Nov. 25, 2013
Beckman Press Conference: Video | Quotes
Monday Interviews: OC Cubit | DC Banks | WR Hull | QB Scheelhaase
Opening Kick: Illinois (4-7 overall, 1-6 B1G Leaders) and in-state rival Northwestern (4-7 overall, 0-7 B1G Legends) will battle for the Land of Lincoln Trophy this Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Champaign (2:30 p.m. CT, BTN).
Senior Day: Saturday's game will mark the final game for 15 Illini seniors. Jonathan Brown, Jake Feldmeyer, Nick Forzley, Spencer Harris, Steve Hull, Brad Janitz, Tim Kynard, Ryan Lankford, Corey Lewis, Ben Mathis, Miles Osei, Daniel Quintana, Tim Russell, Nathan Scheelhaase and Evan Wilson will be recognized prior to the game.
The Streak is Over: Illinois' 20-16 win at Purdue on Saturday snapped its 20-game Big Ten losing streak. It was the Illini's first Big Ten win since a 41-20 triumph over Indiana on Oct. 8, 2011.
Rivalry Run: Saturday's game marks the last of three straight rivalry trophy games to end the season. The Illini and Wildcats will play for the Land of Lincoln Trophy on Saturday. Last week, the Illini won the "Cannon" with their win over Purdue and, two weeks ago, Ohio State retained the "Illibuck" trophy in the 100th meeting between the two teams.
Hull B1G POW: Senior wide receiver Steve Hull was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week after hauling in a career-high 10 receptions for 169 yards and two touchdowns in Illinois' win at Purdue on Saturday.
Home at WR: Hull, who spent the last three years as a starting safety, has thrived as a receiver during his senior season. He has exploded for 27 catches, 498 yards and five TDs over the last three weeks, the most receiving yards in the nation during that span. Saturday maked his third-straight 100-yard game and his fourth in the last five games. He had a career-high 224 yards receiving at Indiana, the second-best single-game total in school history, followed that up with 105 yards against Ohio State and had 169 at Purdue.
Saving His Best for Last: Senior QB Nathan Scheelhaase has blossomed in offensive coordinator Bill Cubit's system, leading the Big Ten and ranking in the top 25 nationally in total offense (289.2 ypg, 22nd), passing yards per game (269.5, 21st) and completions per game (23.3 cpg, 12th). Scheelhaase also ranks second in the conference in passing touchdowns (19) and completion percentage (66.5).
Squeezing Juice? Scheelhaase has 10,272 career yards of total offense, which ranks second all-time at Illinois and eighth in Big Ten history. He needs 323 total yards against the Wildcats break Juice Williams' school record of 10,594 total yards and move into seventh place in conference history. Scheelhaase is ninth among active FBS players in career total yards with 10,272.
The 8,000/2,000 Club: Scheelhaase is the only active player in the nation with over 8,000 passing yards and 2,000 rushing yards. He and former Illini Juice Williams are the only two players in Big Ten history to reach those benchmarks in their careers.
So Hot Right Now: Scheelhaase has thrived in November, totaling 1,316 yards on 128-of-189 passing (67.7 percent) with seven touchdowns. He has the second-most passing yards in November behind only Fresno State's Derek Carr (1,374).
Brown an All-America Candidate: Senior LB Jonathan Brown ranks second in the Big Ten and 33rd nationally in tackles per game (9.3). Brown, who was named a Phil Steele midseason All-American, also ranks third in the conference in TFLs (13.5) and ninth in sacks (5.0).
Bentley Makes History: Sophomore V'Angelo Bentley is the first player in 124 years of Illinois football history to return a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown in the same season. He had a 67-yard punt return for TD againt Ohio State and a school-record 100-yard kick return TD against SIU in the season-opener. He leads the Big Ten and ranks sixth nationally in punt return average (16.4 ypr).
Ferguson a Dual Threat: Sophomore RB Josh Ferguson broke the Illinois record for single-season receiving yards by a running back with 509 on 47 catches (10.8 ypc). His 46.3 receivng yards per game ranks second in the nation for a running back. Ferguson leads the Illini in rushing yards (669) and touchdowns (9), is second on the team in receiving yards (509), and ranks seventh in the Big Ten in all-purpose yards per game (110.5).
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 first downs, long scrimmage plays, passing offense, passing efficiency, total offense and scoring offense, with the biggest turnaround an 88-place jump in first downs per game.
| ILLINOIS' OFFENSIVE IMPROVEMENT IN 2013
|Category||2012 (Final Nat'l Rk)||2013 (Current Nat'l Rk)||Difference|
|First Downs (per game)||16.4 (120)||23.5 (32)||+88
|Scrim. plays of 20+ yd||34 (122)||60 (38)||+84|
|Passing Offense (ypg)||138.83 (107)||285.9 (28)||+79
|Passing Efficiency||113.42 (102)||141.09 (41)||+61|
|Total Offense (ypg)||296.67 (119)||420.7 (60)||+59|
|Scoring Offense (ppg)||16.67 (119)||29.3 (67)||+52|
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
QB Nathan Scheelhaase needs 323 total yards to break Juice Williams' Illinois career total offense record and move into seventh place on the all-time Big Ten list.
Scheelhaase needs two touchdown passes to tie Jack Trudeau for third place (55) on the UI career TD passes list and three to tie Juice Williams for second (56) on the list. Kurt Kittner holds the school record with 70 TD passes.
Scheelhaase needs 35 passing yards to become the eighth Illini QB to throw for 3,000 yards in a season. He needs 209 yards to move into the top five on the UI single-season passing yards list.
Scheelhaase enters the finale as the Illinois single-season leader for passing efficiency (141.2), just ahead of Tony Eason's 140.0 rating in 1981, and completion percentage (66.49 percent), over a point ahead of Jack Trudeau's 65.34 completion percentage in 1984.
Scheelhaase enters the final game of his career ranked fourth in UI history in career passing efficiency (129.9). He is within striking distand of Jason Verduzco's third-place total (130.0) and Jack Trudeau's second-place rating (130.4). Tony Eason's UI career record of 133.8 is likely safe.
WR Steve Hull needs 162 yards receiving to become the eighth Illini to reach 1,000 receiving yards in a season. He needs 52 yards to crack the Illinois top-10 for receiving yards in a season.
BATTLE FOR THE LAND OF LINCOLN TROPHY
Illinois and Northwestern will play for the "Land of Lincoln" trophy on Saturday, the fifth battle for the new rivalry trophy. Northwestern won the trophy last season, 50-14 in Evanston, to even the series at 2-2. The Land of Lincoln Trophy was chosen by fans of both schools in 2009 in an online vote to replace the 62-year-old Tomahawk Trophy.
Illinois and Northwestern played for the "Sweet Sioux" Tomahawk from 1947-2008. Illinois led the traditional trophy series by a 32-28-2 mark, but Northwestern won the final meeting for the Tomahawk with its 27-10 win in 2008. The Tomahawk was retired following the 2008 season.
NORTHWESTERN SERIES NOTES
Saturday's game will be the 107th meeting between Illinois and Northwestern. Illinois leads the series 54-47-5 overall and by a 26-20-2 margin in games played in Champaign. The Illini are 26-25-1 when playing the Wildcats in UI's Big Ten finale.
Illinois has won two of the last three games against the Wildcats, both in incredible fashion. In 2011, the Illini rebounded from a 28-10 third-quarter deficit to beat Northwestern 38-35 after Nathan Scheelhaase's one-yard touchdown plunge with 13 seconds left in the game. In 2010, the Illini crushed the 'Cats 48-27 at Wrigley Field in Chicago behind Mikel Leshoure's record-breaking 330 rushing yards. It was the first college game played at Wrigley Field in 40 years and was famously played one way, as all offensive drives went toward the west end zone due to safety concerns with the wall behind the east end zone.
The series has been remarkably even in games played in Champaign lately, with the teams splitting the last 10 meetings at Memorial Stadium 5-5.
This will be Tim Beckman's second contest against Northwestern, while NU coach Pat Fitzgerald is 4-3 against the Illini in his first seven seasons as head coach.
Beckman and inside linebackers coach Mike Ward have a history with Northwestern offensive coordinator Mick McCall and receivers coach Dennis Springer, serving on the same staff at Bowling Green in the early 2000s. In 2003 and 2004, Beckman was the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach at BGSU, Ward was the defensive line coach, McCall was the quarterbacks coach and Springer handled running backs.
Illini defensive line coach Greg Colby was Northwestern's defensive coordinator from 2002-07, coaching under Randy Walker (2002-05) and Pat Fitzgerald (2006-07). Colby also was on staff with Northwestern linebackers coach Randy Bates at Kent State in 1998-99, when Colby was the defensive coordinator and Bates was the linebackers coach.
Illinois outside linebackers coach Al Seamonson coached with NU defensive line coach Marty Long at The Citadel in 1987. Seamonson was the special teams, linebackers and wide receivers coach for the Bulldogs, while Long was a defensive graduate assistant.
Northwestern offensive line coach Adam Cushing is the brother of former Illinois tight end Matt Cushing.
The Last Meeting
November 24, 2012
HIGHLIGHTS AGAINST THE WILDCATS
Illinois is averaging 420.67 total yards and 230.5 rushing yards per game in the teams' last five meetings.
In two of the last three meetings, an Illini offensive player has broken an individual program record against Northwestern. In 2010, RB Mikel Leshoure ran for an Illinois record 330 yards in the Illini win at Wrigley Field. Then in 2011, WR A.J. Jenkins had a school-record 268 receiving yards and three touchdowns in Illinois' win over the `Cats. That total ranks as the fourth-most receiving yards in a conference game in Big Ten history.
Two of the three best single-game all-purpose yardage totals in school history have come against the Wildcats. Leshoure totaled 341 all-purpose yards in 2010, while Jenkins racked up 328 in 2011. Those two totals rank second and third, respectively, in UI history, behind only Red Grange's legendary 402-yard performance against Michigan in 1924, a game many consider the greatest performance in college football history.
QB Nathan Scheelhaase engineered a comeback for the ages in the 2011 game against NU, guiding the Illini to four touchdown drives covering 296 yards in the game's final 22:11 to overcome a 28-10 deficit. He threw for three scores and rushed for the clincher with 13 seconds remaining in the game. Scheelhaase went 21-for-32 for what was then a career-high 391 yards, passing for three touchdowns and rushing for a fourth. He is averaging 220.0 yards of total offense with five total touchdowns in three career games against Northwestern.
WR Steve Hull, then a safety, registered his first career QB sack in the 2010 victory over the 'Cats and had seven tackles in the 2011 win.
WR Spencer Harris caught a then-career high six passes for 63 yards in 2011 against Northwestern. He also caught a two-point conversion pass from Scheelhaase that gave the Illini a 31-28 lead in the fourth quarter.
RB Donovonn Young gave Illinois its first lead in the 2011 game with a one-yard TD run at the 6:53 mark of the fourth quarter. He also rushed for 74 yards and a TD in 2012.
LB Jonathan Brown had a then-career high 11 tackles against the 'Cats in 2011. He missed the 2012 game with an injury.
DE Tim Kynard recorded his first career sack against the 'Cats in 2011 and had a TFL against NU in 2012.
STAR Mike Svetina posted a career-high 12 tackles and 1.5 TFLs against Northwestern in 2012.
FS Earnest Thomas III had eight tackles and 1.0 TFL against Northwestern in 2012.
LB Ralph Cooper had six tackles and a TFL vs. NU in 2012.
DT Austin Teitsma posted a then-career high four tackles along with a TFL and a forced fumble against Northwestern in 2012.
TE Evan Wilson recorded a career-long 36-yard reception against Northwestern in 2011.
WHOSE HOUSE? SCHEEL-HOUSE
Senior QB Nathan Scheelhaase became the 10th player in Big Ten history and second player in school history with 10,000 career yards of total offense. He currently ranks eighth in Big Ten history with 10,272 total yards.
Scheelhaase surpassed 2,000 career rushing yards last week at Purdue. He became the second Illinois quarterback to rush for 2,000 career yards (Juice Williams, 2,557 yards, 2006-09) and the ninth quarterback in Big Ten history to rush for 2,000 career yards.
Scheelhaase connected on the 52nd and 53rd touchdown passes of his career on Saturday, both going to WR Steve Hull. Scheelhaase is the fourth player in school history to record at least 50 career touchdown passes. His 19 touchdown passes this season are a career high and are tied for seventh-most in a season in school history.
Entering Saturday's finale, Scheelhaase ranks second at Illinois in career completions (744), second in career completion percentage (62.7), third in career passing yardage (8,261), third in career attempts (1,186), fourth in career passing efficiency (129.9) and fourth in career touchdown passes (53). See page 13 to track Scheelhaase's ascent up several UI career lists.
Scheelhaase completed a career-high 38-of-57 passes for a career-high 450 yards at Indiana on Nov. 9. It was the fifth-best passing yardage total in school history and the third-most completions in a game in UI history.
Scheelhaase had a career-high 495 yards of total offense at Indiana (450 passing, 45 rushing), the third-best total in school history behind only Dave Wilson (585 yards at Ohio State, 11/8/80) and Juice Williams (503 yards vs. Minnesota, 10/11/08).
Scheelhaase has blown past his 2012 season totals in every passing category, while improving his completion percentage by nearly six points and his passing efficiency by over 35 points. Take a look at his 2013 numbers versus his numbers last season:
| Scheelhaase Passing 2012 vs. 2013|
Scheelhaase has found great success on first down, completing 129-of-177 (72.9 percent) passes on first down for 1,531 yards and nine touchdowns and a 154.41 passing efficiency rating. He ranks seventh in the nation in first-down completion percentage among QBs with 100 or more first-down attempts, and has 16 plays of 25-plus yards on first down, 11th-most in FBS.
Scheelhaase has 23 first-half plays of 25-plus yards, fifth-most in FBS behind only Baylor's Bryce Petty (32), Clemson's Tajh Boyd (27), San Jose State's David Fales (25) and Oregon's Marcus Mariota (24).
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 in the game, all in the first half, one more than he had all of last season.
Scheelhaase threw for 340 yards in the first half of the season-opener against Southern Illinois, marking the most ever for an Illini in the first half.
After starting the first 11 games this season, Scheelhaase now has 47 career starts under his belt, tied for the second-most in the nation by a quarterback with Troy's Corey Robinson, behind only Georgia's Aaron Murray (52).
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).
Scheelhaase has been named to the Capital One Academic All-District first team and a finalist for the prestigous Wuerffel Award this fall, adding to his already long list of off-the-field accolades. He completed his bachelor's degree in 3.5 years and is currently on track to graduate with his master's degree in recreation, sport and tourism in December 2013. He is a three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree (2010-12) and was a 2012 Big Ten Distinguished Scholar.
WHAT CAN BROWN DO FOR YOU?
All-America candidate Jonathan Brown ranks second in the Big Ten and 33rd in the nation, averaging 9.3 tackles per game. He has led the conference for most of the season until Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier passed him last week. Entering the final week of the season, Brown trails Shazier by six tackles. He is trying to become the first Illini to lead the conference in tackles since Brit Miller in 2008.
Brown has a team-high 13.5 TFLs this season, ranking third in the Big Ten, and giving him 44.0 TFLs in his career. That total ranks third on the UI career TFLs list.
Brown was 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 the Big Ten's top LBs:
|Big Ten Linebacker Comparison (Through Week 13)
|Name, School||G||Tackles||TPG (NR)||TFL||TFL/G (NR)||Sacks||QBH||PD||FF|
|Shazier, OSU||11||108||9.8 (22)||19.5||1.77 (3)||5.5||5||2||4|
|Brown, ILL||11||102||9.3 (33)|| 13.5||1.23 (29)|| 5.0||2||4||1
|Borland, WIS||10||92||9.2 (35)||8.0||0.80 (-)||4.0||4||2||1|
|Hitchens, Iowa||11|| 95||8.6 (51)|| 13.0||1.18 (37)|| 2.0||3|| 1||2|
|Morris, Iowa||11||89||8.1 (74)||11.5||1.05 (73)||5.0||1||5||1|
|Allen, MSU||11||70||6.4 (-)||13.0||1.18 (37)||5.0||7||1||0
|Bullough, MSU||11||64||5.8 (-)||8.0||0.73 (-)||1.0||10||2||1
Brown has had monster games as of late, posting eight tackles, 2.0 TFLs and a sack at Purdue, and racking up seven tackles, 2.0 TFLs, one sack, one interception returned 16 yards to set up an Illini score, and one other pass break-up at Indiana. The interception was the third of Brown's career.
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 huge 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.
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 269 tackles, 42.5 TFLs and 13.5 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 one and three on the team in tackles so far this season as Brown is second in the Big Ten with 9.3 stops per game, 33rd-best in FBS, and Monheim ranks 10th in the Big Ten with 7.8 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 (46.3 ypg) and also leads the Illini in rushing yards (669) and touchdowns (nine total: five rushing and four receiving).
Ferguson broke Kameno Bell's Illinois record for single-season receiving yards by a running back last week at Purdue. Ferguson now has 509 receiving yards this season, surpassing Bell's total of 503 yards from 1991. He also moved up to second place on Illinois' career receiving yardage list for a running back. He has 774 career receiving yards, which surpassed Keith Jones (1984-88) total of 771. Ty Douthard (1993-96) owns the Illinois record with 1,250.
With a career-high 115 rushing yards at Purdue last week, a new career-high, Ferguson passed 1,000 career rushing yards, becoming the third active Illini in the 1,000-yard club (Nathan Scheelhaase, Donovonn Young). Ferguson now has 1,033 career rushing yards.
Ferguson is averaging 107.1 scrimmage yards per game (60.8 rushing, 46.3 receiving), which ranks 47th nationally and seventh in the Big Ten.
Ferguson has four career 100-yard games: three rushing and one receiving. He ran for 115 yards in 20 carries (5.8 ypc) at Purdue on Nov. 23, 114 yards on 19 carries (6.0 ypc) at Nebraska on Oct. 5 and 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.
Complete Illinois-Northwestern Game Notes