Illini to Take on UCLA in Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl
Dec. 4, 2011
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - University of Illinois officials announced Sunday that they have accepted an invitation to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, pitting the Fighting Illini against the UCLA Bruins at AT&T Park in San Francisco, Calif., on Dec. 31 at 2:30 p.m. CT on ESPN. It is Illinois' second-straight bowl appearance and third in the last five years after the Orange and Blue played in the 2010 Texas Bowl and the 2008 Rose Bowl Game.
"The University of Illinois is very proud and excited to accept an invitation to play in the 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl," Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas said. "San Francisco is a destination city and AT&T Park is an incredible venue. Our players are looking forward to the opportunity to end the season on a positive note. UCLA will be a very competitive opponent who looked very good Friday night in the Pac-12 Championship Game against Oregon. Illinois has a large alumni base on the west coast and specifically in northern California. This is a great chance for our fans from the Midwest to visit one of the world's best cities and a terrific opportunity for our fans and alumni on the west coast to support us in a bowl."
The Illini (6-6 overall, 2-6 in the Big Ten) will face UCLA, which won the Pac-12 South Division with a 5-4 conference record. The Bruins now stand at 6-7 overall after falling to No. 9 Oregon, 49-31, in the inaugural Pac-12 championship game. Last week, the NCAA approved UCLA's petition for a bowl waiver, allowing the Bruins to play in a bowl game despite a 6-7 record. The bowl appearance will be UCLA's second bowl appearance in the last three years after seeing a six-year bowl streak end in 2007. The Bruins and Illini have something in common, as they both own narrow victories over Arizona State this season. Illinois beat ASU, 17-14, on Sept. 17, while UCLA edged the Sun Devils, 29-28, on Nov. 5.
"We're very excited about the opportunity to be the first Big Ten team to go to San Francisco and play in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl," interim head coach Vic Koenning said. "Even though it's only been around for 10 years, this game has had a number of quality matchups and we're glad to become a part of the bowl's tradition. UCLA will present a number of challenges for us, but I know that our guys will make the most of playing in a great venue in one of the best cities in America. This is a great honor and a tremendous opportunity for us, and it will give our large alumni base in California great access to our team. I'm sure that our fans will be excited to join us in San Francisco and we look forward to finishing the season on a positive note."
Illinois has put together one of the finest defensive seasons in recent memory, holding opponents to 291.8 yards of total offense per game. The Illini rank fourth nationally in pass defense, fifth in tackles for loss, seventh in total defense, ninth in sacks and 26th in pass efficiency defense. Illinois' average of 159.1 passing yards allowed per game is its best figure since holding opponents to 146.4 yards passing per game in 1989.
Junior defensive end Whitney Mercilus has led the charge, leading the nation in sacks (14.5), sacks per game (1.21) and forced fumbles (9), breaking the Big Ten record for forced fumbles in a season. He is a finalist for the Nagurski Trophy, given annually to the nation's best defensive player by the Football Writers Association of America and the Charlotte Touchdown Club, and the Ted Hendricks Award, given annually to the top defensive end in the country.
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ILLINOIS BOWL HISTORY
Jan. 1, 1947 Rose Bowl UCLA W, 45-14 Jan. 1, 1952 Rose Bowl Stanford W, 40-7 Jan. 1, 1964 Rose Bowl Washington W, 17-7 Dec. 29, 1982 Liberty Bowl Alabama L, 15-21 Jan. 2, 1984 Rose Bowl UCLA L, 9-45 Dec. 31, 1985 Peach Bowl Army L, 29-31 Dec. 29, 1988 All-American Bowl Florida L, 10-14 Jan. 1, 1990 Citrus Bowl Virginia W, 31-21 Jan. 1, 1991 Hall of Fame Clemson L, 0-30 Dec. 31, 1991 John Hancock Bowl UCLA L, 3-6 Dec. 30, 1992 Holiday Bowl Hawaii L, 17-27 Dec. 31, 1994 Liberty Bowl E. Carolina W, 30-0 Dec. 30, 1999 MicronPC.com Bowl Virginia W, 63-21 Jan. 1, 2002 Sugar Bowl LSU L, 34-47 Jan. 1, 2008 Rose Bowl USC L, 17-49 Dec. 29, 2010 Texas Bowl Baylor W, 38-14
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