Nov. 1, 2010
Complete Illinois-Michigan Game Notes
GAME 9: Illinois (5-3, 3-2) at Michigan (5-3, 1-3)
Nov. 6, 2010 // Noon ET / 11 am CT kickoff // ESPN
Ann Arbor, Mich. // Michigan Stadium (109,901)
The Illinois/Michigan game will be nationally televised on ESPN with an air time of 11 a.m. CT. Bob Wischusen (play-by-play) and Brian Griese (color analyst) will call the action with Bryan Ryder producing and Dan McVan directing. The game will also be streamed live at ESPN3.com.
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 (121) & XM (141) satellite radio.
The team will depart for Ann Arbor on Friday afternoon via charter flight. Coach Zook will meet with members of the media at the team's walkthrough at Michigan Stadium (approx 5:45 pm ET).
FOLLOW THE ILLINI...
THE OPENING KICK
The Fighting Illini are looking to become bowl eligible this Saturday when they head to newly renovated Michigan Stadium to face the Wolverines. Illinois is looking for its third-straight victory over Michigan and its third-straight win overall after topping Purdue 44-10 last week in Champaign.
Illinois' 34-point margin of victory over Purdue last week, combined with the 30-point win over Indiana on Oct. 23, marked the first time an Illini team registered consecutive 30-point wins since 1944 and the first time they won consecutive Big Ten games by 30 or more points since 1914.
Illinois has faced the toughest schedule in the nation thus far according to the official NCAA schedule strength rankings. Illinois' opponents have a combined record of 42-16 this season vs. Division I opponents (not counting their game vs. Illinois).
Illinois' three losses this season (Missouri, Ohio State and Michigan State) have a combined record of 23-3, with all three teams ranked in the top-15 of the Oct. 31 BCS standings. Illinois led two of the three games at halftime (Missouri and Michigan State), and was on the verge of tying Ohio State late in the game before falling short in the red zone late in the fourth quarter.
The Illinois defense has made huge improvements this year under new defensive coordinator Vic Koenning. The Illini rank 12th nationally in points allowed (16.8 ppg), 15th in total defense (301.4 ypg), 19th in pass defense (183.9) and 26th in rushing yards allowed (117.5 ypg), all while facing the toughest schedule in the nation. At the end of last season, Illinois was 96th in scoring defense (30.2 ppg), 100th in pass defense (248.8), 91st in total defense (403.3 ypg) and 76th in rushing defense (154.4 ypg).
The Illini defense has allowed just nine touchdowns on 27 opponent red zone trips (33.3 percent) to rank third in the nation in red zone touchdown percentage defense behind only West Virginia (25.0 percent) and Alabama (30.4 percent), and tied with Missouri (33.3 percent).
Opponents have started 17 drives in plus territory this season, but the Illini defense has allowed just one touchdown and eight field goals on those 17 drives.
The Orange and Blue defense also has been stingy after turnovers. Following the 15 Illini turnovers, the defense has allowed just 25 points (one touchdown and six field goals).
Offensively, Illinois is tied for second in the nation in red zone scoring percentage, picking up points on 29 of its 30 trips inside the 20 this season (97 percent). The Illini have 17 touchdowns and 12 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 with the Illini inside the 20.
Redshirt-freshman QB Nathan Scheelhaase was named Big Offensive Player and Freshman of the Week for his performance in Illinois' 44-10 win over Purdue last week. He completed 16-of-20 passes for 195 yards, 4 TDs and 0 INT for a QB rating of 227.9, the sixth-highest in school history. He also had a career-high 118 rushing yards. Scheelhaase has now earned Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors four times this season.
Doak Walker Award candidate Mikel Leshoure ranks fourth in the Big Ten and 25th in the nation in rushing (97.5 ypg) and has scored seven total touchdowns. Leshoure has topped the 100-yard mark in four games this season and in seven of Illinois' last 14 games dating back to last season.
Junior linebacker Martez Wilson leads Illinois and is fifth in the Big Ten in tackles (8.5 tpg) and also is second on the team in TFLs (6.5) and sacks (2.0). He has led the Illini in tackles in four of the last six games.
Junior PK Derek Dimke has been named a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award and senior punter Anthony Santella a candidate for the Ray Guy Award. Dimke is 15-of-17 on field goals and 22-22 on extra points this season, while Santella ranks seventh in the nation in punting (46.05 ypk).
MICHIGAN SERIES NOTES
Michigan leads the series by a 66-23-2 advantage overall and holds a 31-11-1 edge in Ann Arbor.
Illinois defeated the Wolverines 38-13 last season in Champaign and also won the most recent meeting in Ann Arbor, 45-20 in 2008.
Illinois has not won three straight over Michigan since winning four in a row from 1950-53. That period also marks the last time Illinois won two straight in Ann Arbor (1950 and 1952), though in 1992 (22-22 tie) and 1993 (24-21 Illini win), Illinois played at the Big House in back-to-back years without a loss.
Last year's win over the Wolverines gave the Illini back-to-back wins over Michigan for the first time since 1957 and '58. It also marked the first time Illinois defeated Michigan at Memorial Stadium since 1983.
Illini head coach Ron Zook is 2-2 in his career against Michigan, going 2-1 against the Wolverines at Illinois with the other loss coming at Florida in the 2003 Outback Bowl. Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez is 0-2 against Illinois as a head coach, falling to the Illini in 2008 and '09.
Zook is only the third coach in school history to beat Michigan two or more times in his career. Robert Zuppke (1913-41) defeated the Wolverines nine times and Ray Eliot (1942-59) had eight wins over UM.
HIGHLIGHTS AGAINST THE WOLVERINES
In the last two meetings, Illinois has outscored Michigan 83-33 and has piled up 1,001 total yards.
In last year's 38-13 win at Memorial Stadium, the Illini racked up 500 total yards and 377 rushing yards. Illinois totaled 312 yards rushing on 33 carries in the second half alone.
Mikel Leshoure rushed for 150 yards and Jason Ford ran for 128 yards in last year's meeting, marking the first time two Illini ran for 100+ yards in a game in two seasons. Both backs had long TD runs in the game, with Leshoure registering a 70-yard score and Ford taking one 79 yards to the house. Both of those runs remain career longs for the juniors.
Sophomore CB Terry Hawthorne got his first career start against Michigan last year as a true-freshman and recorded a career-high six tackles, including a game-changing tackle on the first drive of the third quarter when he ran down Michigan WR Roy Roundtree from behind to save a touchdown. The Illini eventually forced a turnover on downs at their own 1 yard line and then dominated the game from that point on.
Following Hawthorne's play and the defensive stand, Illinois marched 99 yards to take control of the game, tying the school record for longest scoring drive.
The Illini's 45 points in the 2008 victory over Michigan are the most Illinois has scored against the Wolverines in school history and also are the most points against Michigan in the "Big House" by any team since 1991, when Florida State scored 51. It remains the most points scored by a Big Ten opponent at Michigan Stadium since Ohio State won 50-20 in 1961.
Juice Williams set the Michigan Stadium record for total offense with 431 yards (310 passing, 121 rushing) in the 2008 meeting, a record that still stands today.
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:
Illinois forced five turnovers, including four interceptions, and blocked two punts against Indiana on Oct. 23. The Hoosiers entered the game with the nation's fifth-ranked passing offense, but were held 40 yards below their average of 319 yards per game. The Illini also limited IU WR/KR Tandon Doss, who entered the game ranked first in the nation in all-purpose yards (202 ypg) to just 90 yards.
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 its fewest since 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 the game, marking the third-straight year they have held OSU to under 100 yards passing (49 yards in 2008 and 82 yards in 2009).
The UI defense held NIU running back Chad Spann to just 15 yards on 13 carries. Spann currently ranks 11th in the nation, averaging 111.1 ypg, and racked up 223 yards on 15 carries against Minnesota on Sept. 25, one week after the Fighting Illini shut him down.
LAST TIME OUT: ILLINI TAKE BACK THE CANNON
Illinois snapped a five-game skid to Purdue and took back the "Cannon" rivalry trophy for the first time since 2002 with a 44-10 victory last Saturday at Memorial Stadium. The Illini dominated the game, outgaining the Boilers 391-205 and holding them to just 52 passing yards and nine first downs. Illini QB Nathan Scheelhaase had a career game, completing 16-of-20 passes for 195 yards, 4 TDs and 0 INT, while also rushing for a career-high 118 yards, becoming the first player to rush for over 100 yards against the Boilermakers this season. Mikel Leshoure had two TD runs for the Illini and also caught a 20-yard strike from Scheelhaase for another score. Illinois set the tone early, holding the ball for 13:25 of the first quarter and building a 14-0 lead while playing into a strong wind. For the game, Illinois dominated time of possession 38:17-21:43.
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 196.1 yards per game (13,338 yards in 68 games) in the last 5+ seasons tops Wisconsin's 192.7 ypg (14,065 yards in 73 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.
The Illini led the conference in rushing yards per game in 2006 and 2007, and were second in 2009. This season, Illinois is averaging 194.4 ypg on the ground, which ranks 24th nationally and fourth in the Big Ten.
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 four games after being injured against Ohio State and RB Jason Ford (ankle) and WR Jarred Fayson (hamstring) both sat out the Purdue game. Hull, Ford and Fayson all are expected to return to action this week against Michigan.
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 at Michigan State after missing the first five games and was in the starting lineup vs. Indiana.
MORE DEFENSIVE NOTES
The Illini defense has been much improved over last season. In the first eight games of 2009, the Illini allowed 3,288 total yards (411.0 ypg), 1,410 rushing yards (176.3 ypg) and 207points (25.9 ppg). In eight games this season, the Illini have allowed 2,411 yards (301.4 ypg), 940 rushing yards (117.5 ypg) and 134 points (16.8ppg).
A CLOSER LOOK AT ILLINOIS' DEFENSIVE IMPROVEMENT
Category 2009 (Final Nat'l Rank) 2010 (Cur. Nat'l Rank)
Points Allowed (ppg) 30.2 (96) 16.8 (12)
Total Defense (ypg) 403.3 (91) 301.4 (15)
Passing Defense (ypg) 248.8 (100) 183.9 (19)
Pass Efficiency Defense 142.8 (103) 113.1 (25)
Rushing Defense (ypg) 154.4 (76) 117.5 (26)
The Fighting Illini have yet to allow more than 26 points in a game this season despite facing the nation's toughest schedule. Illinois held the high-powered offenses of Missouri (23) and Michigan State (26) to season-low point totals, and also held an Ohio State offense averaging 49.3 points per game to 24 points and an Indiana offense averaging 34.2 ppg to 13.
Illinois' defense has held its opposition under 100 yards rushing four times in eight games this season (98 vs. Missouri, 46 vs. SIU, 65 at Penn St., 93 at Michigan St.) and under 100 yards passing two times (77 vs. Ohio State and 52 vs. Purdue).
Illinois' defense forced five turnovers against Indiana on Oct. 23 (four INTs and one fumble). It marked the first time in eight years that Illinois forced five turnovers in a game (five vs. Northwestern on Nov. 23, 2002). The Illini converted the five turnovers into 24 points (three touchdowns and one field goal).
Two of the Illini INTs vs. the Hoosiers resulted in touchdowns. Patrick Nixon-Youman
scored on a 68-yard interception return in the second quarter and Jonathan Brown
scored on a 66-yard interception return in the fourth, marking the first time Illinois had two pick-sixes in a game since Bobby Jackson
and Christian Morton
both returned INTs for touchdowns at Purdue in 2001.
Defensive tackle Corey Liuget
has been a beast all season and especially lately. Against Indiana, he had five tackles, one sack and five QB hurries while helping the defense force five turnovers. The week before at Michigan State, Liuget registered a career-high 11 tackles, marking the most tackles in a game by an Illini defensive lineman since DE Mike O'Brien
had 12 stops vs. Missouri in 2002 and the most for a DT since Paul Marshall had 11 at Minnesota in 1996.
Liuget dropped 30 pounds in the offseason to get down to 285 in hopes of being more mobile and harder to block. It seems to have paid off, as Liuget has 37 tackles, a team-high 7.5 TFLs and 3.0 sacks this season to go along with a team-high nine hurries and two PBUs. He has already eclipsed his previous career-high of 36 tackles and 2.5 sacks and is close to passing his career-high of 8.0 TFLs.
LB Nate Bussey
had a career day for the Orange and Blue against Penn State on Oct. 9, returning an interception 16 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter and also tying his career high with eight tackles. Then against Indiana on Oct. 23, Bussey blocked the first punt of his career leading to an Illini safety. Bussey is second on the team in tackles (5.9 tpg) and third in tackles for loss (5.0).
Senior CB Travon Bellamy
has saved his best season for last. Bellamy stepped up big when Terry Hawthorne
missed the first four games with an injury and hasn't let up. His 5.9 tackles per game are tied for second on the team and he already has eclipsed his previous season career-highs with 4.0 tackles for loss and five pass break-ups.
recorded a pair of interceptions in the 24-13 loss to the Buckeyes. He intercepted a Terrelle Pryor pass in the second quarter and picked off a Joe Bauserman pass in the third quarter to become the first Illini defender in six years to tally two INTs in a game (Kelvin Hayden
vs. Florida A&M in 2004).
The three points allowed to Southern Illinois on Sept. 11 mark the lowest point total allowed by an Illinois team since shutting out Western Illinois on Sept. 8, 2007.
Illinois has scored over 40 points in two straight games, putting up 43 against Indiana on Oct. 23 and 44 vs. Purdue on Oct. 30. It marks the first time the Illini have tallied 40 or more points in consecutive wins since 1999, when they won at Iowa, 40-24, on Nov. 6, and then at Ohio State, 46-20, on Nov. 13.
Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase has been named the Big Ten's Freshman of the Week four times already this season. First on Sept. 13 following his 14-of-18, 229 yard, 1 TD, 0 INT performance against SIU, then again on Oct. 11 after his 15-of-19, 151 yard, 1 TD, 0 INT game at Penn State and on Oct. 25 following his 13-of-21, 123 yard, 2 TD, 0 INT game in the win over Indiana. He was named both Offensive Player of the Week and Freshman of the week on Nov. 1 after going 16-of-20 for 195 yards, 4 TD and 0 INT, and rushing for 118 yards vs. Purdue.
In Illinois' five wins this season, Scheelhaase has been outstanding, completing 66-of-94 passes (70.2 percent) for 768 yards, 9 TDs and 0 INT for an efficiency rating of 170.44. Has also rushed for 352 yards on 59 carries (6.0 ypc) and a TD those five games.
Scheelhaase owns two of the top seven single-game quarterback ratings in school history. His 227.9 rating against Purdue on Oct. 30 is the sixth best at Illinois, while his 221.31 passer rating for the SIU game on Sept. 11 is the seventh-highest single-game efficiency rating.
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.
New offensive coordinator Paul Petrino's offense has shown its ball control-capabilities so far 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 eight games, Illinois has 22 scoring drives of 8+ plays and 19 scoring drives of 4+ minutes.
The Illini offense 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.
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 Penn State on Oct. 9 and is currently averaging 19.8 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 four 20+-carry games and is still averaging a healthy 4.9 yards 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 10th-most in school history.
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 29 consecutive starts. Allen was key in limiting Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan, who entered the game ranked second nationally in TFL and 15th in sacks, to just four tackles and a sack in the Oct. 30 meeting.
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 and added another score against Purdue last week. For the season, Jenkins leads the Illini with 31 catches for 409 yards and four touchdowns.
Junior running back Jason Ford had a four-yard TD 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 rushing yards. He is the 37th player in Illinois history to surpass 1,000 career yards and currently has 1,056 yards to rank 35th all-time at Illinois.
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 also had a 17-yard touchdown reception against Indiana on Oct. 23, his first TD of the season. Fayson is second on the team with 28 catches for 239 yards on the season.
THE SPECIAL TEAMS
Illinois blocked two punts against Indiana on Oct. 23. Both came in the third quarter on back-to-back possessions, first by Martez Wilson and then by Nate Bussey. Bussey's occurred in the end zone, resulting in a safety. That marked the first safety by the Illini since Oct. 16, 2004, vs. Michigan and the first time Illinois blocked two punts in a game since Sept. 11, 1976, vs. Iowa.
Junior Troy Pollard had a big day returning kicks against Indiana. Pollard took back three kickoffs for 92 yards (30.7 ypr) against the Hoosiers, including an Illinois season-long 44-yarder in the second quarter. Pollard is averaging 25.2 yards on eight returns this season and ranks third in the Big Ten with a 26.1 average during conference games.
Lou Groza Award Semifinalist Derek Dimke has been outstanding this season, connecting on 15-of-17 field goals, including two from 50+, and 22-of-22 extra points this season. He had made 10 straight field goals, the third-longest streak in school history, until missing a 51-yarder against Indiana on Oct. 23. For his career, Dimke has connected on 20-of-22 field goals and is a perfect 34-of-34 on extra points since taking over placekicking duties late last season.
Dimke was named Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week after going 4-for-4 on field goals against Penn State Oct. 9, hitting from 50, 31, 41 and 38 yards. His 52-yard field goal against Missouri in the season-opener tied the sixth-longest field goal in school history and was the longest by an Illini since 2005. Dimke is currently tied for sixth in the nation with an average of 1.88 made field goals per game.
Dimke also has excelled on kickoffs. He has booted 18 touchbacks and has a 64.1 yard average in 44 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.
Ray Guy Award candidate 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 seventh in the nation with a 46.05 average on 40 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 46.0 so far this season. He currently ranks fourth in the Illinois record books in career punting average (40.6), third in career yardage (8,940) and fourth in career punts (215).
MISCELLANEOUS TEAM NOTES
Uniform note: The Illini topped Purdue last week, 44-10, while wearing orange jerseys, marking the third-straight year the Illini have won on Halloween weekend at Memorial Stadium while wearing orange uniforms. The Illini previously defeated Iowa, 27-24, on Nov. 1, 2008, and defeated Michigan 38-13 on Oct. 31, 2009, while wearing orange.
With the win over Purdue, Illinois coach Ron Zook has now defeated each Big Ten team at least once.
Illinois' win at Penn State on Oct. 9 made Zook 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.)
The win at Penn State also made Zook the fourth coach to ever post road victories at Ohio State, at Michigan and at Penn State in a career. Zook joins former Big Ten coaches Barry Alvarez (Wisconsin), Hayden Fry (Iowa) and Glen Mason (Minnesota) on the exclusive list.
Zook, the 2007 Liberty Mutual National Coach of the Year, is in his sixth season as the Illinois head coach. Entering Saturday's game against Michigan, Zook has an overall head coaching record of 49-56 in eight-plus seasons at Florida and Illinois combined and is 26-42 in five-plus seasons at Illinois.
Illinois picked up its first win at Penn State with the 33-13 victory on Oct. 9 after entering the game 0-6 all-time in Happy Valley. The Illini also handed the Nittany Lions their biggest Homecoming defeat since they fell by 20 to Navy in 1955.
Nineteen Illini, including eight true-freshmen, have made their Fighting Illini debuts this season. True-freshmen LB Jonathan Brown, bandit Brandon Denmark, WR Spencer Harris, WR Ryan Lankford, WR Darius Millines, QB Miles Osei, FB Jay Prosch and TE Evan Wilson all have seen action this season. In addition, two transfers: FS Trulon Henry and FB Chris Willett; seven redshirt-freshmen: RB Bud Golden, FS Steve Hull, DE Tim Kynard, TE Justin Lattimore, FS Ben Mathis, QB Nathan Scheelhaase and DT Akeem Spence; and two sophomores: LS Zak Pedersen and TE Eddie Viliunas all have seen the field for the first time in their UI careers this season.
ILLINI IN THE NCAA RANKINGS
Illinois' defense has been stout so far, holding opponents to just 16.8 points, 301.4 total yards, 183.9 passing yards and 117.5 rushing yards per game, totals that rank 12th, 15th, 19th and 26th in the nation, respectively. The Illini pass efficiency defense also has improved to 25th nationally at 113.05.
Senior punter Anthony Santella leads the Big Ten and is seventh nationally in punting with a 46.05 average. As a team, the Illini lead the conference and rank ninth nationally in net punting at 40.20 yards.
After nailing one field goal against Purdue last week, kicker Derek Dimke is tied for sixth in the nation in field goals made per game at 1.88.
Doak Walker Award candidate Mikel Leshoure is averaging 97.5 rushing yards per game this season, which puts him 25th in the nation and the fourth in the Big Ten. Overall, the Illinois rushing offense is ranked 24th nationally at 194.4 ypg.
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
PURDUE: OL Jeff Allen, DL Corey Liuget, WR Eddie McGee, LB Martez Wilson
MICHIGAN: OL Jeff Allen, DL Corey Liuget, WR Eddie McGee, LB Martez Wilson
PLAYERS OF THE GAME
Following each Illini victory, the coaching staff names a player of the game for each of the three phases.
GAME OFFENSE DEFENSE SPECIAL TEAMS
Southern Illinois Nathan Scheelhaase, QB Ian Thomas, LB Anthony Santella, P
Northern Illinois Mikel Leshoure, RB Martez Wilson, LB Derek Dimke, PK
Penn State Mikel Leshoure, RB Nate Bussey, LB Derek Dimke, PK
Indiana Graham Pocic, C Entire Unit M. Wilson/N. Bussey/T. Pollard
Purdue Nathan Scheelhaase, QB Trulon Henry, FS Antonio Gully, kick coverage