Louisville Pre-Game Notes
Kickoff: 11:10 a.m. CT . . . Site: Memorial Stadium (70,904, AstroTurf), Champaign, Ill. . . . Expected Attendance: 40,000
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; David James, sideline
espn2 . . . Steve Levy (play-by-play), Mike Golic (color), Holly Rowe (sideline).
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 1-12 in second season at Illinois, 8-16 overall in two seasons as a college head coach, 0-1 vs. Louisville. 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.
JOHN L. SMITH 0-2 in his first season at Louisville, 69-41 in his 10th season as a college head coach, 0-0 vs. UI. Smith came to Louisville after rebuilding Idaho (53-21, 6 years) and Utah State (16-18, 3 years), winning two Big Sky titles at Idaho and leading Utah State to two consecutive winning seasons and the 1997 Big West title. He served as an assistant at his alma mater, Weber State, Montana, Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming and Washington State. Smith played QB/LB at Weber State (1969-71).
Series tied 1-1. Illinois won 23-6 in Champaign in 1986 and Louisville defeated the Illini, 26-14 (9/13) last fall in the Derby City. Last fall, a fake punt with six minutes to play helped the Cardinals break a 14-all tie. The Illini had stopped Louisville at its own 38-yard line when Cardinal punter Jeremy Borseth shoveled the ball to Jason Wyatt for a 25-yard gain. The Cardinals' QB Chris Redman hit Ibn Green with a 20-yard TD to put UL up 20-14 and Redman-Green connected for a 63-yard strike to put the game out of reach. Redman was 19 for 28 for 324 yards and three touchdowns, all to Green, who caught six passes for 151 yards. Robert Holcombe gained 165 yards on 40 carries and Mark Hoekstra hit 21 of 43 passes for 209 yards.
LOUISVILLE QUICK FACTS
1997 record: 1-10 (0-6/7th in Conference USA)
Location: Louisville, Ky.
Offensive system: One-back
Defensive system: 4-3 Flex
Starters returning: 15 (8 offense, 5 defense, 2 kickers)
ILLINOIS VS. CONFERENCE USA
Although not every Conference USA institution offers football currently, Illinois has played nine Conference USA member schools, posting a 15-8-3 record. Last year, UI lost to C-USA members Southern Miss and Louisville. Houston joined C-USA in 1996, East Carolina in 1997 and Army this fall.
ROOKIE ROCKY RUNS WILD
True freshman Rocky Harvey ran into the UI record book, rushing for 215 yards and three TDs in 24 carries vs. MTSU. Harvey's 48-yard first quarter TD run was the longest scoring romp by a true freshman since Buddy Young ran wild in 1944. It was only the ninth 200-yard effort in school history and the fifth-highest single-game performance in school history. It was the most yards by a UI back in a game since Robert Holcombe's record-setting 315 yards at Minnesota in 1996.
HAVARD: 2 straight 100-plus games
Junior HB Steve Havard joined Harvey in the 100-yard club with 175 yards and two TDs on 24 carries. Havard has topped the 100-yard mark in each of the first two games after gaining 103 yards on 24 carries with one TD at Washington State. Havard, who hails from the same hometown (Wheaton) as legendary "Red Grange, scored his fourth and fifth career rushing TDs and set personal marks for attempts and rushing yards.
"O" LINE DELIVERS
Illinois rushed for 391 yards on 50 carries for a 7.8 average behind the experienced offensive line of Marques Sullivan, J.P. Machado, Tom Schau, Ray Redziniak and Ryan Schau. It was the highest team rushing mark since recording 333 yards at Minnesota Nov. 16, 1996 and was the ninth highest team rushing total in school history. No Illinois team has rushed for this many yards in a game since the Illini piled up 420 yards vs. Minnesota Oct. 11, 1975.
DEFENSE PUTS POINTS ON THE BOARD
The Illinois defensive unit put points on the board as Asim Pleas romped 89 yards with an interception in the fourth quarter vs. Middle Tennessee State, the second Pleas score of his career (Akron, 30 yards, 1996). The Illini defense has given up just one touchdown in two games and picked up four turnovers (two interceptions, two fumbles). The four turnovers have led to 10 Illinois points. The Illinois defense had 21 TFLs and 8.5 QB sacks vs. MTSU.
WEISSE SETS A RECORD FOR TFL'S
Senior DE Jeff Weisse enjoyed a big game vs. Middle Tennessee State, setting a UI record with six TFLs for 37 yards. Weisse, who had eight tackles, also had 3.5 QB sacks for 25 yards.
... AND DON'T FORGET GARRETT
Senior DT Garrett Johnson led the Illini with nine tackles, including six solos. Johnson had four TFLs for 16 yards and two QB sacks for 14 yards.
...AND WHAT ABOUT RAMEEL
Junior DE Rameel Connor, who has been battling a hamstring injury, had five tackles, three TFLs for 11 yards and 0.5 QB sacks.
WHO ARE THOSE GUYS?
True frosh DE Tim McGill, who started training camp at fullback, made his UI debut with two tackles and a QB sack . . . Redshirt frosh DE Robby Long from Champaign Centennial H.S. was also part of the sack party with two tackles and a sack.
Some other players who were on the field include redshirt freshmen OL Dan Cutter, Jay Kulaga and Luke Butkus, juco wide receiver William Loyd, junior safety Nolan Nawrocki on kickoff teams, freshman DB Thomas Robinson and TE Mike Cracioniou.
RACKERS RACKING UP POINTS
Jr. PK Neil Rackers belted a career-record six extra points in seven attempts, one week after hitting a career-best two field goals at Washington State, including a 46-yarder. Rackers is 2-3 on field goals and 7-8 on extra points for 13 points in 1998.
"RON TURNER SHOW" ROARS ON...
The "Ron Turner Show" continues its second season 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 Delta Upsilon 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 next seven weeks:
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
Oct. 26 Sigma Alpha Mu
"RON TURNER TV SHOW" AIRS SUNDAY
The "Ron Turner Show," a half-hour weekly television highlights show featuring Coach Turner and host Chris Widlic, airs locally Sundays 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.
OUT -- DE Fred Wakefield (virus); DT Joe Lauzen (mono).
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: AROUND THE HORN
OFFENSIVE LINE -- Five starters combined for 36 starts last season (R. Schau & Sullivan, 11; Redziniak 7; Machado 4, T. Schau 3) and all have started first 2 games . . . All backups have seen some game action in first 2 games, including juco transfer Matt Carlton at LG, jr. OT Chip Nicastro and a trio of redshirt frosh in C (Luke Butkus, nephew of Hall-of-Famer Dick Butkus), RG (Jay Kulaga), and Dan Cutter. . . Kulaga also blocks on extra points and field goals.
QUARTERBACK -- Sr. Mark Hoekstra hit 6 of 18 passes with 4 interceptions vs. Middle Tennessee, scoring a TD on a two-yard keeper . . . Hoekstra was 17-42 for 145 yards with no interceptions (69.48 efficiency rating) vs. WSU . . . Hoekstra is now 160-326 (49.1 %) for 1,481 yards in his career . . . Backup true frosh Kurt Kittner from Schaumburg H.S. threw for more than 1,200 yards in 3+ games as a h.s. senior before breaking his thumb . . . Kittner returned to play LB for remainder of senior season . . . Kittner made UI debut with one-yard kneeldown vs. MTSU to end the game.
RUNNING BACK -- Jr. Steve Havard has 2 consecutive 100-yard games with 103 vs. Wash. St. and 175 vs. MTSU . . . True frosh Rausell "Rocky" Harvey electrified Memorial Stadium with 215 yards on 24 carries with TD runs of 48, 1, and 8 yards . . . Harvey set IHSA single-season and career rushing and TD records, last season rushing for nearly 4,000 yards and 40 TDs at Dunbar H.S. in Chicago. . . Redshirt frosh Jameel Cook missed MTSU game with turf toe after rushing for 42 yards vs. WSU.
FULLBACK --Converted LB Chris Hoffman and jr. Elmer Hickman split time vs. WSU and MTSU. Hoffman is a two-year letterwinner at LB who moved to FB during spring drills.
WIDE RECEIVER -- Jr. SE Michael Dean hauled in a 37-yarder vs. MTSU, catching 2 balls for 52 yards . . . Dean and jr. FL Terrance Smalls combined for nine catches for 88 yards vs. WSU with Rob Majoy also making two catches . . .Lenny Willis, the top returning receiver from 1997, has sat out both games due to an ankle sprain.
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 and Hodges started in two tight end set vs. MTSU, catching a combined three passes for 27 yards . . . Whitman is Academic All-American candidate with 3.96 GPA in Business. . . Hodges made his first UI start vs. Washington State.
DEFENSIVE END -- Rameel Connor has made two starts with a sore hamstring and has five TFLs . . . Jason Eberhart has started both games in place of Fred Wakefield, who was home in Tuscola recovering from a virus and will return for more tests Tuesday . . . Senior backup DE Jeff Weisse enjoyed a record-setting night vs. MTSU with eight tackles, six solos, a school-record 6 TFLs for 37 yards and 3.5 sacks for 25 yards.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE -- Sr. Garrett Johnson led the Illini defense vs. MTSU with nine tackles, including six solos, four TFLs and two QB sacks . . . Johnson also had seven solo tackles in WSU game with three TFLs and a fumble recovery . . . Mike McGee had four tackles vs. Wash. St. and five vs. MTSU.
LINEBACKER -- '97 honorable mention All-Big Ten "Will" LB Danny Clark had eight solos, one TFL and forced and recovered a fumble, stripping WSU's DeJuan Gilmore and setting up a UI TD drive in WSU game, coming back with five stops and two TFLs vs. MTSU . . . Senior MLB Eric Guenther, a three-year letterwinner, had seven stops vs. WSU but missed MTSU game with sore hamstring . . . Guenther is expected back at full speed for practice and game this week . . . Solid backups in soph. Robert Franklin, who can play any of the 3 spots with two tackles vs. WSU and six vs. MTSU, making the start in place of Guenther . . . Soph. Eric Garrett, who played FB last fall, returned to LB this year and had three tackles and one TFL vs. MTSU . . . Soph. Mondrian Long is an accomplished sketch artist who showed his art at Krannert Art Museum last year.
DEFENSIVE BACK -- Jr. Asim Pleas led the Illini with nine tackles vs. WSU, including seven solos . . . Pleas made five stops vs. MTSU and scored the 2nd TD of his career with 89-yard interception return, the fifth-longest in Memorial Stadium history . . . 6-foot-2 jr. Tony Francis is tallest UI DB . . . Fr. Anthony Hurd also backs up in defensive backfield.
SAFETY -- True soph. strong safety Bobby Jackson made four tackles, including three solos, vs. WSU and had three tackles vs. MTSU . . . Jackson, who started the last five games last season, is an outstanding student who is wavering toward Advertising career after talking about becoming an Astronaut last fall . . .Academic All-American candidate free safety Mike Gusich (3.7 GPA in Finance) picked off WSU QB Steve Birnbaum for his second career interception, returning it 19 yards . . . Gusich is backed up by another outstanding UI scholar in Ivan Benson (3.5 in Advertising, Arthur Ashe Scholar-Athlete Award) and true frosh Muhammad Abdullah, who made his UI debut vs. WSU.
PUNTER/KICKER -- True frosh and South Carolina native Steve Fitts was solid in his opening day duties at punter with a 43.6 yard average in eight kicks, including a 53-yarder. . . He also put two punts inside the 20-yard line and had a 39.9 net punting average . . . Fitts came back vs. MTSU with a 41.7 average on three punts . . . His father, Steve, was kicker at Clemson . . . Jr. Neil Rackers hit a career-best 46-yard FG vs. WSU, also connecting from 36 yards and missing his first attempt of '98 from 36 yards . . . Rackers' previous best was 42 yards vs. Indiana in 1996 . . . He also matched a career high with two FGs made in one game . . . Rackers hit 6-7 extra points vs. MTSU and is 7-8 XPT and 2-3 FG in 1998 after going 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.
KICKOFF/PUNT RETURNS -- WRs Larry Davis and Terrance Smalls return kickoffs with Small cranking out a 33-yarder vs. WSU. . . Smalls also returned four punts for 10 yards vs. WSU with a nine-yard return.