Illini Battle In-State Rival NU
Kickoff: 11:10 a.m. CT . . . Site: Ryan Field (47,129, Grass), Evanston, Ill. . . . Expected Attendance: 40,000-45,000.
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.
ESPN-Regional . . . Wayne Larrivee, play-by-play; Randy Wright, color; Jim Barbar, sideline.
A LOOK AT THE COACHES
RON TURNER 1-14 in second season at Illinois, 8-18 overall in two seasons as a college head coach, 0-1 vs. Northwestern. 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 (1981-82/QB & WR), Arizona and Pacific. He was a two-year letterwinner as a WR at Pacific.
GARY BARNETT 34-38-1 in his seventh season at Northwestern, 42-49-2 in his ninth year as a college head coach. Barnett came to NU after spending eight seasons at Colorado, coaching RB, QB, FB and serving as offensive coordinator in 1991. Barnett was 8-11-1 in two seasons as head coach at Fort Lewis College after working at the high school level for 10 seasons. He graduated from Missouri in 1969, playing WR for Coach Dan Devine. Barnett is 4-2 vs. Illinois, 1-1 in Evanston.
"THE SWEET SIOUX TOMAHAWK" SERIES
Intrastate rivals Illinois and Northwestern battle for the "Sweet Sioux Tomahawk" Trophy, a series that dates to 1945 when the staffs of the two student newspapers conceived the idea of a wooden Indian trophy, "Sweet Sioux." In September, 1946, "Sweet Sioux" was stolen from a showcase at Northwestern. In 1947, the Tomahawk Trophy was introduced to replace the purloined "Sweet Sioux" and has been used ever since. "Sweet Sioux" was located in 1948 (details on who stole it and how it was recovered are somewhat sketchy), but was discarded as a traveling trophy due to its size and weight.
Illinois leads the "Sweet Sioux Tomahawk" series, 27-22-2 and the overall series by a 47-39-5 mark dating to 1892, but NU has won the last three games dating to 1994. Last season, NU won 34-21 in Champaign.
Overall series record: Illinois leads 47-39-5
"Sweet Sioux Tomahawk Trophy" record: Illinois leads 27-22-2
in Champaign: Illinois leads 22-17-2
in Evanston: Illinois leads 24-22-3
in neutral sites: Illinois leads 1-0 (1923 at Wrigley Field)
Ron Turner vs. NU: 0-1
Gary Barnett vs. UI: 4-2
Longest UI streak: 7 (1913-28; 1979-85)
Longest NU streak: 4 (1929-32; 1938-41; 1947-50)
Last 10 years: Tied 5-5
First game: Tie 16-16 (Oct. 12, 1892 in Champaign)
Last game: NU 34-21 (Nov. 8, 1997 in Champaign)
UI: BACK ON ROAD FOR TROPHY MONTH
Illinois is back on the road for the first time in nearly a month after concluding a three-game homestand . . . The Illini begin "Trophy Month" with three of the next four games against traditional trophy series opponents, including NU (Sweet Sioux Tomahawk), Ohio State (Illibuck) and Purdue (Cannon) . . . Illinois looks to end a 15-game Big Ten Conference losing streak, including a 10-game road winless streak (0-9-1) dating to Nov. 4, 1995 at Iowa . . . QB Kurt Kittner threw for 245 yard in his first UI start, the most passing yards for the Illini since Scott Weaver (248 vs. Indiana, 1996), 244 in the second half.
OCTOBER IS "TROPHY SERIES" MONTH
During the next four weeks, Illinois will play all three of its traditional trophy series games, playing at Northwestern Saturday, Oct. 3 for the "Sweet Sioux Tomahawk," October 10 vs. Ohio State for "Illibuck" and October 24 at Purdue for the "Cannon." Illinois is looking to refill the trophy case located in the Player's Lounge in the UI Football Complex.
The "Trophy Series" Quick Reader
Trophy: Sweet Sioux Tomahawk
Description: A wooden Tomahawk Trophy replaced the lifesize "cigar store Indian" in 1947.
Series began: 1945
Series scoreboard: UI leads 27-27-2
Recent history: NU won last 3 meetings
Last year: NU, 34-21 (1997)
Description: A wooden turtle replaced the original real "Illibuck" after he died in 1927.
Series began: 1925 between two schools junior honor soci eties Bucket and Dipper (OSU) and Sachem (UI).
Series scoreboad: OSU leads 51-20-2
Recent history: OSU has won last three meetings
Last year: OSU 41-6 at Columbus (1997)
Description: A real, live working cannon which hasn't been fired since 1983.
Series began: 1943
Series scoreboard: Purdue leads 24-23-2
Recent history: Purdue has won last two meetings
Last year: Purdue 48-3 (1997)
NORTHWESTERN QUICK FACTS
1997 record: 5-7
Offensive system: Multiple
Defensive system: 4-3
1998 results: 9/5 - W, UNLV, 41-7; 9/12 - L, Duke, 10-44; 9/19 - W, at Rice, 23-14; 9/26 - L, at Wisconsin, 7-38.
KITTNER: 245 YARDS IN FIRST START
QB Kurt Kittner, the first true freshman to start at QB at Illinois since Bernie Krueger vs. Northwestern (11/23/46), threw for 245 yards in his debut, the most UI passing yards since Scott Weaver tossed for 248 vs. Indiana in OT in 1996. Kittner hit 13 of 33 passes with one interception and nearly hit his first TD pass when Lenny Willis was dragged down on the one-yard line late in the game. Kittner scored on a one-yard sneak for his second rushing TD in two games.
KITTNER: SOMETHING TO BUILD ON . . .
After hitting just 2-9 passes for one yard in the first half, Kittner hit 11 of 24 for 244 yards in the second half, including 8-16 for 211 yards in the fourth quarter. Kittner hit several homers down the stretch, hitting Willis for 15, 26 and 32 yards and Larry Davis for 40 and 50 yards.
KITTNER: RUSHING THE BALL
In just 2+ games, Kittner has rushed the ball 23 times for 52 yards and two TDs, ranking third on the team in attempts and rushing TDs and fourth in rushing yards. Kittner rattled off a 61-yard TD run, the second longest TD run by an Illini QB in history, bested only by Gil Berry vs. Chicago in 1932. Kittner rushed for 65 yards on eight carries vs. Louisville, the highest UI QB rushing total since Weiss gained 106 yard vs. Wisconsin in 1978. In the 1970's, only Weiss and Mike Wells (105 vs. Northwestern in 1972) topped Kittner's rushing total.
ROCKY, ROCKY, ROCKY . . .
True freshman Rocky Harvey, who is now listed as the UI starter at halfback, led the Illini in rushing for the third game in a row vs. Iowa, gaining 66 yards on 11 carries, including a 25-yard TD run, his fourth of the season. Harvey rushed for 86 yards on 17 carries vs. Louisville.
Harvey set an Illinois freshman single-game record with 215 yards and three TDs in 24 carries vs. MTSU. In four games (he played two plays against Washington State), Harvey has 366 yards on 52 carries (7.0 per carry).
AND HE RETURNS KICKS, TOO . . .
"Rocky the Rocket" is also returning kicks, catching four punts flawlessly vs. Louisville and returning two kickoffs for huge gains, one for 77 yards against Louisville and rattling off a 47-yarder vs. Iowa. That's a 62.0 yard average for two returns!
TWO-DEEP UNDERLINES TURNAROUND
In this week's two-deep depth chart, Illinois features 14 players who are completing their first season wearing the Orange and Blue, including four true freshman (QB, HB, FS, P), five redshirt frosh and five junior college transfers.
FRANKLIN: LEADS ILLINI WITH 11 STOPS
With a season-ending knee injury to middle linebacker Eric Guenther, soph. Robert Franklin moved into the starting lineup vs. Iowa and responded with 11 tackles, including six solos and two passes broken up. Franklin is second on the Illini with 24 tackles, including 17 solos.
ABDULLAH moves into the lineup
In 1 1/2 games as the starting free safety, true frosh Muhammad Abdullah has made it count with 10 tackles, including six stops vs. Iowa in his first career start.
RACKERS: Off to a solid start
Jr. PK Neil Rackers hit a 43-yard FG vs. Louisville, the longest UI FG at Memorial Stadium since Bret Scheuplein drilled a 44-yarder vs. Minnesota in 1995. Rackers is 3-5 on FGs this season, missing his first attempt of the season (36) and just missing wide right on a 53-yard attempt vs. Louisville. Rackers is 1-2 from 30-39 and 2-2 from 40-49 this season. He has also hit 9-10 extra points.
"RON TURNER SHOW" on the road...
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 Koinonia House. 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 several weeks:
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 p.m. and Friday mornings. Consult your local listings.
OUT -- LB Eric Guenther (knee), FS Mike Gusich (knee), DE Tim McGill (knee);William Loyd (leg); DOUBTFUL -- DT Joe Lauzen (mono); TE Mike Cracioniou (knee) QUESTIONABLE -- None; PROBABLE -- None.
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.
TV/RADIO QUICK FACTS
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 4 games . . . All backups have seen some game action in first 4 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. . . Kulaga played during the fourth quarter vs. Iowa.
QUARTERBACK -- Fr. Kurt Kittner made his first college start vs. Iowa, hitting 13-33 passes for 245 yards, including 8-16 for 211 yards in the fourth quarter . . . Kittner was the big play QB vs. Iowa, hitting passes of 32, 40 and 50 yards in the fourth quarter . . . Kittner was 9-27 vs. Louisville after replacing Hoekstra on first play of second quarter . . . Hoekstra is 26-69 (37.7%) for 268 yards with four picks and 0 TDs in first three games and Kittner is 22-60 for 319 yards with 2 picks and 0 TDs. . . Kittner is from Schaumburg H.S. and 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.
RUNNING BACK -- Fr. Rocky Harvey, a candidate for frosh post-season honors, is averaging a staggering 7 yards per carry through his first three games, leading the Illini in rushing for the last three weeks. . . Harvey gained 66 yards on 11 carries vs. Iowa, including a 25-yard TD gallop . . . He gained 86 yards on 17 carries vs. Louisville to lead UI for 2nd straight game after record-breaking 215-yard, 3 TD performance vs. MTSU . . . Harvey was the 1997 Chicago Sun-Times Illinois Prep Player of the Year . . . Harvey rushed for 7,395 yards and 107 TDs in three varsity seasons at Dunbar H.S., gaining 2,129 yards with 26 TDs as a sophomore, 2,636 yards with 41 TDs as a junior and 2,630 yards and 40 TDs as a senior. He ended his Dunbar career as the all-time IHSA leader in career rushing and TDs.
FULLBACK -- Illinois opened with Steve Havard in the same backfield as Rocky Harvey vs. Louisville, but also look for converted LB Chris Hoffman, a ferocious blocker who also caught two passes vs. Louisville and jr. Elmer Hickman. Hoffman is a two-year letterman at LB who moved to FB during spring drills.
SPLIT END -- Juco Larry Davis will make his first start, backed up by jr. SE Michael Dean, who caught five passes for 71 yards vs. Louisville. In his first extended action, Davis caught 3 passes for 116 yards vs. Iowa, hauling in a 40-yarder and a 50-yarder. . . Michael Dean caught 1 pass for 7 yards.
FLANKER -- With starter Terrance Smalls out of the Iowa game with a neck sprain, juco William Loyd saw his first significant playing time until a broken leg ended his season . . . Jr. Lenny Willis moved into flanker spot and caught team-leading 4 passes for 100 yards vs. Iowa. . . Smalls will be back vs. NU.
TIGHT END -- Redshirt frosh and converted QB Brian Hodges is the starter at tight end, backed up by soph. Josh Whitman, who played in all 11 games as a true frosh . . . Soph. Mike Cracioniou (pronounced "Crass-ih-noy") injured his knee vs. Iowa and is doubtful for the NU game pending medical tests . . . Whitman and Hodges started in two tight end set vs. MTSU, catching a combined three passes for 27 yards . . . Whitman is Academic A-A candidate with 3.96 GPA in Business. . . Hodges made his first UI start vs. WSU.
DEFENSIVE END -- Jr. Rameel Connor made four stops vs. Iowa and now leads DEs with 16 tackles, including 6 TFLs and 3 QB hurries, Rameel missed last season with torn ACL . . . Senior DE Jeff Weisse set a school record with six TFLs vs. MTSU . . . Jason Eberhart has started all 4 games in place of Fred Wakefield, who was slated to start at DE but missed first 3 games with virus . . . Wakefield made first 1998 appearance vs. Iowa, with 4 tackles and 2 TFLs . . . Eberhart had 4 solos vs. UL and 1 TFL vs. Iowa.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE -- Sr. Garrett Johnson picked up his team-leading 7th TFL vs. Louisville and is off to hot start with 21 tackles, including 16 solos, along with 7 TFLs, 3 sacks and a fumble recovery vs. WSU . . . 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., five vs. MTSU and 3 vs. UL . . . Karleton Thomas, who played DE in '97, had 3 stops vs. Iowa.
LINEBACKER -- '97 honorable mention All-Big Ten "Will" LB Danny Clark leads Illini with 33 stops, including 26 solos, along with 3 TFLs, 4 PBUs and an outstanding strip and recovery vs. WSU. . . Clark had 7 tackles, including 4 solos vs. Iowa & 12 tackles, including 9 solos vs. UL. . . Clark had eight solos, one TFL and forced and recovered a fumble vs. WSU . . . Senior MLB Eric Guenther, a three-year letterwinner, had a career-high 15 tackles, including 9 solos vs. UL but is out with a left knee injury. . . Guenther has lettered his first three seasons and has not used a medical redshirt season. . . Soph. Robert Franklin, who can play any of the 3 spots with two tackles vs. WSU and six vs. MTSU, is now the starter at MLB and had career-high 11 tackles vs. Iowa . . . 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 had 7 solos and 2 PBUs vs. Iowa . . . Pleas (pronounced "Ah-seam Plez") 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 . . . Pleas made it 2 in a row with pick vs. Louisville . . . First name, Asim, is Swahili for "Protector" . . .6-2 jr. Tony Francis is tallest UI DB and had INT vs. Iowa.
SAFETY -- True soph. strong safety Bobby Jackson had 5 stops vs. Iowa and Muhammad Abdullah, a native of Barnegat, New Jersey, made 1st start with 6 tackles vs. Iowa . . . Another backup is veteran and outstanding UI scholar in Ivan Benson (3.5 in Advertising, Arthur Ashe Scholar-Athlete Award).
PUNTER/KICKER -- True frosh and South Carolina native Steve Fitts is averaging 38.8 in 30 punts. . . . Fitts had a 43.6 yard average in eight kicks vs. WSU, including a 53-yarder. . . His father, Steve, was kicker at Clemson . . . Jr. Neil Rackers hit a career-best 46-yard FG vs. WSU