbeaten team in the conference, on Saturday.
Turner is looking for more, which includes an upset of the Nittany Lions (8-0, 4-0 Big Ten), who are tied with Florida for the second-longest winning streak in Division I at 10 games.
"Hopefully we learned a lesson ... that if you're going to win in this league and at this level, you've got to be ready every week," Turner said. "You have to learn to get up for every game and have great intensity and great focus every week."
Illinois (4-3, 1-3) is coming off one of the biggest upsets in school history.
Behind the passing of Kurt Kittner and the running of Rocky Harvey, Illinois reeled off four second-half touchdowns en route to a 35-29 victory over then-No. 9 Michigan.
It was Illinois' first victory over a ranked team since beating then-No. 17 Arizona in 1995, and the Illini's first win over Michigan since 1993.
Kittner, a sophomore, may have emerged this season as one of the best passers in the conference. Through seven games, Kittner has completed nearly 57 percent of his passes (138 of 244) with 16 touchdowns and only two interceptions.
"This is why I came to the Big Ten," said Kittner. "It's the best conference. To play teams each week like Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State, we're trying to get where they are now - in the Top 10 and consistently in bowls."
Kurt Kittner, meet Penn State linebacker LaVar Arrington, who made sports highlights shows with a leap over the Illini's offensive line last season in the Lions' 27-0 victory at Happy Valley.
Arrington, who has been inconsistent at times this season, had a huge game in the Nittany Lions' 31-25 win over Purdue last Saturday, recording two sacks, returning a fumble two yards for a score and blocking his second field goal of the season.
"That (score) was just way too close," Arrington said. "Right now, my nerves are all messed up."
Penn State has posted 17 sacks in the last three games after recording just 11 in the first five.
The Lions hold a 7-1 advantage all-time against the Illini, outscoring them 68-6 in the last two contests.