Illini will face UCLA on Dec. 31 in San Francisco
Dec. 20, 2011
Illinois' 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl Media Guide contains media information, game notes, depth charts, updated coach and player bios, a look back at the 2011 season and an updated record book. Find out everything you need to know about the 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl between Illinois and UCLA on Dec. 31 at San Francisco's AT&T Park.
Dec. 31, 2011 // 12:30 pm PT/2:30 CT // ESPN // AT&T Park (40,184) // San Francisco, Calif.
The 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl game will be nationally televised on ESPN with an air time of 2:30 p.m. CT and a kickoff time of 12:34 p.m. PST / 2:34 CST. Carter Blackburn (play-by-play), Brock Huard (analysis) and Shelley Smith (sidelines) will call the game with Jim Zirolli producing. The game will also be streamed live at ESPN3.com.
The Illini Sports Network will carry the radio broadcast with its pregame show beginning at 2 p.m. CT. The broadcast can be heard on the 41 stations on the Illini Sports Network. Brian Barnhart (play-by-play), Kurt Kittner (analysis) and Steve Kelly (pregame, halftime and postgame) will call the action.
The broadcast can also be heard nationally on the Touchdown Radio network and on Sirius & XM Satellite Radio (channel 91) with Roxy Bernstein (play-by-play), Gino Torretta (analysis) and J.J. Stokes (sidelines) calling the action.
Illinois (6-6) will face UCLA (6-7) in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on New Year's Eve in San Francisco, looking to snap a six-game losing streak and win a bowl game in back-to-back years for the first time in school history.
The Illinois defense has continued to climb the national rankings as the Illini rank fourth in pass defense (159.1 ypg) and seventh in total defense (291.8 ypg). The Illini also lead the Big Ten and rank fifth in the nation in tackles for loss (7.7 per game), and ninth nationally in sacks per game (3.0).
Consensus All-American Whitney Mercilus continues to lead the nation in sacks (14.5), sacks per game (1.21) and forced fumbles (9). The nine forced fumbles are a Big Ten single-season record and are second in the NCAA record book, just one shy of the national record of 10.
Mercilus won the Hendricks Award as the nation's top defensive end, becoming Illinois' first major national award winner since 1995, and was named the College Football Performance Awards National Defensive Player of the Year. He also was a finalist for the Nagurski Trophy, which goes to the nation's top defensive player.
Mercilus has been named a first-team All-American by nine different publications (as of Dec. 15), including the Associated Press, Football Writers Association of America, American Football Coaches Association and Walter Camp. He is Illinois' first consensus All-American since linebacker J Leman in 2007.
Biletnikoff Award semifinalist A.J. Jenkins leads the Big Ten in receptions (84) and ranks among the nation's elite in both receiving yards per game (14th, 99.7) and receptions per game (16th, 7.0).
LB Jonathan Brown has been a monster the last six games, totaling 72 tackles, 13.0 TFLs, 4.0 sacks, two PBUs, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and two hurries. He ranks third in the nation in TFLs per game (1.73).
Senior PK Derek Dimke has missed just one kick all season, a 42-yarder at Penn State that would have tied the game as time expired. Dimke has hit 8-of-9 field goals and all 32 of his PATs this season. He is the most accurate kicker in Illinois history and ranks third among active NCAA kickers in FG accuracy (min. 30 attempts). He has made 37-of-43 field goals (.860) and all 87 PATs he's attempted in his career.
Illinois has held five opponents under 100 yards passing this season, including four Big Ten teams (Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin and Minnesota).
The defense is approaching school records for team sacks and TFLs. The Illini's 36 sacks are four shy of the UI record of 40 shared by the 2001 and '07 teams, while their 92 TFLs rank third all-time at Illinois.
WR A.J. Jenkins has 53.3 percent of Illinois' receiving yards this season, the most in the nation by nearly eight percent. Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill is second at 45.8 percent.
Jenkins needs 83 yards to break David Williams' UI single-season receiving yardage record of 1,278.
Jenkins has five 100-yard receiving games this season, one shy of the UI single-season record of six by David Williams and Brandon Lloyd.
RB Troy Pollard is averaging 7.45 yards per carry, the 11th-highest per-carry average in the nation and the best in the Big Ten by over a yard (Montee Ball, 6.40 ypc).
Illinois is 22nd nationally in fewest penalties per game (4.83).
The Illini defense has allowed just 11 scores (eight TDs and three FGs) following 27 UI turnovers this season.
Illinois started the season 6-0, the program's best start in 60 years, and was one of the first bowl-eligible teams in the nation.
ILLINOIS BOWL FACTS
The Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl will mark Illinois' 17th bowl appearance.
Illinois is playing in a bowl game in consecutive seasons (2010 Texas Bowl) for the first time since going to five straight from 1988-92.
After last year's 38-14 win over Baylor in the Texas Bowl, Illinois is looking to win a bowl game in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history.
No group of players has won two bowl games during their career at Illinois.
With the Illini facing UCLA in San Francisco, this year marks the fourth-straight bowl game where Illinois will be facing an opponent in its home state. In 2010, Illinois faced Baylor in Houston at the Texas Bowl; in 2008, it was USC in Pasadena for the Rose Bowl; and in 2002 the Orange and Blue faced LSU in New Orleans in the Sugar Bowl.
FACTS ABOUT THE KRAFT FIGHT HUNGER BOWL
This year's game will be the 10th installment of the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl and the second year with the current name. The bowl was previously known as the Emerald Bowl (2004-09) and the Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl (2002-03). The bowl is currently affiliated with the Pac-12 conference and Army, who was not bowl eligible this season, leaving officials free to invite Illinois as an at-large participant.
Previous Results of the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl
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
UCLA SERIES NOTES
The Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl will be the 12th meeting between Illinois and UCLA. The Bruins have won the last four meetings between the two teams, taking victories in Champaign in 2004, in Pasadena in 2003, in the 1991 John Hancock Bowl and in the 1984 Rose Bowl. Illinois' last win over UCLA was a 26-7 triumph in Champaign in 1964.
Illinois is 29-45 all-time against current Pac-12 Conference teams with a winning record against only California (7-3).
Illinois is 3-3 all-time in bowl games in the state of California, holding a 3-2 record in the Rose Bowl and an 0-1 mark in the Holiday Bowl, having lost to Hawaii in the 1992 Holiday Bowl.
ILLINI DEFENSE AMONG THE NATION'S ELITE
The Illinois defense made huge improvements in 2010 after the arrival of defensive coordinator Vic Koenning and has continued to improve in 2011.
ILLINOIS' DEFENSIVE IMPROVEMENT IN 2010 and 2011 Category 2009 (NR) 2010 (NR) 2011 (NR) Total Defense (ypg) 403.3 (91) 351.3 (38) 291.8 (7) Passing Defense (ypg) 248.83 (100) 220.5 (61) 159.1 (4) Points Allowed (ppg) 30.2 (96) 23.5 (48) 20.1 (21) Pass Eff. Defense 142.77 (103) 128.6 (61) 117.5 (26) Rushing Defense (ypg) 154.42 (76) 130.8 (32) 132.7 (42)
RECORDS TO WATCH (Complete updated Illinois Record Book)
Illinois needs five sacks to break the single-season school record of 40 that was set in 2001 and equaled in 2007. The Illini currently have 36 sacks.
Junior DE Whitney Mercilus needs 2.0 sacks to break Simeon Rice's UI single-season sacks record of 16.0 in 1994. Mercilus currently ranks second with 14.5 sacks this season.
Mercilus needs 4.0 tackles for loss to break the UI single-season TFL record of 23.0 that is shared by Rice (1995) and Mike Poloskey (1991). He currently ranks sixth with 19.5 TFLs. Sophomore LB Jonathan Brown also is in range of that record, as he ranks seventh with 19.0 TFLs and has closed fast with 10.0 TFLs in Illinois' last four games.
Mercilus needs one forced fumble to tie Elvis Dumervil's (Louisville) FBS record of 10 forced fumbles from 2005. He already holds the Big Ten record for single-season forced fumbles. Mercilus also can tie Rice's UI career forced fumbles record with two against UCLA.
Senior WR A.J. Jenkins needs 83 receiving yards to break David Williams' record of 1,278 yards from 1984. Jenkins currently ranks second with 1,196.
Jenkins also can tie the UI single-season record for 100-yard receiving games, which is shared by David Williams (1984 and 1985) and Brandon Lloyd (2001) with six.
Senior RB Jason Ford has 26 career rushing touchdowns, which ranks second on the UI career list behind career leader Howard Griffith (31).
Senior PK Derek Dimke can finish his career as Illinois' all-time leader in both field goal and extra point accuracy. He currently tops the UI record books in both categories, as his .860 career field goal accuracy leads Peter Christofilakos' old mark of .840, and his perfect 87-of-87 PAT mark joins Christofilakos (69-of-69) as the only Illini to never miss a PAT.
Weak-side tackle Jeff Allen has started 46 consecutive games for the Fighting Illini. The second-team All-Big Ten honoree has started every game since the fourth game of his freshman season. A start in the bowl game will move Allen into third on the UI career starts list, behind only school-record holders Ryan McDonald and Tim Simpson, who both had 48 career starts.