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    Game 9 Notes: Illinois at Minnesota
    Sophomore running back Jason Ford capped of Illinois' scoring last Saturday against Michigan with a 79-yard touchdown run from scrimmage.

    Sophomore running back Jason Ford capped of Illinois' scoring last Saturday against Michigan with a 79-yard touchdown run from scrimmage.

    Nov. 2, 2009

    
    

    Complete release in PDF format


    FOR OPENERS

    • This Saturday's game against Minnesota marks the 63rd meeting between the two teams.
    • Last week's 38-13 victory over Michigan, combined with last year's 45-20 win in Ann Arbor, marked the first time Illinois has beaten Michigan in back-to-back seasons since 1957 and 1958. It also marked the first time Illinois topped the Wolverines at Memorial Stadium since 1983.
    • Ron Zook became only the third coach in school history to beat Michigan two or more times in their career. Robert Zuppke (29 years, 1913-41) defeated the Wolverines nine times and Ray Eliot (18 years, 1942-59) had eight victories over UM. Illini quarterback Juice Williams is only the second quarterback in modern history (since 1946 when starters were recorded in Illinois archives) to beat Michigan twice. In 1951 and '52, Tom O'Connell engineered wins over the Wolverines.
    • The Illinois offense exploded for 500 total yards against Michigan last weekend, including 377 on the ground. It marked the second time this season the Illini have gained over 500 yards and the first against an FBS opponent, as the Orange and Blue went for a season-high 548 yards against Illlinois State earlier this year.
    • The Illini gained 406 of their 500 yards of offense against Michigan in the second half, marking the most yards gained by at UI team in the second half in recorded history, surpassing the old mark of 393 vs. Arkansas State in 2002. In addition, 312 of Illinois' 377 rushing yards against the Wolverines came in the second half, breaking the UI record for most rushing yards in any half in recorded history. The old mark was 255 in the first half at Minnesota on Nov. 3, 2007.
    • After exploding for 377 yards rushing against Michigan last week, the Fighting Illini rushing offense now ranks second in the Big Ten and 20th in the nation at 197.5 yards per game.
    • Illinois has two of the best rushing totals in the NCAA this season. The Illini's 384 yards againt Illinois State on Sept. 12 is the 15th-best total in the NCAA this season, while the 377 yards against Michigan is the 18th highest in the country and is the highest total in the Big Ten during conference play.
    • Sophomore running back Mikel LeShoure has posted career-high rushing totals in three straight games, most recently a 21-carry, 150-yard effort against Michigan that included a career-long 70-yard touchdown run. In the last three games combined, Leshoure has piled up 350 yards (116.7 ypg) on 48 carries (7.3 ypc).
    • Illinois running backs are averaging 6.7 yards per carry through eight games, including an outstanding success rate of 8.7 yards per rush by sophomore Jason Ford. The quintet of Ford, Leshoure (6.7), Troy Pollard (6.4), Justin Green (6.7) and Daniel Dufrene (4.9) have rushed for 1,119 yards on 167 carries.
    • Williams had 220 total yards against Michigan last week to move within 85 yards of 10,000 for his career. He is trying to become the first player in school history and just the sixth in Big Ten history to reach that milestone. Williams, currently ranks sixth on the all-time Big Ten total offense list with 9,915 yards and needs 339 total yards to catch Iowa's Chuck Long for fifth (10,254 yards).
    • With his start at Purdue on Oct. 24, Williams became Illinois' all-time leader in starts by a quarterback. He now has 41 career starts, topping the old record of 39 by Kurt Kittner.
    • Junior receiver Arrelious Benn moved into a tie for fifth place on the Illinois career receptions list last week against Michigan. Benn has 147 career catches, which ties him with Walter Young for fifth in school history, and his career receiving yardage total of 2,029 ranks sixth all-time in the UI record book.
    • Benn has 3,350 career all-purpose yards which ranks sixth in school history, just 30 yards behind Chubby Philllips' fifth place total of 3,380.
    • Six true freshman have played for the Illini this year - Walter Aikens, Michael Buchanan, Justin Green, Terry Hawthorne, Hugh Thornton and Joelil Thrash. In addition, two transfers, Jarred Fayson and Aaron Gress, and 10 redshirt-freshmen, Jacob Charest, London Davis, Graham Pocic, Glenn Foster, Evan Frierson, Whitney Mercilus, Nate Palmer, Jack Ramsey, Tyler Sands and Ashante Williams have made their Fighting Illini debuts this season.


    MINNESOTA SERIES NOTES

    • Minnesota leads the series by a 32-27-3 advantage overall and holds a 19-11-2 edge in Minneapolis.
    • Saturday's game will be the first time Illinois plays at Minnesota's outdoor, 50,000-seat TCF Bank Stadium, which opened this season. From 1982-2008, the Gophers player their home game indoors at the Metrodome.
    • Last season, Minnesota topped Illinois, 27-20, in Champaign despite the Illini rolling up 550-total yards. The Orange and Blue's last trip to Minneapolis resulted in a 44-17 Illinois victory at the Metrodome.
    • Illini head coach Ron Zook is 1-1 against Minnesota, while Gopher coach Tim Brewster is also 1-1 against Illinois, with meetings in 2007 and `08 being the only time each coach has faced the other team.
    • Third-year Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster played tight end for Illinois in 1982 and `83. He helped lead the Illini to a Big Ten Championship (1983) and to two bowl games (1982 Liberty Bowl and 1984 Rose Bowl). He was a team captain and was a second-team All-Big Ten selection in 1983. He was named one of the 10 best receivers in school history last year as part of the Illinois Renassance Celebration.
    • Minnesota co-defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove spent seven years on the Illinois coaching staff in the 1980's while Brewster was a player for the Illini. Cosgrove was a graduate assistant coach for the Illini from 1980-83 and was the linebackers coach for the Orange and Blue from 1983-87 under Mike White.


    HIGHLIGHTS AGAINST THE GOPHERS

    • Illinois has put up some incredible offensive numbers against the Gophers in the last two meetings. The Illini have combined for 1,205 yards in those two games (655 in 2007, the third-highest total in UI history, and 550 in 2008).
    • In 2007 Illinois rushed for 448 yards against the Gophers, the fifth-best total in school history, while last season the passing game dominated to the tune of 462 yards, the third-best total in school history.
    • Last season, Juice Williams had 503 yards of total offense against the Gophers to break the Memorial Stadium record. Williams threw for a career-high 462 yards and also rushed for 41 yards.
    • In two career games against Minnesota, William's numbers are impressive: 40-of-62 passing (64.5 pct.) for 669 yards, four touchdows, and two interceptions. He also has 174 yards rushing on 36 carries (4.8 ypg) and one TD.
    • Arrelious Benn had a career day against Minnesota last season, compiling a career-high 12 catches for 181 yards, which marked the fifth-most receiving yards in a game in Illinois history.
    • Receiver A.J. Jenkins caught three passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns in last year's game, all career highs.
    • Defensive tackle Corey Liuget had a sack and a fumble recovery in last year's game against Minnesota.
    • Defensive end Antonio James recorded his first career sack in Illini's 2007 win over the Gophers.


    TURNING POINT

    • True freshman Terry Hawthorne got his first career start at cornerback against Michigan and recorded a career-high six tackles, including a game-changing, touchdown-saving tackle at the one-yard line on the Wolverine's first drive of the third quarter. Hawthorne chased down UM receiver Roy Roundtree from behind, turning what would have been a 77-yard touchdown and a 20-7 Michigan lead into a 76-yard pass play and a first-and-goal at the one-yard line.
    • Hawthrone's hustle spaked his teammates and the over 60,000 Illini faithful at Memorial Stadium as the Illinois defense followed up with a dramatic goalline stand, forcing Michigan to turn the ball over on downs after stopping four straight runs at the one-yard line.
    • On the ensuing UI possession, the Fighitng Illini went 99 yards on six plays and took the lead for good after a 70-yard touchdown run by Mikel LeShoure made the score 14-13 in favor of the Orange and Blue. That scoring drive tied a school record for longest scoring drive, tying three other times in school history, and opened the floodgates for the Illinois offense to rattle off 24-more points to close out the game.


    BENN THERE

    • Junior receiver Arrelious Benn moved into a tie for fifth place on the Illinois career receptions list last week against Michigan. Benn has 147 career catches, which ties him with Walter Young for fifth in school history, and his career receiving yardage total of 2,029 ranks sixth all-time in the UI record book.
    • Benn has 3,350 career all-purpose yards which ranks sixth in school history, just 30 yards behind Chubby Philllips' fifth place total of 3,380.
    • Benn ranks seventh on the Illinois career kickoff return yardage list with 932 yards in his career. Next on this list is Darryl Usher with 950 career kickoff return yards.
    • Benn isn't just a weapon in the passing and return games. Last week against Michigan Benn scored his first touchdown of the season on a three-yard run in the first quarter. For his career, Benn has 59 rushes for 275 yards (4.7 ypc) and three touchdowns.
    • Benn has made 31 career starts at Illinois, which is the third-most among Illini receivers in school history. With starts in the remaining four games, Benn will tie two-time All-American David Williams in second place with 35 starts.
    • With five catches for 96 yards against Penn State on Oct. 3, Benn continued his stallar play against the Nittany Lions. In three games against PSU, Benn has 15 catches for 290 yards and three touchdowns, plus three kickoff returns for 147 yards and one touchdown.
    • Benn has caught a pass in 32 of his 33 career games. He had a streak of 25 consecutive games with a catch broken earlier this season, which at the time ranked seventh in the nation.
    • Last season, Benn broke the 1,000-yard mark receiving on 67 catches to lead the team and earn first-team All-Big Ten honors. It was the first 1,000-yard season for an Illini receiver since 2002. Benn recorded five 100-yard receiving games and averaging 15.7 yards per catch in 2008.


    JUICE PUTS SQUEEZE ON ILLINI RECORD BOOK

      Illinois senior quarterback Juice Williams has a chance to leave the Illini program as the most productive signal caller in school history. He ...
      • Already holds the Illinois total offense records for a career (9,915) and season (3,892)
      • Ranks sixth in total offense in Big Ten history
      • Already holds the Illinois QB rushing records for a career (2,424), season (755) and game (174)
      • Ranks fourth in school history in passing yardage (7,491) and needs just 42 to move up to third
      • Is the Illinois career leader in starts by a quarterback with 41
      • Needs 121 rushing yards to move up to sixth on the Illinois career rushing list
      • Needs seven touchdown passes to move to second on the UI list for career scoring strikes
    • Williams broke the Illinois career total offense record earlier this season against Penn State. He now has 9,915 total yards in his career, passing Kurt Kittner's previous record of 8,880.
    • With 220 total yards last week against Michigan, Williams remained sixth on the all-time Big Ten total offense list, but moved closer to becoming the sixth player in Big Ten history to reach the 10,000-yard milestone. With 9,915 total yards, Williams enters this Saturday's game against Michigan needing 85 yards to reach 10,000 and 339 yards to catch Iowa's Chuck Long for fifth place on the all-time conference list.
    • Williams currently ranks ninth on the Illinois all-time rushing list with 2,424 career yards. He needs 61 yards to catch Howard Griffith's eighth place total of 2,485 yards on the ground.
    • Williams ranks second on the all-time Big Ten quarterback rushing list with his 2,424 career yards. Second is where Williams' will stay, however, as Antwaan Randle El's has the conference record of 3,895 rushing yards.
    • Williams' 374 rushing yards this year ranks fifth on the UI single season quarterback rushing list. He already holds the top three spots, including the school record of 755 yards in 2007. He needs 47 yards to move past Tim Brasic's fourth-place total of 420 yards rushing in 2005.
    • With 14 >carries against Purdue, Williams moved up to third on the Illinois all-time rushing attempts list with 584, passing Jim Grabowski's 579 carries. He currently has 605 attempts on the ground, 71 shy of Antoineo Harris' second-place total of 676.
    • Last season, Juice Williams led the conference in both passing and total offense. His 324.3 total yard average was 82.3 yards better per game than the next league player.


    HEALING ILLINI

    • Junior receiver Jarred Fayson (knee), senior safety Donsay Hardeman (neck), senior tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (ankle) and sophomore tight end Hubie Graham (back) all missed Saturday's game against Michigan but could return this week against Minnesota. It was the third-straight game missed for Fayson, while Hardeman was injured early in the Indiana game on Oct. 17 and has missed the last two. Hoomanawanui missed part of the second half against the Boilers before missing all of last week with the ankle injury. In addition, Arrelious Benn missed most of the second half after aggrivating an ankle injury from earlier in the season, but is expected to return to action this week.
    • Earlier in the season, starters Benn, Juice Williams, Hoomanawanui and Garrett Edwards all missed significant time because of injuries. Benn missed most of the season-opener against Missouri with an ankle injury and then missed part of the Michigan State game with a concussion. Williams missed nearly the entire Illinois State game after straining a quad on the first play of the game. Hoomanawanui injured an ankle early in the Penn State game and did not return and them sat out all of the Michigan State game before returning against Indiana. Edwards missed the Indiana game with a neck injury before returning at Purdue.
    • Junior linebacker Martez Wilson will miss the remainder of the 2009 season with a herniated disc neck injury. Wilson played in the season opener against Missouri, but sat out against Illinois State and Ohio State before having surgery to repair the injury on Sept. 28. He will spend the rest of the season recovering and helping to lead the Illini from the sidelines.
    • Sophomore cornerback Miami Thomas suffered a season-ending knee injury in preseason training camp.


    JUICE JOINES ELITE ILLINI QBs

    Juice Williams has led the Illini to 17 wins in his three-plus years as the starter under center at Illinois, which is the fourth in school history. Kurt Kittner (1998-2001) holds the record with 24 wins, one ahead of Jack Trudeau's (1983-85) 23 victories.

    1. Kurt Kittner, 1998-2001 -- 24
    2. Jack Trudeau, 1983-85 -- 23
    3. Jason Verduzco, 1990-92 -- 19
    4. Juice Williams, 2006-09 -- 17
    5. Jeff George, 1988-89 -- 16
    6. Tony Eason, 1981-82 -- 14


    BIG TEN RETURNING LEADING RUSHERS

    The Big Ten's career rushing leader entering the season was not a running back, it was Illini quarterback Juice Williams. Penn State running back Evan Royster is the conference's current career rushing leader, but Williams remains second with 2,424 yards rushing in his three-plus seasons as a quarterback, well ahead of third-place John Clay's total of 1,723 yards. Illini running back Daniel Dufrene ranks sixth with 1,168.

    1. Evan Royster, RB, Jr., Penn State -- 2,608
    2. Juice Williams, QB, Sr., Illinois -- 2,424
    3. John Clay, RB, So., Wisconsin -- 1,723
    4. Brandon Minor, RB, Sr., Michigan -- 1,478
    5. Terrelle Pryor, So., Ohio State -- 1,185
    6. Daniel Dufrene, RB, Sr., Illinois -- 1,168
    7. Carlos Brown, Sr., Michigan -- 1,010
    8. Demetrius McCray, Sr., Indiana -- 949
    9. Duane Bennett, So., Minnesota -- 924
    10. Mike Kafka, Sr., Northwestern -- 840
    11. Stephfon Green, So., Penn State -- 826
    12. Adam Weber, Sr., Minnesota -- 808
    13. Ralph Bolden, So., Purdue -- 785


    TOUGH SCHEDULE

    • Illinois' 2009 schedule was rated the toughest in the Big Ten and the 10th-toughest in the nation by The Sporting News entering the season and that has proven to be true thus far. Three of Illinois' opponents are ranked in the top-15 of this week's Associated Press poll.
    • Currently, the NCAA ranks Illinois' schedule the 29th-toughest nationally and after eight weeks. Illinois' opponents' record is 63-41. One team remains undefeated through eight weeks as Cincinnati is 8-0.
    • The 2009 Illinois football schedule includes eight teams that played in bowl games a year ago -- Missouri, Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Fresno State and Cincinnati -- including three that played in BCS games.
    • After opening against 2008 Big 12 North champion Missouri, the Illini faced Illinois State on Sept. 12 before starting the Big Ten season at No. 13/11 Ohio State and then hosting No. 15/13 Penn State and Michigan State, the top three teams in the preseason Big Ten Coaches poll, in consecutive weeks. Illinois then faces Michigan on Halloween and closes the regular season with a pair of tough non-conference games at 2008 Big East champion and No. 5/7 Cincinnati on Nov. 27 and home against 2008 New Mexico Bowl participant Fresno State on Dec. 5.


    THE ILLINI OFFENSE

    • Illinois had two rushers go over 100 yards last week against Michigan as Mikel LeShoure ran for a career-high 150 yards on 21 carries and Jason Ford racked up 128 yards on 12 carries. The Illini nearly had a third 100-yard rusher against the Wolverines, as Juice Williams ran for 97 yards on the ground. It marked the first time since that two Illini went over 100-yards in the same game since Nov. 17, 2007, when Williams had 136 yards and Rashard Mendenhall 124 against Northwestern.
    • Leshoure and Ford both had touchdown runs of over 70-yards against the Wolverines, as Leshoure broke loose for a 70-yard TD run in the third quarter and Ford for a 79-yard scoring run in the fourth. It marks the first time that Illinois has had two runs of 70+ yards in the same game since Oct. 21, 1944, when Buddy Young had runs of 92 yards and 82 yards against Pittsburgh.
    • Ford's 79-yard run against Michigan was the longest rush for an Illini since Rashard Mendenhall's 79-yard TD run against USC in the 2008 Rose Bowl and was the longest play from scrimmage for an Illini since Daniel Dufrene's 80-yard run against Ohio State on Nov. 10, 2007.
    • With first and second string tight ends Michael Hoomanawanui and Hubie Graham out with injuries last week against Michigan, Jeff Cumberland, a wide receiver, and redshirt freshman London Davis both stepped up to fill the void. Originally a tight end who was converted to receiver in 2007, Cumberland caught two passes for 51 yards in his move back to the tight end position, while Davis saw the first offensive action of his career, catching a two-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter for the first reception of his career.
    • Cumberland is nearing the 1,000-yard mark in career receiving yardage as the senior has 914 career yards heading into this weekend's game at Minnesota.
    • Chris James caught a 37-yard pass in the third quarter for his longest reception since hauling in a 47-yard pass against Northwestern on Nov. 18, 2006.
    • The Illinois offense didn't have a turnover against Michigan, marking the first time Illinois hasn't turned the ball over since playing a clean game at Michigan on Oct. 4, 2008.
    • With 61 rushing yards against Illinois State on Sept. 12, senior running back Daniel Dufrene went over 1,000 yards for his career. He is the 35th player in Illinois history to reach the 1,000-yard milestone and currently sits at 1,168 yards, which ranks 29th on the UI career rushing list.
    • The Illinois offense rolled up 548 total yards against Illinois State on Sept. 12, including 384 on the ground, the 15th-highest single-game total in the nation this season, on 46 carries (8.3 ypc).
    • Jason Ford rushed for 137 yards against ISU, posting the second 100-yard game of his career. For his performance, Ford was named an honorable mention College Football Performer of the Week by CFPA.
    • In the previous three seasons, the Illinois offense has led the Big Ten in rushing twice (2006, 2007) and in passing in 2008.
    • The Illinois offense returned 100 percent of its 2,034 rushing yards from the 2008 season and 87 percent of its 3,232 receiving yards, as well as three starters from the offensive line. The only skill player lost offensively was receiver Will Judson, who accounted for 401 receiving yards.


    The Fighting Illini had plenty to celebrate last Saturday, including a dramatic goal-line stand after Michigan had a first-and-goal situation at the Illinois 1-yard line.


    DEFENSIVE NOTES

    • The Illinois defense has held the opposition without a second-half touchdown in three of the last four games. The Illini `D' shutout Michigan in the second half last week and allowed just a field goal in the second half at Purdue on Oct. 24. In the the Oct. 10 loss to Michigan State, the only points the Spartans got the second half came on an interception return for touchdown.
    • The Illini defense forced three turnovers against the Wolverines last week, the most this season for Illinois against an FBS team. The Orange and Blue also collected three turnovers against Illinois State on Sept. 12.
    • Linebacker Ian Thomas leads the team and ranks eighth in the Big Ten with 7.8 tackles per game. He tied his career-high with eight solo tackles last week against Michigan and had a TFL, a fumble recover a pass break-up and a quarterback hurry against the Wolverines.
    • Safety Walter Aikens made his first career start at Indiana on Oct. 17 and has been one of the team's top tacklers since. Aikens tied for the team lead with seven tackles against the Hoosiers and then had a career-best and team-high 10 stops against Michigan last week.
    • Corey Liuget had a career-best 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks against Michigan in addition to recovering a fumble in the second half.
    • Cornerback Tavon Wilson set a career high in tackles with 13 stops against Michigan State and also recorded his first career interception with a pick in the third quarter.
    • The Illini defense recorded seven passes broken up against Michigan State, marking the best pass defense effort since the 11 PBUs against Wisconsin in 2007.
    • The Illinois defense held 15th-ranked Penn State to seven first-half points on Oct. 3, marking a season low for points in the first half by PSU.
    • Illinois held Ohio State to 82 passing yards in the Sept. 26 matchup, marking the first time since last year's game against the Buckeyes (49 yards) that an opposing team has been held under 100 yards passing. OSU had 0 passing yards in first half.
    • Russell Ellington had a 79-yard interception return against Illinois State on Sept. 12, marking the longest non-scoring interception return in school history. He also had a career-high eight tackles and two passes broken up.
    • The Illini defense held Illinois State to just 44 yards rushing, the first opponent to rush for less than 50 yards against the Illini since Penn State had 40 yards on Oct. 21, 2006.
    • In each of the past three years, Illinois linebackers have led the Big Ten Conference in tackles per game -- J Leman in 2006 and 2007, and Brit Miller in 2008.
    • In 2008, the Illini defense led the Big Ten in both tackles for loss and quarterback sacks.


    THE SPECIAL TEAMS

    • Junior punter Anthony Santella had a career-game last week against Michigan, punting four times for a career-best average of 47.8 yards with one downed inside the 20 and a career-long 65-yarder. In the last four games, Santella is averaging 44.8 per punt on 22 punts, with 10 punts over 50 yards and eight downed inside the 20.
    • For the season, Santella is averaging a career-best 41.7 yards per kick this year and already has a career high with 10 punts of 50+ yards (previous high was seven). He also is on pace for career highs in fair catches (has 12, career high is 13) and punts inside the 20 (has 12, career high is 17).
    • Illinois ranks 31st in the nation in net punting at 37.31 yards.
    • Sophomore kick-off specialist Derek Dimke had four touchbacks vs. the Wolverines last week, the most of his career. He has recorded six touchbacks in 10 kickoffs in the past two games.
    • Dimke scored the first point of his career with and extra point in the third quarter at Purdue on Oct. 24. The week before at Indiana, Dimke recovered the first fumble of his career after Nate Bussey forced the ball loose on an Indiana kickoff return.
    • Illinois ranks second in the Big Ten in kickoff coverage as the team nets an average of 43.6 yards per kickoff. Illinois also ranks second in the conference in touchbacks with eight thanks to the strong leg of Dimke.
    • Arrelious Benn ranks seventh on the Illinois career kickoff return yardage list with 932 yards in his career. Next on this list is Darryl Usher with 950 career kickoff return yards.
    • Sophomore Matt Eller kicked the 19th field goal of his career with his 23-yarder against Michigan in the fourth quarter. Eller ranks 10th on the Illinois all-time field goals list.
    • Illinois has had several different players line-up deep for kickoff returns this season, including receivers Arrelious Benn and A.J. Jenkins, running backs Troy Pollard and Justin Green and defensive back Terry Hawthorne. Benn ranks fourth in the Big Ten in kick return average at 25.4 yards per return. On punt returns, receivers Jarred Fayson and Jack Ramsey have both lined-up as return men.


    TEAM NOTES

    • Illinois has sold out two of its four home games so far this season, Oct. 3 against Penn State and Oct. 10 against Michigan State. With those two sellouts, Illinois has now had 10 sellouts in the last three seasons. Illinois' average attendance of 62,052 this season ranks 29th in the nation and Memorial Stadium has been filled to 98.7 percent of its capacity this season, which ranks 27th in the nation.
    • Student season tickets sold out for the Illinois football season this year, marking the second straight season that all 10,000 student tickets sold out.
    • The win over Illinois State on Sept. 12 was Illinois' 12th straight home-opening win. Illinois is now 82-33-5 all-time in home openers.
    • The victory over Illinois State improved Illinois to 11-0 all-time against the other public universities in the state. The Illini are 3-0 against ISU and Northern Illinois, 2-0 against Eastern Illinois and Southern Illinois and 1-0 against Western Illinois. All but one of those 11 meetings have come since 1985 (Illinois played ISU in 1944).
    • Attendance for the Sept. 12 home-opener was 62,347, the best home-opening crowd since 1995 vs. Michigan.


    ILLINOIS VS. RANKED OPPONENTS

    • Illinois has faced two top-15 opponents this season and future opponent Cincinnati is ranked No. 4 in this week's AP poll. The Illini have already faced No. 13/11 Ohio State and No. 15/13 Penn State.
    • The Illini are 3-8 vs. top-25 opponents over the past three seasons, including a win over No. 19 Penn State in 2007. Illinois is 2-3 against top-10 foes during that span with wins over No. 5 Wisconsin and No. 1 Ohio State and a loss to No. 7 USC in 2007, and losses to No. 6 Missouri and No. 10 Ohio State in 2008. In the Ron Zook era, the Illini are 3-15 against ranked teams.
    • In his eight-plus years as a head coach, Ron Zook has posted nine wins over ranked opponents..


    BLOCK, PILCHER, WILLIAMS RETURN FOR 5TH YEAR

    Of Illinois' 15 seniors, only three are back for their fifth seasons. Center Eric Block has 17 starts under his belt. The New Orleans native went through senior day last season, but petitioned the NCAA to have his fifth year restored due to limited playing time and injuries in his first season. Defensive end Doug Pilcher has been a full-time starter for the Illini since 2006 after reshirting his first season at Illinois. Defensive tackle Sirod Williams was set for his senior year in 2008, but suffered a knee injury that forced him to redshirt.


    KING OF THE HOUSE

    • Last season, Juice Williams accomplished a feat unprecedented in history. In three games during 2008 (Missouri, Michigan, Minnesota), he set stadium records in total offense.
    • Williams passed for 451 yards and rushed for 10 against Missouri on Aug. 30 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Mo., eclipsing the 456 yards posted by Rams quarterback Marc Bulger against the New York Jets in 2004. Others that Williams surpassed include Kansas State's Michael Bishop, who had 442 total yards in the 1998 Big 12 championship game, and Tommy Corwin, who had 453 for DeSmet in a high school state title game in 2005. Williams managed to surpass Bulger's best day despite being sacked five times by Missouri for a loss of 42 yards. In college, sacks count against a quarterback's rushing yards but in the NFL they don't.
    • Williams compiled 431 yards of total offense at Michigan Stadium on Oct. 4 to set the stadium record. One week later on Oct. 11 against Minnesota, 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 more than one venue, much less three.


    TRIO OF COACHES LEARNING THE LINGO

    Illinois welcomes three new faces to the coaching staff fo the 2009 season. Replacing Mike Locksley at offensive coordinator is former TCU offensive general Mike Schultz, while Joe Gilbert joins the staff to coach the offensive line. The sole change on the defensive side of the ball has former Cincinnati coach Keith Gilbert taking over the defensive line.


    HOOMANAWANUI HONORING HIS POLYNESIAN DESCENT

    • 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 States 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 got two 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.


    ILLINOIS ATHLETICS HAS BANNER YEAR

    • With Illinois' fall sports beginning their seasons, the women's cross country is expected to post its fifth straight Top-10 NCAA finish, the soccer team is ranked 11th (as of 9/1) and volleyball is 8th (as of 8/31).
    • In the 2008-09 Learfield/NACDA Director's Cup rankings, Illinois finished 20th, the highest ranking in school history. Of the 21 sports Illinois sponsors, 15 advanced to postseason NCAA play and wrestling, men's gymnastics and women's cross country finished in the top-10.
      • Men's Gymnastics - 5th
      • Wrestling - 8th
      • Women's Cross Country - 10th
      • Women's Gymnastics - 12th
      • Women's Outdoor Track & Field - 12th
      • Men's Tennis - NCAA Sweet 16
      • Soccer - NCAA Sweet 16
      • Volleyball - NCAA Sweet 16
      • Men's Golf - 21st
      • Women's Indoor Track & Field - 27th
      • Women's Tennis - NCAA Second Round
      • Men's Oudoor Track & Field - 37th
      • Men's Basketball - NCAA First Round
      • Men's Indoor Track & Field - 47th
      • Softball - NCAA First Round


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