Illini Open Season at Pac-10 Champ WSU - 9/3/98
Kickoff: 5:30 p.m. CT . . . Site: Martin Stadium (37,600, OmniTurf), Pullman, Wash. . . . Expected Attendance: 35,000 +
Illini Sports Network, 54 stations (WDWS-AM 1400/WHMS-FM 97.5 in Champaign, WSCR-AM 1160 in Chicago, WFUN-FM 95.5 in St. Louis) . . . Jim Turpin, play-by-play; Jim Grabowski, color analyst
Fox Sports Net (Time-Warner Cable Channel 2 in Champaign-Urbana, Fox Sports Plus in Chicago) . . . Barry Tompkins (play-by-play), David Norrie (color).
Tickets remain for all six Illinois home games. For ticket information, contact the Athletic Ticket Office at (217) 333-5000. The ticket office is open in Room 100, Assembly Hall Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.
A LOOK AT THE COACHES
RON TURNER (0-11 in one season at Illinois, 7-15 overall in two seasons as a college head coach, 0-1 vs. WSU. Turner was the offensive coordinator of the NFL's Chicago Bears for four years before coming to Illinois. Prior to Chicago, Turner was head coach at San Jose State and served as an assistant coach at Stanford, Texas A&M, USC, Pitt, Northwestern, Arizona and Pacific. He was a two-year letterwinner as a WR at Pacific.)
MIKE PRICE (53-49 in nine years at Washington State and 99-93 in 17 years as a college head coach, 2-0 vs. UI. Price was head coach at Weber State from 1981-88 prior to coming to WSU. He served as an assistant coach at Missouri, WSU and Puget Sound. He played QB/DB at WSU and Puget Sound.)
ILLINOIS-WASHINGTON STATE SERIES
Washington State leads 4-2, dating to 1969. The teams have never met in Pullman with five games in Champaign and one in Chicago (1994, Soldier Field). WSU won the series opener, 19-18 in Champaign in 1969, the Illini won back-to-back heartstoppers in 1974 (21-19) and 1975 (27-21). WSU spoiled John Mackovic's Illini debut, 44-7, in 1988 at Memorial Stadium and edged the Illini, 10-9 at Soldier Field in Chicago in 1994.
ILLINI-WSU STREAKS, SERIES & STATS
in Champaign: WSU leads 3-2
in Pullman: first meeting
in Chicago: WSU leads 1-0
Ron Turner vs.WSU: 0-1
Mike Price vs. Illinois: 2-0
Longest UI streak: 2 (1974-75)
Longest WSU streak: 3 (1988, 94, 97)
Last 10 years: WSU 3-0
First game: WSU 19-18 (9/20/69 in Champaign)
Last game: WSU 35-22 (9/20/97 in Champaign)
SERIES REWIND: WSU 35, ILLINI 22
In front of a national TV audience on espn2, Illinois led WSU, 14-7 late in the third quarter before falling 35-22 as Ryan Leaf hit 21 of 36 passes for 302 yards and four TDs. Robert Holcombe rushed for 163 yards on 32 carries, including an electrifying 48-yard run early in the third quarter to give the Illini a 14-7 lead. Ivan Benson picked off two Leaf passes. QB Mark Hoekstra ran for one TD and threw for another score, hitting 23-46 for 165 yards with one TD and 2 interceptions. WSU scored on its first offensive play, an 80-yard bomb from Leaf to Kevin McKenzie. With the score tied at 14 in the fourth quarter, the Illini were stopped on a 4th-and-2 at the Cougar 35 and, after a WSU TD, fumbled on a 4th-and-1 at the WSU 44 yard line. WSU set a Memorial Stadium record with 18 penalties for 126 yards.
ROAD OPENERS TOUGH SINCE 1979
Illinois is 10-14 (.416) in opening day road games, compared to 58-21-5 (.714) in opening day home games. The Illini are 1-7 in opening day games played on the road since 1979, defeating USC, 14-13 in the 1989 season opener in the L.A. Coliseum. Illinois has dropped three road opening day games in a row, losing at Arizona in 1990, Missouri in 1993 and Michigan in 1996.
PAC-10 OPENING DAY GAMES
Illinois has opened the season on the road against a Pac-10 opponent six times, compiling a 3-3 record. The Illini won at Cal in 1955 and 1964 and beat USC in 1989 and lost at UCLA in 1957, Washington in 1962 and Arizona in 1990.
ILLINOIS: 68-35-5 ON OPENING DAY
Illinois is 68-35-5 (.665) in 108 season openers dating to 1890. The Illini have lost five consecutive openers, including a 10-9 decision to WSU in 1994 and 24-7 to Southern Miss last season. The Illini won their 1992 season opener, 30-14 over Northern Illinois at Memorial Stadium.
ILLINOIS VS. THE PAC-10
Illinois is 25-38 against Pac-10 teams, dating to the first meeting against USC in 1935. The Illini have played every Pac-10 team at least once, with the best mark against Cal (5-1) and the most games against USC (2-10).
ILLINOIS: FIRST BIG TEN VISITOR TO PULLMAN
Illinois is the first Big Ten school in the 103rd year of Washington State football to play a game in Pullman. The Cougars are 12-28 all-time vs. Big Ten teams with 37 of the 40 games played at Big Ten schools. Two games were played in Spokane (1942 vs. Michigan State & 1962 vs. Indiana) and one in Seattle (1974 vs. Ohio State) . . . Michigan State played at Pullman in 1947 but was not a member of the Big Ten Conference until six years later . . . Illinois is 10-14 in opening day road games.
DEPTH CHART UPDATE:
Sophomore Jason Eberhart (St. Louis, Mo./Mehlville) will start at defensive end in place of Fred Wakefield, who will not make the WSU trip due to a virus. Eberhart will be backed up by Ryan Murphy with Jeff Weisse backing up Rameel Connor at the opposite defensive end position. Senior defensive tackle Joe Lauzen will miss 1-2 weeks with mononucleosis.
After the opener at Washington State, the Illini play three consecutive home games (Sept. 12 vs. Middle Tennessee State, Sept. 19 vs. Louisville and Sept. 26 vs. Iowa) and five of the next six games at home.
"RON TURNER SHOW" MONDAY NIGHTS
The "Ron Turner Show" makes its second season debut tonight on the 54-station Illini Sports Network from 6:05-7 p.m. with host Jim Turpin. The "Ron Turner Show" will move to a different campus location each week with tonight's show at Alpha Gamma Sigma (IlliDell) fraternity. Locally, the show can be heard on WDWS-AM 1400. The show is open to the public and features a ticket trivia contest. Here is the schedule for the first eight weeks:
Aug. 31 Alpha Gamma Sigma
Sept. 7 Alpha Delta Phi
Sept. 14 Delta Upsilon
Sept. 21 Alpha Gamma Delta
Sept. 28 Koinonia House
Oct. 5 Beta Sigma Psi
Oct. 12 Kappa Delta
Oct. 19 Alpha Tau Omega
"RON TURNER TV SHOW" OPENS SUNDAY
The "Ron Turner Show," a half-hour weekly television highlights show featuring Coach Turner and host Chris Widlic, makes its debut Sunday, Sept. 6 at 10:30 a.m. on WCIA, Channel 3. The show can also be seen on Fox Sports Chicago Tuesdays at 3:30 p.m. and Friday mornings (time TBA). Consult your local listings.
PROBABLE -- TE Mike Cracioniou (hamstring); WR Lenny Willis (ankle); DE Rameel Connor (hamstring).
None. WSU received 4 votes in the AP poll.
ILLINI & BIG TEN ON-LINE
For the latest information about Fighting Illini athletics, media members can access the Illinois athletics home page at www.fightingillini.com
The Big Ten Conference also has an active home page, featuring information on all Big Ten institutions at: http://www.bigten.org.
THE ILLINI: A POCKET REFERENCE
OFFENSIVE LINE -- Five starters combined for 36 starts last season (R. Schau & Sullivan, 11; Redziniak 7; Machado 4, T. Schau 3). Jr. Chip Nicastro provides veteran depth at both tackles . . . Juco transfer Matt Carlton backs up at LG and redshirt frosh are backups at C (Luke Butkus, nephew of Hall-of-Famer Dick Butkus) and RG (Jay Kulaga).
QUARTERBACK -- Sr. Mark Hoekstra started five games in 1997, including vs. WSU, rushing for one TD and passing for one TD vs. Cougars . . . Backup is true frosh Kurt Kittner from Schaumburg H.S.
RUNNING BACK -- Jr. Steve Havard started 3 games at fullback last fall alongside Holcombe . . . Becomes starting HB at Illinois 75 years after fellow Wheaton native Red Grange moved into starting backfield . . . Redshirt frosh Jameel Cook from Miami Southridge has had great fall camp, along with true frosh speedster Rocky Harvey from Chicago Dunbar . . . Harvey shattered Illinois H.S. record book with 2,500 yards and 40 TDs last fall, also won Chicago Public League 100-meter dash title.
FULLBACK --Converted LB Chris Hoffman is the starter after solid spring and fall camps . . . Jr. Elmer Hickman is backup after opening 1997 as the starter . . . Havard has also worked out at fullback in fall camp.
WIDE RECEIVER -- Jr. Michael Dean is the starter at split end, backed up by juco transfer Larry Davis . . . Dean espouses his "3-H" success model: Heart, Head and Hands, started 4 games last fall . . . L.D. grew up in Houston, attended Lamar H.S. and Blinn J.C., catching 30 passes for 400 yards and two TDs as Blinn won consecutive NJCAA titles. At flanker, juco Terrance Smalls, who enrolled at Illinois last January and took part in spring ball, is the starter ahead of senior George McDonald-Ashford . . . Terrance caught school-record 90 passes in two seasons at Citrus College, a native of L.A.
TIGHT END -- Soph. Josh Whitman, who played in all 11 games as a true frosh, and redshirt frosh and converted QB Brian Hodges battle for the starting job, backed up by soph. Mike Cracioniou (pronounced "Crass-ih-noy") . . . Whitman is Academic All-American candidate with 3.96 GPA in Business.
DEFENSIVE END -- Rameel Connor returns on one side after missing all last season with knee injury, backed up by veterans Ryan Murphy and Jeff Weisse . . . On the other side, 6-foot-7 Fred Wakefield opens up, backed by soph. Jason Eberhart . . . The tall, rangy Wakefield is a local product (nearby Tuscola) and is an Academic All-American candidate with a 3.2 GPA in Kinesiology.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE -- Senior leader Garrett Johnson anchors middle, up to 290 this fall, alongside jr. Mike McGee or soph. Karleton Thomas with backup from soph. Seth Tesdall.
LINEBACKER -- Veteran trio opens up with '97 honorable mention All-Big Ten "Will" LB Danny Clark alongside soph. "Sam" LB Mike Young and senior MLB Eric Guenther, a three-year letterwinner . . . Solid backups in soph. Robert Franklin, who can play any of the 3 spots, soph. Eric Garrett, who played FB last fall, and soph. Mondrian Long, an accomplished sketch artist who showed his art at Krannert Art Museum last year.
DEFENSIVE BACK -- Jr. Asim Pleas starts at one corner after playing safety last season, alongside 6-foot-2 jr. Tony Francis . . . Plenty of backup help with juco transfers Johnnie Harris and Johnny Rogers and redshirt frosh Anthony Hurd.
SAFETY -- True soph. Bobby Jackson opens at strong safety after winning job as a freshman . . . Jackson, an outstanding student, is wavering toward Advertising career after talking about becoming an Astronaut last fall . . .Academic All-American candidate Mike Gusich (3.7 GPA in Finance) opens at free safety, backed up by another outstanding UI scholar in Ivan Benson (3.5 in Advertising, Arthur Ashe Scholar-Athlete Award) and true frosh Muhammad Abdullah.
PUNTER/KICKER -- True frosh and South Carolina native Steve Fitts is the opening day punter, an outstanding athlete . . . His father, Steve, was kicker at Clemson . . . Jr. Neil Rackers opens at placekicker after hitting 5-10 FG and 10-11 XPT last fall . . . Rackers and Fitts are also the backups at P and PK. . . Soph. Nathan Hodel is the snapper and Hoekstra is the holder.