Illini to Take on UCLA in Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl

Illinois and UCLA will square off in the 10th Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl
Illinois and UCLA will square off in the 10th Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl

Dec. 4, 2011

Important Links: Illinois Bowl Central | Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl Website | Official Illinois Bowl Tour Info

Press Conference: A.D. Mike Thomas | Interim Coach Vic Koenning

Player Reaction: QB Scheelhaase | WR Jenkins | OT Allen | LB Thomas | DB Wilson

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.

Ticket information for Illinois' matchup with UCLA in the 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl will be posted on as soon as it is available.

This will be Illinois' 17th bowl appearance and its first in the 10-year-old Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.

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 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

This year's game will be the 10th installment of the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. The bowl has been affiliated with the Pac-12 Conference since 2007, and 2011 is the first time it will pair teams from the Pac-12 against the Big Ten Conference. The Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl was known as the Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl in 2002 and 2003, and as the Emerald Bowl from 2004-09. The bowl receives the sixth choice of bowl-eligible teams from the Pac-12 and had an arrangement to host Army in 2011, had the Black Knights been bowl-eligible this season. The ACC was scheduled to provide a replacement team in the case that Army wasn't bowl-eligible, but did not have a ninth bowl-eligible team this season.

Jan. 9, 2011 - Nevada 20, Boston College 13
Dec. 26, 2009 - USC 24, Boston College 13
Dec. 27, 2008 - California 24, Miami 17
Dec. 28, 2007 - Oregon State 21, Maryland 14
Dec. 27, 2006 - Florida State 44, UCLA 27
Dec. 29, 2005 - Utah 38, Georgia Tech 10
Dec. 30, 2004 - Navy 34, New Mexico 19
Dec. 31, 2003 - Boston College 35, Colorado State, 21
Dec. 31, 2002 - Virginia Tech 20, Air Force 13