Football
Football Hosts Northwestern Saturday

 
The Fighting Illini meet their intrastate rival Northwestern Saturday in Memorial Stadium.
The Fighting Illini meet their intrastate rival Northwestern Saturday in Memorial Stadium.
 

Nov. 16, 1999

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Fighting Illini meet their intrastate rivals, the Northwestern Wildcats, in the final regular-season game of the 1999 season. Illinois is looking for their seventh win of the season, which would be their highest total since 1990. The Illini lead the overall series 48-39-5 and hold a 22-17-2 advantage in games at Champaign. Last season, Illinois defeated Northwestern 13-10 in Evanston, to snap their 15-game Big Ten losing streak. Ron Turner is 1-1 vs. the Wildcats while NU coach Randy Walker faces Illinois for the first time in his career.

The 6-4 overall, 3-4 Big Ten, Illini enter the game looking for their third straight win while Northwestern, 3-7, 1-6, looks to avenge a three-game losing streak. The Wildcats offense is led by junior running back Damien Anderson and his 1005 yards rushing in 1999. Northwestern boasts one of the Big Ten's leading punt returners in Sam Simmons who averages 15.4 yards per return, including a 87-yard touchdown return. On defense, NU defensive end Dwayne Missouri leads the league with five sacks and 16 tackles for loss while sophomore LB Kevin Bentley has registered a team-leading 126 tackles and two interceptions, including one return for a touchdown.

ILLINOIS (6-4, 3-4) vs.
NORTHWESTERN (3-7, 1-6)

Nov. 20, 1999
1p.m. CT
Memorial Stadium (70,900)
Champaign, Illinois

THE COACHES' CORNER

RON TURNER - Turner is in his third season with the Illini with a record of 9-23 at Illinois, 16-27 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.

RANDY WALKER - Walker is in his first season at Northwestern with a record of 3-7, and is in his tenth season as a head coach with a 62-42-5 overall mark. Walker came to Evanston after a nine-year stint as head coach at Miami University. Walker guided the Red Hawks to 10-1 season in 1998 and a first-place tie in the Mid-American Conference. Walker's Miami teams have scored upsets over highly-regarded teams in recent seasons with road wins over Virginia Tech, North Carolina, and the only blemish on Northwestern's 1995 regular season record. Prior to coaching at Miami, Walker held assistant coaching positions at Northwestern (1988-89) and North Carolina (1978-87).

BATTLE FOR THE SWEET SIOUX The story of the Illinois-Northwestern trophy dates back to 1945 when the staff members of the two student newspapers conceived the idea of a wooden Indian trophy, "Sweet Sioux." In September, 1946, "Sweet Sioux" was stolen from a showcase at Northwestern. A Tomahawk Trophy was inaugurated in 1947 to replace the wooden Indian and has been used since. "Sweet Sioux" was found in 1948, but was discarded because of its bulk. Illinois reclaimed the Tomahawk Trophy with a 13-10 win in Evanston last fall. Illinois leads the trophy series 28-22-2


ILLINOIS-NORTHWESTERN CONNECTIONS Head coach Ron Turner was quarterbacks and receivers coach at Northwestern during the 1981 and 1982 seasons under current Minnesota Vikings head coach Dennis Green. Defensive coordinator Tim Kish coached defensive ends and linebackers at Northwestern under Gary Barnett from 1992-96, winning Big Ten championships in 1995 and 1996.

High School Player Connections: Chicago Mt. Carmel HS: Northwestern senior OL Jack Harnedy/Illinois freshman LB Jerry Schumacher, Chicago St. Rita HS: NU junior punter J.J. Standring/UI senior LB Nolan Nawrocki, Schaumburg HS: NU senior TE John Cerasini/UI sophomore QB Kurt Kittner, Wheaton Warrenville South HS: NU freshman WR Jon Schweighardt/ UI freshman WR Eric McGoey.

ILLINOIS' SIGNAL CALLER
One of the most improved players in the Big Ten, sophomore quarterback Kurt Kittner has shocked the nation with his outstanding play this season. He has thrown 22 touchdown passes and only two interceptions in 342 attempts. He tied the school record for touchdown passes in a season with his four-touchdown performance against No. 25 Ohio State. He tied a 10-year-old record held by Jeff George who connected for 22 touchdowns in 12 games in 1989. Kurt Kittner has thrown four TD passes in three of his last eight games. No quarterback in Illinois history has ever thrown four or more TD passes more than twice in a career, let alone a season. Jack Trudeau recorded two, four TD passing games (vs. Northwestern in 1983 and vs. Ohio State in 1984).

Kittner's two interceptions are the fewest in Division I football. He has gone 17 quarters and 164 attempts since his last interception, a tipped ball against Minnesota on Oct. 16. He had a streak of 110 attempts without and INT snapped earlier in the season vs. Michigan State. His 11-1 touchdown to interception is also the best in the nation. He has tallied 2,257 yards passing and his 23 career touchdown passes are good enough for sixth on the Illinois all-time touchdown pass list. He is completing 54 percent of his attempts and ranks 36th in the nation in passing efficiency and 29th in total offense. His career yardage total of 3,039 is eighth best on the Illinois career passing yards list.

Fewest Inteceptions Thrown
(under 6 int., min. 15 att. per game)

Name, SchoolAtt.Int.TDAttempts per Int.
Kurt Kittner, Illinois342222171
Billy Volek, Fresno State325325108
Quincy Carter, Georgia28441471
Calvin McCall, Maryland1793559
David Priestly, Pittsburgh1583652
Neil Subor, Memphis1543351
Woodrow Dantzler, Clemson1694742
K.C. Enzminger, New Mexico St.21051242
Brandon Streeter, Clemson1664533
Nick Kreinbrink, Northwestern1564439

Touchdown to Interception Ratio
(min. 15 attempts per game)

Name, SchoolAtt.TDInt.Ratio
Kurt Kittner, Illinois34222211-1
Billy Volek, Fresno State3252538.3-1
Major Applewhite, Texas4142063.3-1
Joe Hamilton, Georgia Tech2332483-1
David Neill, Idaho3791863-1
K.C. Enzminger, New Mexico St.2101252.4-1
Tom Brady, Michigan2681462.3-1
Antwaan Randle El, Indiana2461672.3-1
John Heupel, Oklahoma41727132.1-1
Dylan Smith, Kansas2441262-1
Drew Brees, Purdue47021111.9-1
Chris Wienke, Florida State34124131.8-1

kittner & heisman trophy candidates comparison

Name, SchoolAtt-comp-intydsTDpct.avg.
Drew Brees, Purdue470-286-1133342160.9333.4
Joe Hamilton, Georgia Tech233-158-824382467.8243.8
Chris Redman, Louisivlle446-293-1133022765.7330.2
Chad Pennington, Marshall337-230-931373168.2313.7
Kurt Kittner, Illinois342-186-222572254.4225.7

RACKERS EARNS SECOND CONFERENCE HONOR IN AS MANY WEEKS
For the second time in as many weeks, placekicker Neil Rackers has earned Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week. Rackers followed up his record breaking game of a week earlier with a 16-point performance in the Illini's 46-20 win over No. 25 Ohio State. Rackers hit four field goals (in four attempts), including a career-long 50 yarder for his ninth 40+ field goal of the season. He also was flawless in extra point attempts with four PATs. Rackers ranks seventh in the nation in field goals and 14th in scoring. In the Big Ten, he is third in both field goals and field goal percentage and first in PAT percentage.

MAKING SCHOOL HISTORY OR JUST PLAIN HISTORY?
With wins over No. 9 Michigan at "the Big House" and No. 25 Ohio State at "The Horseshoe" it marks the first time in school history that an Illini squad has won in both stadiums in a single season. After further research it was determined that the last time the two schools were ever beaten at home in the same year was by Michigan State in 1951 when the Spartans went undefeated and won the national championship. The last time the Illini defeated the two teams in a season was in 1983 when Illinois won both games at Memorial Stadium. It is only the 10th time an Illinois squad has beaten both teams in a season.

BACK WITH A VENGENCE
After missing four games with a hamstring pull, senior defensive tackle Mike McGee returned to the starting lineup against Iowa and Ohio State. Since returning, McGee has made his presence known by setting career-highs in tackles (10 vs. Iowa), solo tackles (10 vs. Iowa), and sacks (two vs. Ohio State).

PLAYING THE NATIONALLY RANKED
The Illini's win over No. 9 Michigan and No. 25 Ohio State was the first time the Illini defeated two ranked teams in the same season since 1991 when they defeated No. 21 Houston (9/21, 51-10) and No. 11 Ohio State (10/12, 10-7).

The win over Michigan was the first time UI defeated a top-10 ranked team since Sept. 4, 1989, a 14-13 win at No. 5 USC.

OFFENSIVE EXPLOSION
This season's 296 points to date by the Illini eclipses the 1997 and 1998 entire season totals combined. The 1999 average of 27.8 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 or more in seven games this season. That is the highest total of 30+ point games in Illinois' regular season history (The 1989 team scored 30 or more points in six regular season games and the Florida Citrus Bowl). The Fighting Illini have score 40 points or more in four games this season which ties the 1982 and 1902 teams for the second-highest total of 40+ point games in one season. The 1903 team scored 40+ points five times in 14 games.

TOTAL TEAM POINTS
(SEASON-11 GAMES)

1.1983338
2.1982323
1984323
4.1989301
5.1999296
6.1990293
7.1981287
8.1994279
9.1985275
10.1991261

AMONG THE ELITE
With 33 yards rushing against Iowa, senior running back Steve Havard broke into the top 20 in career rushing yards at Illinois. He jumped to 16th on the list after his 104-yard rushing performance in the Illini's 46-20 win over No. 25 Ohio State. His 1367 career yards move him past Bill Brown's 1269 yards (1958-60), Abe Woodson's 1276 yards (1954-56), Buddy Young's 1296 yards (1944-46) and Darrell Robinson's 1357 yards (1969-71).

ROAD WARRIORS
Illinois' 46-20 win over No. 25 Ohio State was the fourth road win of the 1999 season for the Fighting Illini. The last time an Illinois team won four road games in one season was 1994.

CLIMBING THE CHARTS
True-freshman receiver Brandon Lloyd needs 4 receiving yards to set a new freshman record for receiving yardage. Ty Douthard had 406 receiving yards in 1993. Lloyd currently has 10 catches for 402 yards and two touchdowns.

WHERE THERE'S A WILSON THERE'S A WAY
True-freshman punt returner/cornerback Eugene Wilson needs 11 punt return yards to set a new single-season record for punt return yards. Darryl Usher holds the record with 308 punt return yards in 1987. Wilson has returned 29 punts for 297 yards.

With a punt return for a touchdown against Arkansas State and a near-touchdown return against San Diego State, 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.

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 261 carries for 1169 yards and 10 touchdowns. The combo's average of 116.9 yards rushing per game would rank 13th nationally and third in the Big Ten behind Wisconsin's Ron Dayne and Minnesota's Thomas Hamner.

SPREADING OUT THE OFFENSE
Through 10 games, Illinois has had 12 different players catch 23 touchdown passes (Kittner 11 receivers for 22 TDs, punter Steve Fitts 1 receiver 1 TD). That number is the second-most nationally, behind 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. Fitts hit placekicker Neil Rackers for an 18-yard TD pass on a fake field goal attempt.

ILLINI UPSET NO. 25 OHIO STATE IN WORST HOME LOSS IN 50 YEARS
Illinois registered its sixth win of the 1999 season in a convincing 46-20 triumph at Ohio State. Neil Rackers opened the scoring with a pair of field goals (24 and 47 yards) in the first quarter giving the Illini a 6-0 lead. Illinois extended the lead to 12-0 when Brandon Lloyd made a juggling touchdown catch of a 30-yard pass from Kurt Kittner, capping a 73-yard drive. The Illini scored on their fourth straight possession when Steve Havard added a 7-yard TD run giving the Illini a 19-0 lead.

The Buckeyes got on the scoreboard with Michael Wiley's 35-yard TD scamper, that cut the deficit to 19-7. Illinois scored twice in the final 34 seconds of the half to gain a commanding 29-7 lead. Neil Rackers connected on a career long 50-yard field goal and the Illini regained possession on the ensuing kickoff when Ohio State kick returner Ken-Yon Rambo was stripped by Antoineo Harris, who also recovered the fumble at the Buckeye one yard line. Illinois seized the opportunity by capitalizing on the miscue and turning it into a touchdown when Kittner connected with tight end Josh Whitman for a two-yard TD pass with nine seconds remaining before halftime.

The Illini picked up where they left off in the second half, scoring on their opening possession of the third quarter on a 25-yard catch and run by Jameel Cook, extending the lead to 36-7. The Buckeyes quickly answered with a 38-yard TD pass from Steve Bellisari to fullback Matt Keller, trimming the lead to 36-14. Whitman caught his second TD pass of the afternoon late in the third quarter, a five-yard strike from Kittner.

OSU tailback Michael Wiley scored on a six-yard TD run early in the fourth quarter, cutting the lead to 43-20. Rackers capped the scoring with a 38-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter for the 46-20 margin.

MIXING IT UP
The Illinois offense has seen changes 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 on the field. The change has resulted in 11 catches for 174 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 started the last four contests. Cook recorded his first 100-yard receiving game in the Illini's 46-20 win over No. 25 Ohio State. He caught a career-high seven passes for 100 yards including a 25-yard touchdown reception. Senior fullback Chris Hoffman put his blocking skills to use when he saw a majority of his playing time at tight end against Michigan and Ohio 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, caught his second touchdown pass of the season with a nine-yard reception in the Illini's 40-24 win over Iowa. He has 33 receptions for 241 yards for the season.

STEVE HAVARD - Havard posted his second 100-yard rushing game of the year with 104 yards against Ohio State, scoring his sixth touchdown on a seven-yard run. He has 616 yards on the ground this season, leading the team.

ROCKY HARVEY - Harvey, the all-purpose back, has four rushing TDs and two receiving and is second on the team in scoring. He has compiled 553 yards rushing and 243 yards receiving, including a team-season long catch of 67 yards vs. Louisville.

ANTOINEO HARRIS - Harris recorded one of the biggest impact plays of the day in the Illini's win over Ohio State when he forced a fumble at the one yardline on an Ohio State kick return. It set up a touchdown to give the Illini a 29-7 lead at halftime. He 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
With 21 total turnovers forced, the Illini rank third in the nation in turnover ratio with a +11 margin. The Illinois defense has forced eight fumbles and picked off 13 passes for the season, while the offense has only turned the ball over 10 times (seven fumbles and three interceptions). Illini defensive backs Tony Francis and Muhammad Abdullah rank 37th and 40th in the nation, respectively, and third and fourth in the Big Ten in interceptions with four each.

DEAN OF RECEIVERS
After three years without a touchdown reception, senior receiver Michael Dean has four touchdown receptions this season. Dean leads the team with 537 receiving yards and has had two 100-yard receiving games (100 yards vs. Indiana, 124 yards vs. Louisville). 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.

WAKEFIELD AND WHITMAN EARN ACADEMIC HONORS
Defensive end Fred Wakefield and tight end Josh Whitman were named GTE/CoSIDA District V Academic All-Americans earlier this week. Wakefield earns the award for the second straight year, both players were academic All-Big Ten in 1998. Wakefield, 3.43 in kinesiology, has started every game this season and has eight tackles for loss and four sacks. Wakefield was responsible for two blocked kicks (field goal and extra point) in the Illini's 35-29 win over No. 9 Michigan. Whitman holds a near perfect GPA of 3.97 in Illinois' nationally ranked business school. With nine starts this season, Whitman has 15 catches, ranking fourth on the team, for a 10-yard average per reception.

ILLINI TICKET OFFICE ONLINE
Fans can now order their season and single game tickets online at www.fightingillini.com. Football tickets for the 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.

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.

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.

BIG TEN PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

NEIL RACKERS, SPECIAL TEAMS (Nov. 6, 1999 - Iowa)
Neil Rackers was named Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week following his 22-point performance in the Illini's 40-24 win over the Iowa Hawkeyes. Rackers put together the most exciting performance ever by an Illini kicker in the history of Illinois football. Rackers was a perfect 4-for-4 in field goal attempts, including the two longest of his career 50 and 49-yard boots to put the Illini on the board. He scored his first career touchdown when he caught an 18-yard pass from punter Steve Fitts on a fake field goal attempt. Rackers was also flawless in his four PAT attempts. His 22-points are the most scored by a kicker, while his touchdown was the first by a kicker in Illinois history. The performance was also the fifth-best scoring performance in school history.

KURT KITTNER, OFFENSE (Oct. 23, 1999 - Michigan)
For his performance in the Illini's upset of No. 9 Michigan, quarterback Kurt Kittner earned his second Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honor. Kittner led Illinois to rally from a 20-point deficit, the largest in school history, with four straight scores in the second half to defeat the ninth-ranked Wolverines at "The Big House." Kittner threw for 280 yards and four touchdown passes (career high), while hitting 73 percent of his passes. He escaped Wolverine coverage avoiding sacks and running for 31 yards.

KURT KITTNER, OFFENSE (Sept. 18, 1999 - Louisville)
Kurt Kittner was named co-Big Ten offensive player-of-the-week for his outstanding performance in the Illini's 41-36 win over Louisville. Kittner completed 17-of-24 passes and set a single game career-high for completion percentage (70.8%) while tallying 244 yards and four touchdowns in the game, including strikes of 67 and 49 yards. His 67-yard touchdown pass to Rocky Harvey was a career-long. He totalled a 211.3 passing efficiency rating for the game, the fifth-best on Illinois' single-game list.

DANNY CLARK, DEFENSE (Sept. 11, 1999 - San Diego State)
Illinois senior linebacker and Butkus Award Candidate 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. Clark had 5 solo tackles and 12 assisted tackles and two tackles for loss. Clark matched his previous career-high performance with his 17 tackles vs. Northwestern on Nov. 8, 1997.

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 ? the 46 points scored at Ohio State are the most scored in Ohio Stadium since 1946 when Michigan beat the Buckeyes 58-6.

  • Did you know ? the Illini defeated both Ohio State and Michigan on the road this season for the first time in school history.

  • Did you know ? Illinois placekicker Neil Rackers is the first kicker to ever score a touchdown in school history.

  • Did you know ? before Steve Fitts' touchdown pass to Neil Rackers in the Illini's 40-24 win over Iowa, the last time a non- quarterback threw a touchdown pass was in 1990 when wide out Shawn Wax connected with receiver Steve Mueller against Michigan.

  • Did you know ? Illinois quarterback Kurt Kittner's two interceptions this season are the fewest of any Division I starting quarterback.

  • Did you know ? the last time the Illini defeated a top-10 team was in 1989 when Illini topped No. 5 Southern Cal, 14-13.

  • Did you know ? 18 Illini made their collegiate debut vs. Arkansas State, including five true-freshmen.

  • 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