Nov. 4, 2013
Beckman Press Conference: Video | Quotes
Monday Interviews: OC Cubit | DC Banks | QB Scheelhaase | WR Harris | LB Brown
Opening Kick: The Fighting Illini (3-5 overall, 0-4 B1G Leaders) will look to end a four-game skid when they travel to Indiana (3-5 overall, 1-3 B1G Leaders) on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET/2:30 CT, BTN). Both teams are looking to bounce back from heartbreaking defeats, as the Illini fell in overtime at Penn State, 24-17, and the Hoosiers lost a thriller at home to Minnesota, 42-39.
Brown an All-America Candidate: Senior LB and Butkus Award candidate Jonathan Brown leads the Big Ten and ranks 17th nationally in tackles per game (10.1). Brown, who was named to Phil Steele's midseason All-America third team, also ranks sixth in the conference in TFLs per game (1.06). He is one of only four players in the nation currently averaging over 10.0 tackles per game with at least 8.5 TFLs.
Offensive Improvement: The revamped Illinois offense, directed by new offensive coordinator Bill Cubit, has made huge improvements from 2012. The Illini have jumped at least 50 spots in the national rankings from last year to this year in long scrimmage plays, first downs, passing offense, passing efficiency, turnovers lost, scoring offense and total offense, with the biggest turnaround a 77-place jump in plays ot 20+ yards.
| ILLINOIS' OFFENSIVE IMPROVEMENT IN 2013
|Category||2012 (Final Nat'l Rk)||2013 (Current Nat'l Rk)||Difference|
|Scrim. plays of 20+ yd||34 (122)||43 (45)||+77
|First Downs (per game)||16.4 (120)||22.9 (43)||+77
|Passing Offense (ypg)||138.83 (107)||268.8 (36)||+71
|Passing Efficiency||113.42 (102)||143.95 (40)||+62|
|Turnovers lost||30 (107)||13 (47)||+60|
|Scoring Offense (ppg)||16.67 (119)||29.0 (66)||+53|
|Total Offense (ypg)||296.67 (119)||402.0 (69)||+50|
Scheelhaase Having Big Year: Senior QB Nathan Scheelhaase has thrived in Cubit's system, ranking second in the Big Ten and the top 40 nationally in completion percentage (64.9 percent, 27th), completions per game (20.1 cpg, 31st) and total offense (259.5 ypg, 33rd), and ranking third in the Big Ten in passing yards per game (246.3 ypg, 36th nationally).
Scheelhaase had 356 yards of total offense at Penn State, moving him past Kurt Kittner and into second place on the Illinois career total offense list with 9,167 yards. Scheehaase needs to average 357 yards per game over the final four regular season games to break Juice Williams' school record of 10,594 total yards.
Return Man Returning? Sophomore V'Angelo Bentley leads the Big Ten and ranks fourth in the nation in kick return average (30.8 ypr), including a 100-yard kickoff return for TD against Southern Illinois. Bentley has missed the last two games due to injury but could return against the Hoosiers.
Ferguson an All-Purpose Threat: Sophomore running back Josh Ferguson ranks second in the nation in receiving yards per game by a running back, averaging 54.2 yards per game (434 yards on 31 receptions, 14.0 ypc). He leads the Illini in rushing yards (395), receiving yards (434) and touchdowns (7), and ranks eighth in the Big Ten in all-purpose yards (108.2).
Tough Slate: Illinois' first four conference games this season came against Nebraska (6-2, 3-1), Wisconsin (6-2, 4-1), Michigan State (8-1, 5-0) and Penn State (5-3, 2-2), teams that combine for a 25-8 overall record and a 14-4 conference mark. Illinois' four remaining opponents have combined records of 17-17 overall, 6-12 in B1G play, and that includes Ohio State (9-0, 5-0).
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
QB Nathan Scheelhaase needs three touchdown passes to become the fourth player in Illinois history to throw 50 career TD passes.
Scheelhaase needs 267 passing yards to pass Jason Verduzco and move into fourth place on the Illinois career passing yardage list.
RB Josh Ferguson needs 70 receiving yards to break Kameno Bell's single-season school record for receiving yards by a running back (503). Currently third on the list, Ferguson needs 62 yards to pass Darrell Smith (495 yards) for second place.
LB Jonathan Brown needs one tackle for loss to tie Don Thorp for fourth place on the UI career TFLs list.
See page 13 for a full list of records to watch.
The Last Meeting
October 27, 2012
ILLINOIS-INDIANA SERIES NOTES
This week's game marks the 71st meeting between the Fighting Illini and the Indiana Hoosiers. The Illini have won four of the last six against the Hoosiers and hold a 45-22-3 overall series advantage against IU. The Illini won the last meeting in Bloomington in 2011, 41-20, the Orange and Blue's most recent Big Ten victory. The Hoosiers won last season's meeting in Champaign, 31-17.
Illinois also leads the series in Bloomington by a slim 15-13-1 margin. The Illini have won two of the last three at IU, 41-20 in 2011 and 27-14 in 2007. The Hoosiers won on their home field in 2009, 27-14.
Illinois coach Tim Beckman is 0-1 against the Hoosiers, while IU coach Kevin Wilson is 1-1 against the Illini.
Indiana assistant head coach/co-defensive coordinator Doug Mallory is the brother of former Illini assistants Curt and Mike Mallory. Curt was on Ron Zook's staff from 2005-09; Mike was at Illinois from 2001-05 under both Ron Turner and Zook; and Doug are the sons of Bill Mallory, who was the head coach at Indiana, Northern Illinois, Colorado and Miami (Ohio) between 1969-96.
Illinois has two players on the roster from the state of Indiana, starting OG Ted Karras (Cathedral HS, Indianapolis) and backup K/P Ryan Frain (Scecina HS, Indianapolis).
ILLINI HIGHLIGHTS AGAINST THE HOOSIERS
Illinois' offense exploded against Indiana in their last trip to IU's Memorial Stadium, posting 518 total yards, while the defense posted 9.0 TFLs, broke up five passes and scored on a 66-yard fumble return by Tavon Wilson.
QB Nathan Scheelhaase is 2-1 as a starter against the Hoosiers, completing 42-of-70 passes (60.0 percent) for 509 yards, six TDs and zero INTs against Indiana in three games. He also has rushed for 165 yards (55.0 ypg) and two TDs against IU in his career. Overall, Scheelhaase is averaging 224.7 total yards per game and has accounted for eight touchdowns against the Hoosiers.
LB Jonathan Brown had 11 tackles and two TFLs against the Hoosiers in 2012. In 2010, Brown had a 66-yard pick-six in the 43-13 win.
In two games against Indiana, RB Donovonn Young has 197 yards rushing on 33 carries (6.0 ypc). He rushed for a career-high 124 yards on 21 carries (5.9 ypc) against the Hoosiers in 2012 and ran for 73 yards on 12 carries (6.1 ypc) at IU in 2011.
TE Jon Davis caught a three-yard TD pass in the 2011 game, his first career touchdown.
WR Steve Hull, formerly a safety for the Illini, and LB Houston Bates both recorded career-high tackle totals against Indiana in 2011, as Hull made eight stops and Bates racked up seven, with all 15 tackles between the pair being solos. Hull also intercepted a pass in the game.
TE Evan Wilson had a 29-yard TD reception from Nathan Scheelhaase in the 2010 game.
WHOSE HOUSE? SCHEEL-HOUSE
Senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase completed a career-high 33-of-52 passes against Penn State last week, surpassing his previous best of 28, which he had accomplished twice (most recently vs. Southern Illinois on Aug. 31, 2013). Scheelhaase threw for 321 yards against the Nittany Lions, his most in a Big Ten game since passing for 391 vs. Northwestern on Oct. 1, 2011.
Scheelhaase has blown past his 2012 season totals for passing yards, touchdown passes, 20-plus-yard pass plays, 30+ pass plays and 50+ pass plays, while improving his passing efficiency by nearly 50 points. Take a look at his eight-game 2013 numbers versus his 10-game 2012 numbers below:
| Scheelhaase Passing 2012 vs. 2013|
Scheelhaase has found great success on first down, completing 88-of-122 (72.1 percent) passes on first down for 1,182 yards and six touchdowns for a 163.19 passing efficiency rating. He ranks 10th in the nation in first-down QB rating among QBs with 100 or more first-down attempts.
Scheelhaase has 18 first-half plays of 25-plus-yards, tied for fifth-most in FBS.
Scheelhaase is one of five players in the nation with over 7,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards. He is 12th among active FBS players in career total yards with 9,167.
Scheelhaase has the 10th-best second-quarter efficiency rating in all of FBS. He has completed 55-of-75 passes (73.3 percent) for 736 yards with seven touchdowns and one interception in the second quarter this season for a 183.89 rating.
Scheelhaase enters the weekend ranked second on the Illinois career total offense list with 9,167 yards (1,901 rushing, 7,266 passing). He needs to average 357 yards per game over the final four regular season games to break Juice Williams' school record of 10,594 total yards.
Scheelhaase ranks fourth on the Illinois career passing efficiency list (128.9) and also ranks fourth in career touchdown passes (47), fourth in completions (649), fifth in attempts (1,049), fifth in passing yardage (7,266) and 17th in rushing yardage (1,901) - second among quarterbacks - at Illinois. See page 13 to track Scheelhaase's ascent up several UI career lists.
Scheelhaase set a school record for TD passes in a quarter with four in the second quarter against Miami (Ohio). He tossed a career-high five TDs against the RedHawks, all in the first half, one more than he had all of last season. Those five TDs in a half tied the Illinois record shared by Dave Wilson and Tom O'Connell.
Scheelhaase has put together streaks of 10 or more consecutive completions in three different games this season, accomplishing the feat against Southern Illinois (12), Cincinnati (10) and Miami (Ohio) (10). Prior to this season, the last time Scheelhaase had completed 10 or more passes was a string of 13 consecutive completions against Baylor in the 2010 Texas Bowl. Before the four times Scheelhaase has done it, the last Illini to complete 10 straight passes was Johnny Johnson (12) at Wisconsin on Nov. 19, 1994.
Scheelhaase threw for a career-high 416 yards in the season-opener against Southern Illinois, the 10th-best single-game passing performance in school history and the fifth-most by an Illinois quarterback at Memorial Stadium. He had 340 of his 416 yards in the first half, marking the most ever for an Illini in the first half and the most in any half since Juice Williams totaled 347 passing yards in the second half against Minnesota on Oct. 11, 2008.
After starting the first eight games this season, Scheelhaase now has 44 career starts under his belt, the third-most in the nation by a quarterback behind only Georgia's Aaron Murray (49) and Troy's Corey Robinson (45).
Scheelhaase led Illinois to bowl victories in each his first two seasons (2010 Texas Bowl and 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl), making him one of only two QBs in Big Ten history to start and lead their teams to bowl wins during both his freshman and sophomore seasons (Brooks Bollinger, Wisconsin). After missing a bowl in 2012, Scheelhaase is looking to end his UI career with a third bowl win, something no Illini QB has done previously.
WHAT CAN BROWN DO FOR YOU?
Butkus Award candidate Jonathan Brown leads the Big Ten with 81 tackles and ranks 17th in the nation at 10.1 tackles per game. He is trying to become the first Illini to lead the conference in tackles since Brit Miller in 2008.
Brown has a team-high 8.5 TFLs this season, ranking sixth in the Big Ten, and giving him 39.0 TFLs in his career. That total ranks fifth on the UI career TFLs list, just one TFL behind Don Thorp for fourth place and three behind Fred Wakefield for third.
Brown forced his first fumble of the season against Michigan State, saving a touchdown by jarring the ball loose as MSU QB Connor Cook reached for the end zone.
Brown had a monster game at Nebraska, racking up a game-high 13 tackles and tying his career high with 4.0 TFLs, tied for the third-most TFLs in a game by an FBS player this season.
Brown is a member of preseason watch lists for the Butkus Award, Bednarik Award and Nagurski Trophy. Last season, he was one of 12 semifinalists for the Butkus Award, which goes annually to the nation's top linebacker and is named after Illinois legend Dick Butkus. Take a look at how Brown stacks up against some of the Big Ten's top linebackers:
|Big Ten Linebacker Comparison (Through Week 10)
|Name, School||G||Tackles||TPG (NR)||TFL||TFL/G (NR)||Sacks||QBH||PD||FF|
|Brown, ILL||8||81||10.1 (17)|| 8.5||1.06 (72)|| 3.0||2||2||1
|Hitchens, Iowa||8|| 86||9.6 (24)|| 9.0||1.0 (88)|| 2.0||1|| 1||1|
|Morris, Iowa||9||76||8.4 (71)||9.5||1.06 (84)||5.0||0||4||1|
|Borland, WIS||7||57||8.1 (78)||3.0||0.43 (-)||2.0||1||2||0|
|Shazier, OSU||8||73||8.1 (85)||12.0||1.33 (21)||4.0||5||1||2|
|Allen, MSU||9||57||6.3 (-)||11.0||1.22 (37)||5.0||7||1||0
|Bullough, MSU||9||52||5.8 (-)||6.5||0.72 (-)||1.0||9||2||1
Over the last two years, Brown has put up monster numbers when healthy. He was leading the Illini with 59 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks in 2012 before having his season cut short by a shoulder injury. That followed a breakout 2011 season, when he earned All-Big Ten honors with 108 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. He ranked sixth in the nation in TFLs per game (1.63) and led the Big Ten in TFLs per game during conference play (2.07) in 2011.
LINEBACKER U: NOT WHERE YOU THINK IT IS
Like many Illini teams over the years, the 2013 Illini defense is led by its linebacking corps. This year, senior Jonathan Brown, a 2012 Butkus Award semifinalist, and sophomore Mason Monheim, a 2012 Freshman All-American key the attack. Brown has piled up 248 tackles, 37.5 TFLs and 11.5 sacks over the last two-plus seasons, while Monheim became the first true-freshman ever to lead the Illini in tackles and led all Big Ten freshmen with 86 stops last season. Not surprisingly, the duo is 1-2 on the team in tackles so far this season as Brown is averaging a Big Ten-best 10.1 stops per game, 17th-best in FBS, and Monheim ranks fifth in the Big Ten and 56th nationally with 8.6 tackles per game.
Illinois' history at the linebacker position is up there with any program in the nation. It begins with football legend Ray Nitschke, who donned the Orange and Blue from 1955-57, and the greatest linebacker in football history, Dick Butkus, who was a two-time All-American and led the Fighting Illini to a 1964 Rose Bowl win over Washington. The Orange and Blue boast two Butkus Award winners, Dana Howard in 1994 and Kevin Hardy in 1995, and several first-team All-Americans like Darrick Brownlow (1990), Simeon Rice (1994 & `95) and J Leman (2007), in addition to Butkus, Howard and Hardy. Illinois linebacker lore also includes multi-year NFL players Scott Studwell, Danny Clark, Martez Wilson and Nate Bussey.
FERGUSON A DUAL THREAT
Sophomore running back Josh Ferguson is having a breakout season for the Illini. He ranks second in the nation in average receiving yards by a running back (54.2 ypg) and also leads the Illini in rushing yards (395) and touchdowns (seven total: four receiving & three rushing).
Ferguson is averaging 103.6 scrimmage yards per game (54.2 rushing, 49.4 receiving), which ranks 58th nationally and seventh in the Big Ten (fiftth among running backs behind only Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah, Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon and James White, and Indiana's Tevin Coleman).
He is one of just six FBS players with both a 100-yard rushing game (114 at Nebraska) and a 100-yard receiving game (103 yards vs. Southern Illinois) this season.
Ferguson has three career 100-yard games, two rushing and one receiving. He ran for 114 yards on 19 carries (6.0 ypc) at Nebraska on Oct. 5 and also ran for 101 yards at Arizona State on Sept. 8, 2012. His 100-yard receiving game came in the 2013 season opener against Southern Illinois, when he had four catches for 103 yards.
In 2012, Ferguson led all Big Ten freshmen in all-purpose yards per game (90.7).
FORMER ILLINI IN SPACE
Former Illini defensive back and current NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins is in the middle of his first space flight. Hopkins and crewmates Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy launched from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, at 3:58 p.m. CT on Sept. 25, and arrived at the International Space Station six hours later. Hopkins will remain on board as a flight engineer on Expedition 37/Expedition 38, which is scheduled to end with the Soyuz landing in March 2014. During its time on the station, the crew will conduct science experiments and maintenance.
Each week, Hopkins sends the team a video from the International Space Station congratulating the previous week's special teams player of the game and giving the team a message for the upcoming game.
Hopkins played for coach John Mackovic at Illinois, helping the Fighting Illini reach four straight bowl games from 1988-91. He started his career as a walk-on and by the time he was a senior, he was a team captain. He graduated from Illinois in 1991 with a degree in aerospace engineering and earned a master's degree in aerospace engineering from Stanford in 1992. A colonel in the U.S. Air Force, Hopkins was selected in July 2009 as one of 14 members of the 20th NASA astronaut class. More on Hopkins and his mission can be found at www.nasa.gov/station and on Twitter @AstroIllini.
COREY LEWIS: THE COMEBACK KID
Senior OT Corey Lewis is one the feel-good stories in college football. After missing more than two-and-half years (34 games) recovering from three ACL tears and five different knee surgeries, Lewis saw his first game action in over 1,000 days at Ohio State on Nov. 3, 2012, and played in the season's final four games. With a bachelor's degree in communication already in hand and a sixth year of NCAA eligibility granted, Lewis made his first career start in the 2013 season-opener against Southern Illinois, more than five years after first setting foot on campus, and has started every game since, playing a huge role in Illinois' offensive resurgence.
LANKFORD'S ILLINI CAREER ENDS WITH SHOULDER INJURY
Senior wide receiver Ryan Lankford suffered a dislocated shoulder in the first half of the Oct. 26 Michigan State game and had season-ending surgery on Wednesday, Oct. 30, also ending his Illini career.
Prior to his injury, Lankford ranked 12th in the nation in yards per reception, averaging a healthy 20.5 yards per catch in 2013 (15 receptions, 308 yards, one TD). Lankford had a pair of 100-yard games this season (career-high 115 against SIU and an even 100 against Washington), giving him three career 100-yard receiving games.
Lankford finished his UI career with 70 receptions for 1,014 yards (14.5 ypc) and seven touchdowns. He also rushed 13 times for 48 yards and one TD.
Complete Illinois-Indiana Game Notes