Nov. 12, 2012
The Fighting Illini (2-8, 0-6) will play their final home game of the 2012 season and will battle for the Cannon rivalry trophy when the Purdue Boilermakers (4-6, 1-5) come to Memorial Stadium on Saturday (2:30 p.m. CT, BTN).
Saturday's game will mark the final home game for 20 Illini seniors. Zach Becker, Michael Buchanan, Tommy Davis, Glenn Foster, Justin Green, James Hallendorff, Terry Hawthorne, Sean McGushin, Kaeman Mitchell, Patrick Nixon-Youman, Zak Pedersen, Graham Pocic, Jack Ramsey, Tyler Sands, Supo Sanni, Justin Staples, Beau Sullivan, Hugh Thornton, Eddie Viliunas and Ashante Williams will all be recognized prior to the game.
True-freshman LB Mason Monheim was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week for the second time this season after his 15-tackle, 1.5-TFL, half-sack performance against Minnesota on Saturday. He also was honored after posting 11 tackles and forcing a fumble against Penn State on Sept. 29. Monheim leads all Big Ten freshmen and the Illini in tackles with 74 on the season. During conference games, the true-freshman is averaging 9.5 stops per game, which ranks sixth in the Big Ten.
Senior OT Corey Lewis is one of the feel-good stories of 2012 for the Illini. Lewis saw his first game action since 2009, playing 25 snaps at Ohio State on Nov. 3, after missing previous two-and-half years (34 games) recovering from five different knee surgeries. Lewis was a significant contributor in 2008 and '09 and was expected to start in 2010 before multiple knee injures kept him off the field for over 1,000 days.
With 175 passing yards against Minnesota, junior QB Nathan Scheelhaase surpassed the 5,000 career passing yard milestone. His 5,045 yards rank ninth on the UI career passing list. He also went over 1,700 career rushing yards and moved past College Football Hall of Famer J.C. Caroline for 19th place on the Illinois career rushing list with 1,713 yards.
Senior STAR Ashante Williams has scored two defensive touchdowns this season: a 77-yard fumble recovery at Ohio State on Nov. 3 and a 60-yard interception return for TD in the season-opening win against Western Michigan. The last Illini to have two defensive scores in a season was CB Christian Morton, who had two pick-sixes in 2001.
Senior DE Michael Buchanan has six passes defended on the season (5 PBUs and 1 INT), which is tied for the fourth-most in the nation for a defensive lineman. The Bednarik, Hendricks and Nagurski Award candidate also has 43 tackles, 5.0 TFLs, 2.5 sacks, four QB hurries and one forced fumble on the season.
Illinois is holding opponents to a third-down conversion rate of just 31.2 percent (38-of-122), which leads the Big Ten and ranks 16th in the nation. On Oct. 27, the Illini held Indiana to just one conversion on 13 third-down plays, and earlier in the season, the Illini held Charleston Southern without a first down on 13 third-down attempts.
Illinois ranks 19th nationally in defensive three-and-outs with 4.30 per game. The Illini have forced a three-and-out on 43 drives over the first 10 games of 2012. Additionally, the Illini have forced a three-and-out on the opponent's first drive in seven of 10 games this season.
Illinois has faced the 22nd-toughest schedule so far this season, as Illini oppponents have a 45-32 record against FBS competition (not including their game against Illinois).
Illinois leads the Big Ten and ranks 32nd nationally in net punting, averaging 38.7 yards per kick.
BATTLE FOR THE CANNON
This week Illinois and Purdue will play for the coveted "Cannon." Purdue leads the traditional trophy series by a 31-26-2 mark.
The "Cannon," more accurately known as the Purdue Cannon, made its first trip to Champaign-Urbana in 1905 when a group of Purdue students brought it to fire after a Boilermaker victory. Purdue won the game, 29-0, but the Cannon was never fired. Illinois student Quincy Hall found the Cannon hidden near the old Illinois Field. Hall and a group of Delta Upsilon brothers confiscated the Cannon and held it until 1943, when they donated it as a symbol of the UI-Purdue rivalry. Tomahawk Service and Leadership honorary at Purdue and Illini Pride of Illinois maintain the trophy when the respective school has won it. The Cannon was last fired Nov. 4, 2001, at the Illinois football complex following the victory, but is no longer functional.
PURDUE SERIES NOTES
The Last Meeting
October 22, 2011
West Lafayette, Ind.
Saturday's game marks the 88th meeting between the Illini and Boilers, dating back to 1890. The series with Purdue is the oldest in Illinois' 122-year history. Purdue was one of two teams that Illinois played in its inaugural year of college football (the other was Illinois Wesleyan).
Illinois leads the overall series 42-39-6 and holds a 23-18-2 margin in games played in Champaign. But Purdue has won four of the last six games played at Memorial Stadium, dating back to 1994. In the overall series, Purdue has won six of the last seven meetings and nine of the last 12, also dating back to 1994.
In the last matchup in Champaign, the Illini rolled to a 44-10 victory in 2010 by holding the Boilers to 205 yards of total offense and 52 passing yards.
Illinois coach Tim Beckman
has a 1-1 record versus the Boilers, with both games coming while he was head coach at Toledo. Beckman's Rockets dropped a 52-36 defeat in West Lafayette in 2009 before upsetting the Boilers 31-20 at Ross-Ade Stadium in 2010.
HIGHLIGHTS AGAINST THE BOILERMAKERS
In the Illini's 44-10 win in 2010, the Illini held Purdue to 205 yards total offense and just 52 yards passing. Illinois held the ball for over 38 minutes of the game.
QB Nathan Scheelhaase completed a then-career high 22 passes for 217 yards and rushed for a touchdown with 0:54 seconds left in last year's game in West Lafayette. He had 313 total yards (195 passing, 118 rushing) and a career-high four touchdown passes in the 2010 win over Purdue. His 80-percent completion percentage (16-of-20) and 227.9 QB rating from the 2010 game both remain career highs. In his career, Scheelhaase is averaging 273.0 total yards (206.0 passing, 67.0 rushing) against the Boilers.
WR Darius Millines caught his first career TD pass, a 10-yarder, in the 2010 win over Purdue.
DT Akeem Spence and LB Jonathan Brown led the Illini with eight tackles each in the 2010 game. Brown added 11 tackles and a half-TFL in 2011, giving him 19 tackles and 1.5 TFLs in his career against Purdue. Spence added eight tackles and a TFL in 2011, giving him 16 tackles and 1.5 TFLs in his career.
Safeties Supo Sanni and Steve Hull each had seven tackles against the Boilers in 2011.
ILLINI HAVE HUGE NFL PRESENCE
There were 22 former Fighting Illini on 2012 opening day NFL rosters.
Illinois had four players drafted in the first two rounds of the 2012 NFL Draft, including two first-rounders in Whitney Mercilus (26th pick, Houston Texans) and A.J. Jenkins (30th pick, San Francisco 49ers).
Illinois has had five first-round picks since 2008, the most of any Big Ten team during that span. The 2012 duo of Mercilus and Jenkins joins running back Rashard Mendenhall (23rd overall by the Steelers in 2008), defensive back Vontae Davis (25th overall by Miami in 2009) and defensive tackle Corey Liuget (18th overall by San Diego in 2011) as Illini first-round draft picks in the last five years.
Of the five recent Illini first-rounders, all but Jenkins were underclassmen who left Illinois with eligibility remaining. Illinois' four underclassmen chosen in the first round since 2008 is tied for the second-most by any team in the nation. Alabama leads the way with nine underclassman first-rounders in the last five years, while Florida and USC both match Illinois' four.
Mercilus was the seventh Illini in the last five years to enter the draft with eligibility remaining. All seven were taken in the first three rounds, including four first-rounders.