Oct. 29, 2012
The Fighting Illini (2-6, 0-4) head to Columbus this Saturday to face sixth-ranked and undefeated Ohio State (9-0, 5-0) at 2:30 p.m. CT on ESPN. It marks the 99th overall meeting between the two schools, who battle each season for the Illibuck rivalry trophy.
Illinois is holding opponents to a third-down conversion rate of just 30.0 percent (30-of-100), which leads the Big Ten and ranks 12th in the nation. Last week, the Illini held Indiana to just one conversion on 13 third-down plays. Earlier in the season, the Illini held Charleston Southern without a first down on 13 third-down attempts.
Illinois ranks sixth nationally and leads the Big Ten in fourth-down defense, allowing just one first down on five fourth-down attempts (20.0 percent).
Illinois ranks 11th nationally and is tied for second in the Big Ten in defensive three-and-outs with 4.63 per game. The Illini have forced a three-and-out on 37 drives in the first eight games of 2012. Additionally, the Illini have forced a three-and-out on the opponent's first drive in six of eight games this season.
Illinois leads the Big Ten and ranks 34th nationally in net punting, averaging 39.0 yards per kick.
Junior LB Jonathan Brown is one of 12 semifinalists for the Butkus Award, which goes annually to the nation's top linebacker. Brown leads the team with 55 tackles, 8.5 TFLs and 2.5 sacks on the season. He is coming off a season-high 11 tackle game, including two TFLs and one sack, against Indiana.
Senior DE Michael Buchanan has six passes defended on the season (5 PBUs and 1 INT), which is tied for the second-most in the nation for a defensive lineman. The Bednarik, Hendricks and Nagurski Award candidate also has 32 tackles, 5.0 TFLs, 2.5 sacks, four QB hurries and one forced fumble on the season.
Junior QB Nathan Scheelhaase is among Illinois' career leaders in several categories. He's fourth in passing effeciency (129.2); sixth in total offense (6,427); eighth in TD passes (34); ninth in passing yardage (4,774), completions (423) and attempts (692); and 20th in rushing yardage (1,653).
LB Mason Monheim leads all Big Ten freshmen and is tied for second on the team in tackles with 52. During conference games, the true-freshman is averaging 8.8 stops per game, which ranks 11th in the Big Ten, and he is tied for second in the B1G with two forced fumbles on the season. Monheim earned Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors after posting a game- and career-high 11 tackles and forcing a fumble against Penn State on Sept. 29.
THE BATTLE FOR THE ILLIBUCK
This week, Illinois and Ohio State will play for the coveted Illibuck trophy, one of Illinois' three trophy games. Ohio State leads the "Illibuck" series with a 60-23-2 mark.
"Illibuck" is - or was - a turtle, destined for long life, it was hoped. But the wear and tear of traveling between Champaign-Urbana and Columbus was too much, even for a hardy marine reptile. "Illibuck" died in the spring of 1927 and his successor is now a wooden replica. Members of two junior honorary societies, Bucket and Dipper of Ohio State and Atius-Sachem of Illinois, annually meet at halftime of the Fighting Illini-Buckeye game to present the "Illibuck" trophy to the previous year's winning school.
Illinois last took the "Illibuck" with a 28-21 win at Columbus in 2007, but Ohio State took it back with a 30-20 win in Champaign in 2008 and retained it the last three years with a 30-0 win at Ohio Stadium in 2009, a 24-13 win at Memorial Stadium in 2010 and a 17-7 win in Champaign in 2011.
The Last Meeting
October 15, 2011
OHIO STATE SERIES NOTES
This weekend's game between Illinois and Ohio State will mark the 99th meeting between the two teams, dating back to 1902. OSU holds the series lead, 64-30-4, and also leads in Columbus, 27-18-4. The Illini's last win over OSU was in Columbus in 2007, when Juice Williams led Illinois to a 28-21 win over the top-ranked Buckeyes.
Illinois has won three of the last five meetings in the Horseshoe, beating the Buckeyes 28-21 in 2007, 34-22 in 2001 and 46-20 in 1999.
Illinois has fared relatively well against Buckeyes recently, posting a 9-13 record against OSU dating back to 1988. Only Michigan has more victories over Ohio State during the span, posting an 12-11-1 record vs. OSU.
This will be Illinois coach Tim Beckman's third head-to-head meeting with Ohio State. He is 0-2, losing to the Buckeyes 27-22 in 2011 and 38-0 in 2009 while at Toledo.
Beckman considers Ohio State coach Urban Meyer to be one of his mentors in the coaching profession, as Beckman worked as Meyer's defensive coordinator and assistant head coach at Bowling Green from 1998-2004. The duo led the Falcons to two bowl games, a MAC East division title and a standing in the final national rankings in 2003. Saturday will mark the first meeting between the two as head coaches.
Beckman was the cornerbacks coach on the Ohio State coaching staff from 2005-06 under Jim Tressel, helping the Buckeyes to the 2006 Fiesta Bowl and the 2007 BCS National Championship Game. The Buckeyes were 22-3 during Beckman's tenure in Columbus, as he coached six All-Big Ten defensive backs and five future NFL players.
Beckman is a native of Berea, Ohio, and is a 1988 graduate of the University of Findlay in Findlay, Ohio. He was a two-year letter-winner at defensive back from 1984-87.
Illinois has 16 players on its roster from the state of Ohio, including the following 11 players who have seen regular time on the field in 2012: freshman DB V'Angelo Bentley (Cleveland/Glenville), sophomore OL Simon Cvijanovic (Cleveland/Benedictine), junior OL Jake Feldmeyer (Centerville/Centerville), freshman WR Justin Hardee (Cleveland/Glenville), junior DB Steve Hull (Cincinnati/Sycamore), junior DL Tim Kynard (Toledo/St. John's), freshman LB Mason Monheim (Orrville/Orrville), senior DE Justin Staples (Lakewood/St. Edward), freshman LB Mike Svetina (Brunswick/St. Ignatius), senior OL Hugh Thornton (Oberlin) and senior LB Ashante Williams (Mayfield).
HIGHLIGHTS AGAINST THE BUCKEYES
Illinois has held Ohio State to less than 100 yards passing in each of the last four meetings. In 2008, the Buckeyes had 49 passing yards; in 2009, they had only 82 yards through the air; in 2010, Terrelle Pryor and Joe Bauserman combined for only 77 yards passing. In 2011, Illinois held Braxton Miller to 17 yards through the air on only one completion, the first time since 1976 that OSU had only completed one pass.
Illinois' last win over the Buckeyes in 2007 marked the first time the Illini beat a top-ranked team since 1956. The victory ended OSU's 29-game regular-season winning streak and 21-game Big Ten win streak.
LB Jonathan Brown was a wrecking ball against the Buckeyes in 2011, recording 17 tackles - which still stands as his career high - while recording 2.5 TFLs and 1.5 sacks.
DE Michael Buchanan had eight tackles, 1.5 TFLs and a half-sack against OSU in 2011 after recording seven tackles and a half-TFL in 2010. For his career, he has 15 tackles, 2.0 TFLs and 0.5 sacks in two games.
QB Nathan Scheelhaase had his first career reception in 2010, hauling in a 23-yard pass from WR Jarred Fayson. Scheelhaase also ran for a three-yard touchdown in that game. For his career, he is averaging 169.5 yards of total offense per game in two meetings with the Buckeyes.
FS Steve Hull had six tackles against the Buckeyes in 2011.
DT Akeem Spence has 12 tackles, 1.5 TFLs and a half-sack in two career games against OSU.
TE Evan Wilson caught a three-year touchdown pass in the 2011 game against the Buckeyes.
ILLINI HOLD LIFT FOR LIFE FUNDRAISER
Fighting Illini players raised over $4,000 for acoustic neuroma, which ended the career of former Illini offensive lineman Andrew Carter, with their Lift for Life fundraiser through Uplifting Athletes on June 23, 2012. Acoustic neuroma is a rare, slow-growing tumor of the nerve that connects the ear to the brain. Uplifting Athletes is a network of university chapters run by current football student-athletes. Each chapter adopts a rare disease that has personal meaning to their team. Football players hold special events, fundraising campaigns or awareness drives to support research for their adopted cause. Zak Pedersen, Illinois' senior long snapper, serves as president of the UI chapter of Uplifting Athletes and helped organize the event.
ILLINI EXCEL IN THE CLASSROOM
One area that head coach Tim Beckman has stressed since his arrival has been academics and Illinois is already starting to show results. The Illini posted a 3.09 team GPA during the 2012 summer session, 19 players had a perfect 4.0 GPA and 54 of 91 (59 percent) players enrolled in summer classes had a 3.0 GPA or higher. Below are more notes on Illinois' recent academic success:
QB Nathan Scheelhaase and DT Akeem Spence, both redshirt-juniors athletically, are on pace to complete their bachelor's degrees in December 2012, a span of only three-and-a-half years on campus.
Ten current Illini seniors have already completed their bachelor's degrees, with five pursuing a master's and five pursuing a second bachelor's degree. Tommy Davis, James Hallendorff, Corey Lewis, Tyler Sands and Zak Pedersen are currently in graduate school, while Glenn Foster, Graham Pocic, Supo Sanni, Justin Staples and Ashante Williams are working toward a second bachelor's degree.
Seniors Zach Becker, Jack Ramsey and Eddie Viliunas are on track to finish their bachelor's degrees in December 2012.
Sophomore linebacker Houston Bates and senior offensive lineman Tyler Sands both have posted consecutive semesters with perfect 4.0 GPAs (Spring 2012, Summer 2012).
Four freshmen entered Illinois with impressive academic credentials, with DB V'Angelo Bentley, WR Justin Hardee and LB Mason Monheim all transferring in more than 20 hours of college credit that they took in high school, giving them a leg up on a degree. Freshman LS Michael Martin also enters UI as a member of the James Scholar honors program in mechanical engineering.
Senior DB Supo Sanni participated in the NCAA Career in Sports Forum in Indianapolis during the summer, while junior DB Kaeman Mitchell served an internship with Northwestern Mutual. Sophomore LB Ralph Cooper transferred into the College of Media and will pursue a degree in broadcast journalism.