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    #20 Illinois (8-3, 5-2) vs. Northwestern (6-5, 3-4)
    DaJuan Warren and 22 of his senior teammates will make their last appearance in Memorial Stadium when the Fighting Illini host Northwestern Saturday.

    DaJuan Warren and 22 of his senior teammates will make their last appearance in Memorial Stadium when the Fighting Illini host Northwestern Saturday.

    Nov. 13, 2007

    
    
    

    Ron Zook AND THE ILLINI PROGRAM TURNAROUND

    • Third-year head coach Ron Zook has begun an incredible turnaround for the Illini football team, which has the squad improving in the win column by six wins over last year's record. That turnaround is the best in college football this season. (1. Illinois - +6; 2. Kansas, Virginia, UConn, Air Force - +4)
    • With eight wins this season, Zook has matched the combined win total by Illinois teams for the past four seasons (2003, 1-11; 2004, 3-8; 2005, 2-9; 2006, 2-10).
    • Zook has the Illini bowl-eligible for the first time since the 2001 season.
    • Illinois' six-win improvement this year marks the third time in school history.
    • Illinois was named the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl Team of the Week for its 28-21 upset over No. 1 Ohio State in Columbus. In both 1922 and 1962, Illinois posted two wins only to improve to eight wins in 1923 and 1963.
    • Zook is in his sixth year as a head coach and has produced four bowl-eligible teams during that time.
    • Beginning with Illinois' win over Penn State on Sept. 29, the Illini have been either ranked or receiving votes in the both the Associated Press and USA Today/Coaches' Poll. This week, the Illini are ranked 20th by AP and 21st in the USA Today/Coaches' poll. Illinois' previous ranking of No. 18 after its win over Wisconsin marked the first time an Illinois team had been ranked since the preseason of the 2002 year.



    FOR OPENERS

    • With its 28-21 win over No. 1 Ohio State last weekend, the Illini posted their eighth win of the season. It is the most wins since the 2001 Big Ten Championship team won 10 games. It also is the 15th time in school history a team has had an eight-plus win season. Only seven squads in school history have won nine or more games.
    • Illinois recorded its first win over a No. 1-ranked opponent since 1956 with its 28-21 victory over Ohio State. With that, Illinois has now beaten three ranked opponents this year, for the first time since 2001. Wins over No. 1 OSU and No. 5 Wisconsin this season marks the first time since 1963 that an Illinois team has defeated two top-5 teams in a year (No. 4 Northwestern and No. 4 Michigan State).
    • Rashard Mendenhall broke the Illinois single-season rushing record with his 88-yard performance at Ohio State. He now has 1,402 yards this season, which surpassed Antoineo Harris' 1,330 rushing yards in 2002.
    • The Illinois offensive line is allowing only one sack per game, which is tops in the Big Ten and fifth in the NCAA. The line has started the same five in each of the first 11 games. The line is on pace to set the school record for fewest sacks allowed in a season.
    • The Illini offense broke the school record for most rushing yards in a season in the 10th game of the season. With 448 yards at Minnesota, Illinois moved up to 2,613 yards for the year, which beat out the 2,590 yards compiled by the 1972 team. The 448-yard performance was the fifth best in school history. With 260 yards at Ohio State, that total improved to 2,873.
    • Illinois leads the Big Ten in rushing and ranks sixth in the NCAA. The Illini are averaging 261.2 yards per game and 5.8 yards per carry this season. Only Arkansas (6.2) and West Virginia (6.0) have rushed for more yards per carry than the Illini this season.
    • With 114 tackles in 11 games, senior linebacker J Leman is ranked 21st in the nation in tackles per game. Ranked third in the Big Ten, Leman is averaging 10.4 stops per game. This is only the second week in the last 18 that he has not been the conference leader in tackles.
    • This season, the Illinois schedule is the ninth-toughest in Division I-A, according to the NCAA. Illinois played seven teams that were in bowl games a year ago and five teams that are ranked in the top 25: Missouri is the highest ranked at No. 6, Ohio State is ranked No. 7, Wisconsin is No. 23/24, Michigan is No. 24/23 and Penn State is 22nd in the USA?Today/Coaches poll. Only Ohio State and Missouri are ranked higher than the Fighting Illini (20/21).
    • Illinois has taken a lead into the locker room at halftime in eight of its 11 games this season. In each of those eight games, the Illini have finished the game victorious.


    SENIOR DAY

    This weekend's regular-season finale is also Senior Day for 23 Illini players. It is the final game at Memorial Stadium for the following players: Ben Amundsen (OL, Moline, Ill.), Justin Harrison (S, Bloomington, Ill.), Maurice Haney (RB, Harvey, Ill.), Justin Ijei (RB, Chesterfield, Mo.), Kyle Knezetic (LS, Minooka, Ill.), J Leman (LB, Champaign, Ill.), Frank Lenti (WR, Chicago, Ill.), Drew McMahon (DB, Champaign, Ill.), Kevin Mitchell (S, Ft. Wayne, Ind.), Akim Millington (OL, Wheaton, Ill.), Charles Myles (OL, Chicago, Ill.), Chris Norwell (DT, Cincinnati, Ohio), Martin O'Donnell (OL, Downers Grove, Ill.), Jason Reda (PK, Rock Island, Ill.), Tyler Rouse (DB, Champaign, Ill.), Justin Sanders (S, Pearl, Miss.), Antonio Steele (LB, Cleveland, Ohio), Anthony Thornhill (LB, Detroit, Mich.), Mike Ware (DT, Wheaton, Ill.), DaJuan Warren (WR, Southfield, Mich.), Russ Weil (FB, Minooka, Ill.), Mark Venegoni (QB, Gurnee, Ill.) and Jacob Willis (WR, Champaign, Ill.).


    ILLINI IN HUNT FOR NATIONAL AWARDS

    • Four Illini football players have been named to national award semifinal lists: linebacker J Leman (Chuck Bednarik, was also a semifinalist for Butkus and Lombardi, but not a finalist), running back Rashard Mendenhall (Doak Walker and Maxwell Award), cornerback Vontae Davis (Thorpe Award) and placekicker Jason Reda (Lou Groza Award).
    • True-sophomore cornerback Vontae Davis has been named to the Jim Thorpe Award semifinal list. He is the only sophomore on the list, as well as one of only two Big Ten players (Malcolm Jenkins, OSU). He has four interceptions, eight passes broken up and two blocked punts this year.
    • Junior center Ryan McDonald is a candidate for the Rimington Award, given to the nation's best center. McDonald anchors an offensive line which has led the Big Ten in rushing the past two seasons. Illinois' average of 261 yards rushing per game ranks sixth in the nation. The line has only allowed 11 sacks this seasonm, which is the fifth-best in the NCAA. McDonald has graded out at over 96 percent in every game this season, has not allowed a sack or committed a penalty, and has recorded 98 knockdowns. He has done all this after playing more snaps than any other offensive player on the Illini squad.
    • Three Illini earned midseason All-America honors from CBSSportsline.com, SportsIllustrated.com, Rivals.com and Phil Steele's Football Magazine. Senior linebacker J Leman was named one of three first-teamers for three of the lists. Junior running back Rashard Mendenhall was a first-team selection by CBS and Steele, and second-team by SI.com. Senior offensive guard Martin O'Donnell took second-team honors on Steele's list.
    • The Illini have had five players named Big Ten Players of the Week this season. This week, quarterback Juice Williams earned the offensive honor after leading the Illini to a 28-21 win over No. 1 Ohio State. He rushed for 70 yards, threw four touchdown passes and moved the ball effectively on the top-ranked defense in the country. Running back Rashard Mendenhall and defensive end Will Davis earned honors after their performances against Indiana, receiver Arrelious Benn was the special teams honoree for his kickoff return for a touchdown vs. Penn State, placekicker Jason Reda earned the special teams award against Minnesota.


    ILLINI AT MEMORIAL STADIUM

    • Illinois sold out four of its first five home games this season. It is the first time for four sellouts in a season since 1986, when Illinois sold out all six of its home contests. Only 3,000 tickets remain for the season finale against Northwestern.
    • The Illini are 4-1 at Memorial Stadium this season, which is the best home record since the 2001 team went 6-0.


    ROAD WINS OVER NO. 1

    Illinois' win at OSU marks just the 10th time a team has won a road game at the AP #1 team in past 20 seasons.

      ROAD VICTORIES OVER AP NO. 1 TEAM IN PAST 20 YEARS (1988-2007)
      Oct. 29, 1988 Washington State 34, @#1 UCLA 30 (Dennis Erickson)
      Oct. 6, 1990 Stanford 36, @#1 Notre Dame 31 (Dennis Green)
      Oct. 13, 1990 Michigan State 28, @#1 Michigan 27 (George J. Perles)
      Nov. 3, 1990 #16 Georgia Tech 41, @#1 Virginia 38 (Bobby Ross)
      Nov. 17, 1990 Penn State 24, @#1 Notre Dame 31 (Joe Paterno)
      Nov. 16, 1991 #2 Miami 17, @#1 Florida State 16 (Dennis Erickson)
      Nov. 20, 1993 #17 Boston College 41, @#1 Notre Dame 39 (Tom Coughlin)
      Oct. 15, 1994 #6 Auburn 36, @#1 Florida 33 (Terry Bowden)
      Nov. 7, 1998 Michigan State 28, @#1 Ohio State 24 (Nick Saban)
      Nov. 10, 2007 Illinois 28, @#1 Ohio State 21 (Ron Zook)


    THE LAST TIME OUT

    • Illinois broke two Ohio State winning streaks, marking the first time in 29 regular-season games and 21 Big Ten games that the Buckeyes had lost.
    • Coming into the game, OSU had allowed just five touchdown passes all season. Illinois connected on four touchdown passes, its most through the air since Jon Beutjer passed for four TDs against Illinois State on Sept. 6, 2003.
    • Ohio State entered the game with the No. 3 rushing defense in the country, allowing just 65 yards per game. The Illini offense rushed for 260 yards, the most the Buckeyes have allowed all season. It was the first time an OSU defense had allowed over 200 yards rushing since the 2001 season.
    • The Illini defense limited a team that averaged 34 points a game to a mere 21.


    NORTHWESTERN SERIES NOTES

    • Illinois leads the series, 51-44-5 overall, and in Champaign, 24-19-2. The Wildcats have won the last four meetings.
    • This will be Ron Zook's third head-to-head contest against Northwestern. He is 0-2 vs. the Wildcats.
    • Northwestern defensive coordinator Greg Colby was a linebacker at Illinois from 1972-74, graduating in 1975. He began his coaching career at Illinois as a graduate assistant in 1977-78 and then returned for another stint with the Illini as the outside linebackers/special teams coordinator from 1988-95.


    ILLINI HIGHLIGHTS VS. NORTHWESTERN

    • The Illini offense rushed for 214 yards against Northwestern last season and 113 of those yards came from Rashard Mendenhall. Mendenhall had a breakaway 86-yard run for a touchdown and averaged 22.6 yards per carry.
    • Last year, linebacker J Leman recorded 22 tackles vs. the Wildcats. That number marked the most in the nation by any defender in 2006. He also had 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack.
    • Safety Kevin Mitchell (14) and linebacker Brit Miller (12) posted career highs in tackles vs. Northwestern in 2005.


    RECORDS TO WATCH

    • The Illinois defense has recorded 36 sacks this season, which ranks 10th in the nation. Five more quarterback sacks in the final two games would break the school record of 40, which was posted by the 2001 squad.
    • Mendenhall has 1,632 all-purpose yards this season, which ranks third on the Illinois list. With 34 more yards he will surpass Pierre Thomas' 2004 season for second on the list and 187 more yards will give him the school record, passing running back Keith Jones' 1,818 yards in 1988.
    • Mendenhall has recorded six 100-yard rushing game this season, tying the school record held by Jim Grabowski (1965) and J.C. Caroline (1953). One more 100-yard rushing game and he will be the sole owner of the mark.
    • Mendenhall needs 226 rushing yards to move into seventh on the school's all-time rushing list. In three seasons, he has accumulated 2,260 yards on the ground on just 344 carries, for a 6.6 career yard per carry average. The highest yard per carry average among Illinois' all-time rushers belongs to Pierre Thomas, who posted 5.6 ypc from 2003-06.
    • Senior kicker Jason Reda currently stands third on the Illinois career scoring list, needing nine points to pass Chris Richardson for second. Reda needs 12 more points this season to become the career scoring leader.
    • Reda also is third on the career field goals list. He would need six more field goals to become the career field goal record holder.
    • Senior linebacker J Leman currently ranks sixth on the career tackles list with 389 and that is likely where he will finish his career. He trails fifth-place John Holoceck by 47 tackles with just two games to play. He ranks sixth on the career tackles for loss list with 37, one more and he jumps into the fifth spot.
    • Junior defensive end Will Davis is 10th on the single-season sacks list with 8.5. He is just three sacks away from Simeon Rice's third-place spot, which he grabbed with 11.5 sacks in 1995.
    • Senior safety Kevin Mitchell is just outside the top 10 in single-season passes broken up with his 10 PBUs. He needs one more to move into 10th place and two PBUs would move him into fifth.
    • Sophomore quarterback Juice Williams ranks ninth on the career total offense chart with 3,981, 124 yards behind Robert Holcombe's 4,105. He also has thrown for 2,736 career yards, which ranks 10th and 21 touchdown passes rank eighth.
    • Kyle Hudson needs one receiving yard to reach 1,000 in his career.


    FLEXIBILITY KEY TO SUCCESS

    Illinois has been a bend-but-don't-break defense throughout the season and especially in conference play. The Illini lead the Big Ten in red zone defense in conference games and have forced six turnovers inside the 20, tops in the league. In all games, Illinois ranks third in red zone defense.


    CONTROLLING THE TRENCHES

    Illinois' offensive line has become one of the best in the country, as they have paved the way for great success in both the running and passing games. The Illini lead the Big Ten and rank sixth in the nation in rushing offense with 261.18 yards per game, while leading the Big Ten and ranking fifth in the country in sacks allowed with just 11 all season. Illinois' school record for the fewest sacks allowed in a season is 15, in 1984.


    COMING THROUGH IN THE CLUTCH

    After converting just 3-of-9 third-down conversions in the first three quarters at No. 1 Ohio State, Illinois made good on 5-of-7 third downs in the fourth quarter before kneeling the ball on third down to end the game. On their final drive that ran 8:09 off the clock to end the game, the Illini converted 4th-and-1, 3rd-and-7, 3rd-and-10 and 3rd-and-2, with quarterback Juice Williams gaining 29 yards on four rushes on those plays.


    FINAL DRIVE AT OSU ONE FOR THE AGES

    Leading 28-21 with 8:09 remaining in the game after true-freshman cornerback Marcus Thomas intercepted a Todd Boeckman pass, Juice Williams engineered a clock-killing drive for the ages. Williams led the Illini 42 yards in 16 plays, milking the entire 8:09 off the clock, by rushing 15 times and passing just once. Williams made all four first downs on the drive with his legs, converting three third downs and one fourth down.


    THE GOLDEN LEG OF JASON REDA

    • Illinois placekicker Jason Reda is posting his best numbers of his career this season, hitting 13-of-14 field goal attempts for a 92-percent accuracy rate. That rate ranks No. 1 on the Illinois single-season list. It also is the second-best in the Big Ten and ties for fourth-best in the nation. His 2006 numbers (15-19) for 79 percent rank sixth on the school top-10 list.
    • Reda was named to the 20-man Lou Groza Award semifinal list.
    • Reda also has made three 50-yard field goals this year (50, 50, 51), one of only three kickers in the country to accomplish that feat. (Swayze Water, UAB; Ryan Harrison, Air Force). In addition to those three over 50 yards, Reda has connected on four additional 45-plus field goals. The only other Illinois kicker to make three 50-yarders was Mike Bass in 1982 when he connected on 53, 52, 50 yarders.
    • Reda earned Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week honors for his 14-point performance against Minnesota. He made a season-high three field goals and was a perfect 5-for-5 on extra points.


    MENDENHALL IN HUNT FOR DOAK WALKER AND MUCH MORE...

    With this season being his first as the primary back, Mendenhall may not be the household name of the some of the frontrunners for major running back and offensive awards. However, looking at the impact he has had on Illinois' success this year and his numbers in comparison to the best backs in the country, Mendenhall should be in the heart of this race.

    NAME RECORD YPG NCAA RK YPC NCAA RK* TD ALL-PURPOSE NCAA RK
    Mendenhall, ILL 8-3 127.5 8th 6.4 3rd 16 148.4 27th
    McFadden, ARK 6-4 143.1 4th 5.9 10th 12 175.5 13th
    Hart, Mich. 8-3 148.5 ** 5.5 ** 12 153.9 **
    Hill, WIS 7-3 108.0 27th 5.0 39th 15 116.9 74th
    Rice, RUT 6-4 150.0 3rd 5.2 30th 17 172.4 14th
    Slaton, WVU 9-1 98.3 34th 5.3 29th 15 134.7 34th
    * min. 160 carries
    ** hasn't played in enough games to quality for national rankings


    FANTASTIC FRESHMAN

    • True-freshman wide receiver Arrelious Benn is making waves on an Illini football team, which is bowl eligible for the first time in six years. Benn already has caught 47 passes this season, the most for an Illini receiver since Kendrick Jones' 47 receptions in 2004. He has recorded 580 yards this season, 12.3 yards per catch and a long reception of 56 yards.
    • With his 97 yards vs. Ball State, Benn set a new Illinois freshman receiving record. That performance brought his season total to 556, besting Brandon Lloyd's 511 yards in 1999. With 47 catches, he broke Ty Douthard's freshman catch record of 43 during his freshman year in 1993.
    • Despite his 4.3 reception per game average, Benn is integral to the Illini offense in may other ways. Including catches, rushes and kickoff returns, Benn touches the ball an average of 7.6 times per game. With 135 rushing yards this season, he gives the lllini a 4.7 per carry boost in the running game. He also averages 29.4 yards per his eight kickoff returns this season. He scored on a 90-yard return against Penn State.
    • At midseason of 2007, Benn was named to the All-Freshman team by Rivals.com.


    GIANT KILLERS

    The goal of the Illini defense is to hold all opposing running backs and skill players to under 100 yards rushing. So far through nine games, only one player has topped the 100-yard rushing mark vs. Illinois (Carlos Brown of Michigan with 113 yards). Here are some of the highlights:

  • Kellen Lewis, Indiana: Lewis entered the Big Ten opener vs. Illinois averaging 105 rushing yards per game and was a big reason that the Hoosiers' running game was ranked seventh in the nation. When he met the Illini defense, he was held to just 35 yards on the ground and the team to only 134.
  • P.J. Hill, Wisconsin: Hill entered the game with five consecutive 100-yard rushing games and averaged 133 yards per game. Against the Illini, Hill was held to 83.
  • Chris Wells, Ohio State: Wells entered the game averaging 116.5, but was held to only 76 on 20 carries for a 3.8 ypc average.


    ILLINI LINEBACKER J LEMAN

    • J Leman has been named to three semifinal lists for national awards. The latest was the Chuck Bednarik Award for the most outstanding defensive player. He is one of 15 players on the narrowed down list. He was a semifinalist for the Butkus Award and the Rotary Lombardi Award, but did not land on the finalist list.
    • Despite being snubbed by the Butkus Award committee prior to the Ohio State game, senior linebacker J Leman once again put forth a dominating performance against the Buckeyes with 12 tackles, eight solos, and 2.5 tackles for loss. Last year against OSU, Leman 19 tackles, 3.5 for loss and one sack.
    • Midseason award were released by many media sources including CBSSportsline.com, Sports Illustrated, Rivals.com and Phil Steele. Leman earned first-team honors by three and second-team by the fourth.
    • Leman has picked up right where he left off last season, posting eight double-digit performances in 11 games. Currently, he is third in the Big Ten in tackles per contest with 10.4 after leading the conference.
    • Illinois' 1994 Butkus Award winner Dana Howard says, "Leman should be Illinois' next Butkus Award winner."
    • Last season, Leman jumped onto the national scene with dominant games against Michigan State, Wisconsin and then-No. 1 Ohio State. He earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors after totaling 19 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss against the top-ranked Buckeyes. He followed up that performance with 22 tackles and 2.5 TFL in the season finale at Northwestern.
    • Leman led the Big Ten with 12.7 tackles per game and earned first-team All-Big Ten honors. He was also named to the Sports Illustrated All-American team as an honorable mention and is one of only eight returning linebackers in the nation to earn all-star honors.


    CARRYING THE LOAD

    • This season, the rushing offense has mainly been in the hands of one running back, junior Rashard Mendenhall. After working behind two other running backs for the first two years of his career, Mendenhall has found himself in the spotlight. This season marks the first time since 2002 that the Illini have used primarily one back. In that year, Antoineo Harris set the school single-season rushing record with 1,330 yards. Mendenhall broke Harris' record against Ohio State with his 88-yard effort. Through 11 games, Mendenhall has rushed for 1,402 yards, averaging 127.5 ypg. He also is averaging 6.4 yards per carry and ranks eighth in the nation in rushing. Mendenhall has racked up six 100-yard rushing games this season, including two 200-yard performances.
    • Mendenhall put together back-to-back 175-yard performances with 189 yards vs. Ball State and 201 against Minnesota. It was the first time for an Illini running back since 2002 when Antoineo Harris had 195 vs. Purdue and 176 vs. Indiana.


    BIG TEN 1,000-YARD RUSHERS

    Through 11 games in the 2007 season, the Big Ten boasts 15 career 1,000 yard rushers. Illinois running back Rashard Mendenhall ranks eighth among active running backs in the Big Ten. Illini quarterback Juice Williams became the 14th 1,000-yard rusher and first quarterback in the conference when he rushed for 99 yards vs. Ball State. He was joined this week by Indiana's Kellen Lewis as the only signal-callers on the list.

      1. Mike Hart, Sr., Michigan - 4,861 yards
      2. Albert Young, Sr., Iowa - 3,078 yards
      3. Tyrell Sutton, Jr., Northwestern - 2,925 yards
      4. P.J. Hill, So., Wisconsin - 2,649 yards
      5. Javon Ringer, Jr., Michigan State - 2,614 yards
      6. Amir Pinnix, Sr., Minnesota - 2,438 yards
      7. Jehuu Caulcrick, Sr., Michigan State - 2,318 yards
      8. Rashard Mendenhall, Jr., Illinois - 2,260 yards
      9. Kory Sheets, Sr., Purdue - 2,100 yards
      10. Chris Wells, So., Ohio State - 1,818 yards
      11. Damian Sims, Sr., Iowa - 1,541 yards
      12. Rodney Kinlaw, Sr., Penn State - 1,387 yards
      13. Austin Scott, Sr., Penn State - 1,323 yards
      14. Juice Williams, So., Illinois 1,217 yards
      15. Kellen Lewis, So., Indiana 1,064 yards
      -- Marcus Thigpen, Jr., Indiana 984 yards


    FROM THE DIAMOND TO THE GRIDIRON

    Illinois' true-freshman safety Bo Flowers turned 24 the day after Illinois' upset of Ohio State. He is the oldest player on the Illini roster. Flowers is beginning his college career this season after four years in professional baseball. He was a fifth-round draft pick in 2003 by the Detroit Tigers. After spending three seasons in the Detroit organization, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs where he played the 2006 season. Currently, Flowers is a walk-on on the Illini team because the Tigers are footing the college bill. He is one of eight active Division I-A football players who have seen action in minor league baseball: Gary Banks (Troy...Cubs); Mike Conroy (UConn...Indians); Dennis Dixon (Oregon ... Braves); Bo Flowers (Illinois...Tigers/Cubs); Marquise Liverpool (Temple...Mariners); Michael Machen (Baylor...Braves/Orioles); Mike Nixon (Arizona State...Dodgers); Jose Perez (SDSU...Yankees)


    KEEPING UP WITH THE DAVISES

    Illinois defenders Vontae and Will Davis (no relation) are two of the bright spots on this Illini defense which ranks 24th in rushing and 42nd in total defense nationally. Vontae, a two-year starting cornerback, has made an impact on the Illini program in a short time. Last season, he earned unanimous first-team Freshman All-America honors and is one of the best corners in the Big Ten this season. He has four interceptions and has eight passes broken up, which rank fifth and seventh, respectively. He also has blocked two punts this year. Will, a junior defensive end, has 8.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss on the year. He was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after his performance vs. Indiana, which accounted for four sacks and five TFL. He currently ranks seventh in the Big Ten in quarterback sacks.


    PULLING DOUBLE DUTY

    Junior receiver Kyle Hudson is in his third year of pulling double-duty as a starting wide receiver on the football team and starting centerfielder on the Illini baseball team. Hudson led the Illini in receptions last year with 30 and in receiving yards each of his first two seasons. In three


    OFFENSIVE NOTES

    • The Illini have recorded seven games of over 400 yards total offense. They began the season with 435 yards against Missouri, posted 400 vs. Western Illinois, topped the 500-yard mark with 508 at Syracuse, recorded 410 yards in its upset of No. 5 Wisconsin, had 469 vs. Ball State, recorded 400 at Ohio State and a Zook-era best 655 at Minnesota. The 655 yards at Minnesota were the fourth-best in school history and the most since 1983.
    • The Illini have posted eight 200-yard rushing games this season with 277 yards against WIU, 378 at Syracuse, 288 at Indiana, 216 vs. Penn State, 289 vs. Wisconsin, 324 vs. Ball State, 448 at Minnesota and 260 at Ohio State. The 448 rushing yards vs. Minnesota were the best for an Illini squad since 467 yards were put up against Iowa in 1973. For the year, Illinois is averaging 261.2 yards per game and 5.8 yards per carry. So far, the team's per-game rushing average is 71 yards better than a year ago when it won the Big Ten rushing title.
    • Illinois' 44 points scored at Minnesota are the most in the Ron Zook era, passing the 42 points scored against Eastern Illinois on Sept. 2, 2006.
    • Daniel Dufrene's 80-yard run in the first quarter against Ohio State was Illinois' longest play from scrimmage since Mendenhall's 86-yard scamper at Northwestern on Nov. 18, 2006. It also was the longest run given up by Ohio State this season, the previous longest being 28 yards. In addition, Dufrene recorded his first career 100-yard game, rushing eight times for 106 yards, an average of 13.2 ypc.
    • Juice Williams has surpassed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for his career. He is the only 1,000-yard rushing quarterback in school history. He holds the top two spots in the single-season school record rushing yards by a quarterback with 638 this season and 568 last year. Against Ohio State he broke his own record of 568 from 2006.
    • With Rashard Mendenhall (201) and Juice Williams (133) surpassing the 100-yard rushing mark against Minnesota, it marks the first time that the Illini have had two 100-yard rushers since Nov. 11, 2006, when Pierre Thomas and Williams did it against Purdue.
    • Last season, the Illini proved to have big-play ability with 49 plays over 20 yards. Through 11 games, the offense has topped that number with 57 (5.2 per game).
    • The Illini offense has faced three top-15 rushing defenses in third-ranked Ohio State (65.0 ypg), 12th-ranked Indiana (allowing 71.3 ypg) and fifth-ranked Penn State (allowing 54.8 ypg). In each of those three games, the Illini rushed for over 200 yards - 260 at Ohio State, 288 at Indiana and 216 vs. the Nittany Lions.
    • The Illini offense put together an 8:41 drive to end the game against Ball State. It was the longest offensive drive of the season and of the Zook era. They ended the Ohio State game with another impressive eight-minute drive to ensure the victory (8:09 on 16 plays).
    • Running back Rashard Mendenhall earned Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week for his performance vs. Indiana on 9/22. He rushed for a career-high 214 yards on a career-most 27 carries (7.9 ypc).
    • Against Missouri, the Illini passed for 316 yards, combining the quarterback numbers of Juice Williams (59) and Eddie McGee (257). It was the first 300-yard passing performance for an Illini team since the squad put up 430 yards on California on Sept. 20, 2003.


    DEFENSIVE NOTES

    • The Illini defense has held four offenses under the 100-yard rushing mark this season (Missouri-70; Western Illinois-81; Syracuse-63 and Minnesota-95).
    • After forcing only 20 turnovers last year as a defense, this year's campaign has already topped that number. Through 11 games, the Illini have forced 22 turnovers -- eight fumbles and 14 interceptions. The squad also put together back-to-back four-turnover games against Indiana and Penn State. The 14 interceptions are the most in a season by the Illini since the 1999 team recorded 15.
    • With his start vs. Penn State, senior defensive tackle Chris Norwell became the Illinois record holder for most games started by a defensive lineman. He now has 44 for his career, topping All-American Moe Gardner's 37 starts from 1987-1990.
    • Defensive end Will Davis was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for his game against Indiana on 9/22. He recorded four sacks and five tackles for loss (both rank second in Illinois' single-game record books).
    • With its 21-0 win over Western Illinois, the Illini recorded its first shutout since blanking Iowa on Oct. 14, 2000. It was also the fewest total yards allowed during the Zook era at (152), fewest passing yards (71) and fewest first downs (4). 4
    • Beginning at the 8:32 mark of the fourth quarter vs. Missouri, the Illini defense held its opponents scoreless for 99:21. It ended in the third quarter at Syracuse when the Orange kicked a field goal at 14:11.
    • The vaunted offense of the ninth-ranked Missouri Tigers has only been held to 13 three-and-outs all season. The Illinois defense was responsible for five of those 13.
    • Seven Illini on defense have recorded 20 or more starts in their career: DT Chris Norwell (44), LB J Leman (39), SS Justin Harrison (34), DE Derek Walker (31), FS Kevin Mitchell (31), Brit Miller (24) and Antonio Steele (23).


    SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES

    • Senior placekicker Jason Reda has made 13-of-14 field goal attempts of the year. After not attempting a kick in the first two games of the season, he has made 13 field goals in the last nine contests. He has connected on three 50-plus yard field goals this season, the second and third-longest of his career (51 at Minnesota, 50 vs. Wisconsin and Syracuse). He also has made seven 45-plus yard field goals (47 vs. Penn State and Minnesota, 46 at Iowa and 45 vs. Indiana).
    • Senior placekicker Jason Reda earned Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week honors on Nov. 4 for his 14-point performance against Minnesota. He made a season-high three field goals and was a perfect 5-for-5 on extra points. He hit his third 50-yard field goal of the season against the Gophers.
    • Arrelious Benn returned Illinois' first kickoff of the game vs. Penn State 90 yards for a touchdown. He was the first Illini to score on a kickoff return since Pierre Thomas did it in 2004 against Western Michigan. Even more impressive, he scored on his first-ever kickoff return attempt. It also was the first kickoff return for a touchdown against a Penn State team since 1994. He gave Illinois a 7-3 lead over Penn State, which it never relinquished.
    • For his performance against Penn State, Benn was named the Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week. It marks the first time a true-freshman earned a Big Ten weekly honor since Northwestern's Tyrell Sutton on Sept. 12, 2005.
    • After an offseason position battle, redshirt-freshman Anthony Santella earned the starting punter job. Santella has punted 65 times for a 36.5 average. But of those 65 punts, only 15 have been returned (23 percent) for a total of 76 yards (5.1 yard per return). He has placed 16 punts inside the 20 yard line (25 percent) and 12 have been fair caught.
    • Sophomore cornerback Vontae Davis has blocked two punts this year. He got his second of the season against Indiana. When he got a hand on a Missouri punt in the season opener, it was Illinois' first blocked punt since the 2004 season. He recovered the block at the 2 yardline and took it in for the score.
    • Oddly enough, Illinois this year boasts a trio of four-year starters on the field goal and extra point units. Long snapper Kyle Knezetic, holder Frank Lenti Jr. and Reda have worked together extensively throughout their careers as Illini, giving the coaching staff a great deal of confidence in that special teams unit.


    FIRST-TIMERS


    DAVIS' FAMILY INSTRUMENTAL IN LIBERIAN GOVERNMENT

    Illinois defensive end Will Davis' family are natives of the Republic of Liberia. He has spent his entire life in the United States, and was able to visit Liberia as a young child before Civil War broke out. Now that the war has ended his mother, Pearine Davis-Parkinson, recently returned home to become the Deputy Minister in the Ministry of State office. The Ministry of State supports the work of the President of the Republic of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The major departments of the Ministry of State are the Office of the President, Administration, and Public Affairs and Communications Technology. Davis' mother played basketball for the Liberian national team and at the University of Liberia. His uncle, John Davis, played soccer for Liberia. She should be in town in the month of October to attend Illinois football games.


    WHAT'S IN A NAME?

    It is hard not to pay attention to the 12-letter long last name of sophomore tight end Michael Hoomanawanui. The difficulty in its pronunciation has caused coaches and teammates to nickname Michael "Huh-oh" representing the first two syllables of his name. The name is one of Hawaiian descent, which he gets from his father, Isy's, side of the family, who hails from Oahu. The name is not the most common in its nativeland, but retains the special meaning "patience."


    CLASSROOM STANDOUTS

    • Six Illini already have earned their college degrees -- FB Justin Ijei, WR Frank Lenti, Jr., DB Tyler Rouse, LB J Leman, DT Chris Norwell and OL Martin O'Donnell.
    • Illinois junior linebacker J Leman not only is a standout on the field, but his accomplishments in the classroom include a bachelor's degree in just three years. He maintained a 3.7 GPA in communications, graduating in August of 2006. He is currently pursuing a master's degree which he will complete this December.
    • The Illini's starting center Ryan McDonald is pursuing his undergraduate degree in one of the most difficult academic fields at the University of Illinois. Illinois is known for its engineering cirriculum, ranking in the Top 10 in all nine disciplines, including the top-rated civil engineering program. McDonald has recorded a 3.87 in aeronautical engineering, a program which ranks eighth nationally. He had an internship this summer on campus working with NASA.


    ILLINI GRIDDERS MAKE IMPACT IN THE COMMUNITY

    For the second straight summer the team hosted an event to raise money for the Cunningham Children's Home, located locally in Urbana. The event was a 12-hour supply drive to raise goods and money for the home from their Wish List. The team congregated on the East side of Memorial Stadium and along with the help of local radio stations, solicited the help of community members to give supplies and money to the Home. The team's two-year total of goods and money raised is $20,000. Among the money in 2007 was a $250 donation from tight end Jeff Cumberland. Cumberland won the Slam Dunk contest at the 2007 Gus Macker basketball tournament and gave his winnings to the team's charity.


    EXCITEMENT ABOUNDS FOR 2007 ILLINI FOOTBALL SEASON

    • Great excitement has surrounded the 2007 Illinois football season. More than 14,000 Illini fans became new season ticket holders and the school sold out its South Endzone "Horseshoe" section prior to the start of the season. Students also jumped on board, with season ticket sales increasing by 2,500.
    • Illinois sold out four of its first five home games this season. It is the first time for four sellouts in a season since 1986, when Illinois sold out all six of its home contests.
    • Phase I of the Memorial Stadium project was completed in time for Illinois' home opener against Western Illinois. The students and Marching Illini are now located in the brand-new North Endzone seating. This was the first part of a $116 million renovation taking place at the historic stadium right now.

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