Football

Kurt Kittner started
his first game for
the Illini in last
season's meeting with Iowa.

 

Illinois Looks To Bounce Back At Iowa

Illini football team looks to move above the .500 mark.

Nov. 2, 1999

ILLINOIS (4-4, 1-4)

vs.

IOWA     (1-7, 0-5) 

November 6, 1999 • 1 p.m. CT
Kinnick Stadium (70,397)
Iowa City, Iowa

The 4-4 overall, 1-4 Big Ten, Fighting Illini look to bounce back from their loss to No. 2 Penn State when they travel to Iowa City to face the 1-7, 0-5, Hawkeyes. Illinois leads the all-time series 35-24-2 and holds a 17-13-2 edge in games at Iowa. The Hawkeyes have won three straight meetings, including a 37-14 victory at Champaign in 1998, which ties for the longest Iowa winning streak against Illinois. In last season's meeting, Iowa jumped out to a 37-0 lead behind 27 second quarter points before holding off a late Illinois rally. The Hawkeye special teams made their mark as Kahlil Hill returned a punt 57 yards for a touchdown and kicker Tim Douglas booted three field goals of 50-plus yards, including a 58-yarder.

The game was the first career start for Kurt Kittner, who threw for 245 yards in the game. Ron Turner is 0-2 against Iowa in his career while this is the first meeting against Illinois as a head coach for Iowa's Kirk Ferentz. Iowa's lone win of 1999 came on September 18, a 24-0 shutout of Northern Illinois. The Hawkeye offense is led by sophomore running back Ladell Betts (567 rushing yards) and junior quarterback Scott Mullen (109.1 efficiency rating) while the defense features senior defensive back Matt Bowen (leads team with 81 tackles) and senior lineman Scott Pospisil (leads team with four sacks and eight TFL).

THE COACHES’ CORNER
RON TURNER - Turner is in his third season with the Illini with a record of 7-23 at Illinois, 14-27 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.
KIRK FERENTZ - The first-year Hawkeye head coach is 1-7 at Iowa, 13-28 overall as a collegiate head coach, including a 12-21 mark at the University of Maine from 1990-92. Ferentz came to Iowa after serving as offensive line coach for the NFL's Cleveland Browns/Baltimore Ravens franchise from 1993-98. Prior to coaching in the NFL and at Maine, Ferentz was the offensive line coach at Iowa under Hayden Fry from 1981-89. Ferentz played collegiately at Connecticut where he was an academic all-conference linebacker and a team captain.

INJURY UPDATE
players that appear on the depth chart
Brett Kautter (knee) questionable … Mike McGee (hamstring pull) questionable.

IOWA-ILLINOIS CONNECTIONS
Iowa has 21 players from the state of Illinois, however Illinois has no one on the roster from Iowa. Illini freshman running back Antoineo Harris attended Bolingbrook HS with Iowa junior defensive lineman Anthony Herron. Senior linebacker Nolan Nawrocki played at Chicago's St. Rita HS with Iowa junior defensive lineman Matt Price. Freshman receiver Eric McGoey caught passes from Iowa freshman QB Jon Beutjer at Wheaton-Warrenville South HS. Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker coached outside linebackers at Illinois from 1977-79 under head coach Gary Moeller.

HOLDING PATTERN
Iowa enters this week's meeting against Illinois with a three-game series winning streak against the Illini, which ties for their longest such streak. Twice before in the series, Iowa has entered a game against Illinois with three game winning streak and both times the streaks were halted in convincing fashion. In 1971, the Illini shutout Iowa 31-0 to snap the Hawkeyes three-game series winning streak and in 1993, Illinois trounced Iowa 49-3 ending a Hawkeye three-game series winning streak. Illinois has never lost four consecutive games to Iowa.

TWO-HEADED TAILBACK
Senior Steve Havard and sophomore Rocky Harvey have shared duties as featured running back in the Illini offense. The duo has accounted for 76 percent of the team's rushing yardage. If the two backs' numbers were combined, they would have 184 carries for 905 yards and eight touchdowns. The combo's average of 113.2 yards rushing per game would rank 15th nationally and third in the Big Ten behind Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne and Minnesota’s Thomas Hamner.

OFFENSIVE EXPLOSION
This season's 210 points to date by the Illini eclipses the 1996, 1997, and 1998 entire season totals. The 1999 average of 26.3 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 team scored 30+ points five times in 12 games.

ILLINI STRIKE FIRST BUT FALL SHORT TO NO. 2 PENN STATE
The upset-minded Fighting Illini were looking for their second-straight win over a top-10 opponent as they hosted No. 2 Penn State at Memorial Stadium. Illinois jumped out to a 7-0 lead when Rocky Harvey darted through the middle of the Penn State defense and dashed 34 yards to the endzone. The play completed a five play, 89-yard drive and ended a six quarter scoring drought against Penn State that dated back to 1997.

Penn State's first score of the afternoon came early in the second quarter when they marched 84 yards on 10 plays, capped by Kevin Thompson's 13-yard TD pass to Chafie Fields in the corner of the endzone. The game remained deadlocked at seven behind stellar defense by both teams. Tony Francis intercepted a Thompson endzone pass late in the second, thwarting a Nittany Lion scoring opportunity and preserving the tie at halftime.

Penn State took their first lead of the game, 10-7, early in the third quarter when Travis Forney connected on a 44-yard field goal. PSU extended their lead 10 minutes later when Rashard Casey connected on a 16-yard touchdown pass to tight end Tony Stewart for a 17-7 lead. The Nittany Lion defense continued to stifle the Illini offense, winning the field position battle for their own offense. After holding Illinois to a three-and-out, Penn State started their next drive at the Illini 34 yard line. On first-and-10, Casey stepped up to elude the oncoming pass rush by spinning through the defense before breaking free and out-racing the defenders for a 34-yard highlight-reel touchdown that gave the Lions a 24-7 lead. Penn State scored on their third consecutive posession when Forney added a 39-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter that extended the lead to 27-7. The Nittany Lion defense was the story of the game, holding the Illini passing offense in-check with relentless pressure and coverage. Illinois quarterbacks completed just eight passes for 107 yards in the game and were sacked seven times, including four by Courtney Brown.

SPREADING OUT THE OFFENSE
Through eight games, sophomore quarterback Kurt Kittner has connected with 11 different receivers for 16 touchdown passes. That number is the second-most nationally only Oklahoma quarterback Josh Heupel who has found 14 receivers open for TD strikes. Kittner has thrown touchdown passes to tight ends: Josh Whitman, Brian Hodges, Mike Craciuniou; receivers: Brandon Lloyd, Michael Dean, Greg Lewis, Aaron Moorehead, Walter Young; fullbacks: Jameel 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 270 attempts. His two interceptions are the fewest in Division I football. He has tallied 1747 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 41st in the nation in passing efficiency and 34th in total offense. His career yardage total of 2,529 is 10th best on the Illinois career passing yards list.

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 eight catches for 105 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 and has now moved up the depth chart. 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 consistency in the short yardage game. Harvey had runs of 34 and 39 yards in the Illini’s loss to second-ranked Penn State.

THE 4-H’S
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 Penn State, has pulled within 20 yards of the top-20 all-time Illinois rushers. He is averaging 59.9 yards a game and leads the team with 479 rushing yards.
ROCKY HARVEY - Harvey, the all-purpose back, has four rushing TDs and two receiving and is second on the team in scoring. He has scored the last three Illini touchdowns. He has compiled 426 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.

FORCING TURNOVERS
After starting the season without turnovers in the first two games, the Illini defense has forced 16 in the last six games combined. Senior cornerback Tony Francis had two interceptions against second-ranked Penn State to keep the Nittany Lions out of the endzone, while Muhammad Abdullah picked a Kevin Thompson pass off in the Lions’ first drive. With four interceptions on the year, Francis ranks 20th in the nation with 0.5 a game. Interceptions by Trayvon Waller and Francis stopped a driving Michigan offense and sealed a win over the ninth-ranked Wolverines. Against Minnesota, the Illinois defense stopped the driving Gophers with a sack-fumble by Mon Long at the Illini’s eight-yard line and Francis intercepted his first of the season in the endzone. 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.

DEAN OF RECEIVERS
After three years without a touchdown reception, senior receiver Michael Dean has four touchdown receptions in eight games. Dean has led all receivers in five of the eight games and has had two 100-yard receiving games (100 yards vs. Indiana, 124 yards vs. Louisville). He has 33 catches for 4149 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.

GREATEST COMEBACK WIN IN SCHOOL HISTORY
When the Illini came back to win at Michigan after trailing 27-7, the margin tied 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. Ray Eliot’s 1956 team faced a 20-0 deficit in the season opener against California and scored 32 straight points to win 32-20.

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 22 punts for 238 yards, averaging 10.8 yards a return and ranks 31st in the nation.

COLLEGIATE DEBUT
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
Sophomore quarterback Kurt Kittner earned his second Big Ten Player of the Week honor for his four-touchdown, 280-yard performance in the Illini’s 20-point comeback victory over then-No. 9 Michigan. The honor is the third of the season for an Illini. Illinois senior linebacker 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 Kittner landed the offensive award a week later for his four-touchdown performance in the Illini’s win over Louisville.

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.

The Illini Notebook
• Did you know … sophomore tailback Rocky Harvey has scored the Illini’s last three touchdowns (two in the fourth quarter at Michigan, one vs. Penn State on the first score of the game).

• Did you know … Tony Francis has intercepted four passes in three consecutive games, including two against No. 2 Penn State.

• 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 … 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.

HEADLINES