Illini Host Badgers in Homecoming
Kickoff: 11:10 a.m. CT . . . Site: Memorial Stadium (70,904, Turf), Champaign, Ill. . . . Expected Attendance: 45,000-50,000.
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 . . . Rich Waltz, play-by-play; Rodney Gilmore, color; Holly Rowe, sideline.
A LOOK AT THE COACHES
RON TURNER 2-15 in second season at Illinois, 9-19 overall in two seasons as a college head coach, 0-1 vs. Wisconsin. 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.
BARRY ALVAREZ 55-41-4 in his 9th year at Wisconsin. Alvarez was 1-10 in his first season at UW in 1990, 5-6 in 1991 and 1992 and 10-1-1 and Big Ten Champions in 1993. The Badgers have won 8 or more games in 4 of the last 5 years, playing in the 1994 Rose, 1995 Hall of Fame, 1996 Copper and 1997 Outback Bowls. Prior to arriving in Madison, Alvarez was Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator at Notre Dame (1987-89) and assistant coach at Iowa from 1979-86. Alvarez was a LB at Nebraska from 1966-68.
ILLINI-Badgers date to 1895
Illinois and Wisconsin will meet for the 69th time in a series that dates to 1895. Illinois leads the series, 33-28-7, including an 18-12-3 lead in Champaign. Wisconsin has won the last two meetings and four of the last five. Prior to 1993, Illinois had won 11 out of 12 meetings from 1981-92.
Overall series record: Illinois leads 33-28-7
in Champaign: Illinois leads 18-12-3
in Madison: Wisconsin leads 16-15-4
Ron Turner vs. Wisconsin: 0-1
Barry Alvarez vs. Illinois: 4-3-1
Longest UI streak: 6 (1987-92)
Longest UW streak: 3 (1899-1906; 1919-21; 1952-54)
Last 10 years: UI leads 5-4-1
First game: Tie 10-10 (10/26/1895 at Madison)
Last game: Wisconsin, 31-7 (10/11/97 at Madison)
UI: THE BIRTHPLACE OF HOMECOMING
The University of Illinois is the birthplace of the College Homecoming tradition, started by UI students C.F. (Dab) Williams and W. Elmer Ekblaw in 1909, members of the Shield and Trident Senior Honor Society. This is the 88th Homecoming celebration on the Illinois campus with the Illini posting a 38-47-2 record over the years with the alumni back in the stands. Illinois is 8-1 vs. visiting Wisconsin on Homecoming, beating the Badgers, 32-9 in the last Homecoming tilt in 1989. Illinois has dropped 4 Homecoming games in a row dating to 1993.
It's a busy campus this weekend...Here are the highlights:
1998 theme: "Planet Illinois: It's Outta This World!" Friday: 6 p.m - Parade; 7 p.m. - Bonfire/Pep Rally & UI women's soccer vs. Iowa; 8 p.m. - Variety Show; 11 p.m. - Illini Basketball Madness: Sneak Peek at 1998 UI men's cagers.
WISCONSIN QUICK FACTS
1997 record: 8-5 (5-3/5th in Big Ten)
1997 final ranking: None
Current ranking: # 9 (AP)
1997 bowl game: Outback Bowl, L, Georgia, 6-33
Offensive system: Offset I
Defensive system: Multiple Front
Lettermen returning: 53
Starters returning: 19 (9 off./8 def./2 kickers)
Last week: Beat Purdue, 31-24
Great start: UW is 6-0 for the 1st time since '93, the Big Ten title and the Rose Bowl season with 21-16 victory over UCLA. The Badgers are ranked 9th this week in the AP poll, the highest ranking for UW since # 9 after the 1994 Rose Bowl.
UI FACES BACK-TO-BACK BIG TEN FOES
Illinois is 5-4-1 vs. Wisconsin during the last decade, winning 6 in a row from 1987-92 . . . Since 1993, UW is 4-0-1 in the series . . . Last season, UW broke away from a 14-7 game late in the 2nd quarter to win 31-7 in front of 79,327 fans at Camp Randall Stadium . . . Steve Havard scored on a 17-yard TD run . . . Badger RB Ron Dayne gained 207 yards on 28 carries with 2 TDs . . . After facing # 1 Ohio State last week, the Illini meet # 9 Wisconsin this Saturday, the first back-to-back Top 10 opponents on the UI schedule since Sept., 1989 (# 5 USC, # 8 Colorado) . . . It's the 88th annual Homecoming at Illinois!
ILLINI INDIVIDUAL ACCOLADES
THE QB: KITTNER
QB Kurt Kittner, the first true freshman to start at QB at Illinois since Bernie Krueger vs. Northwestern (11/23/46), hit 19 of 43 passes vs. Ohio State, including a 32-yarder to Terrance Smalls. Kittner threw for 245 yards in his debut vs Iowa, the highest passing total in two seasons. Kittner was steady at the wheel vs. Northwestern, hitting 13 of 20 passes for 124 yards and a TD pass to Rocky Harvey. Kittner is 1-2 as a starter and has completed 54 of 123 passes for 599 yards in 3+ games.
AND KURT HITS THE DEEP PASS . . .
Kittner has hit nine passes for 20 or more yards in 3+ games, including a 22-yarder vs. Louisville, 26, 32, 40 and 50 yards vs. Iowa and 26 & 37 yarders vs. NU and 21 & 32 yarders vs. OSU.
ROCKY THE RUNNING BACK
True freshman HB Rocky Harvey was held to 29 yards on 15 carries vs. OSU, but has gained 527 yards on 107 carries (4.9) with five TDs, an average of 87.8 yards per game. Harvey is headed for Buddy Young's UI frosh rushing record of 842 yards in 1944. Harvey was a workhorse vs. NU, gaining 132 yards on 40 carries (his 2nd 100+ game), catching four passes for 10 yards, including a TD pass from Kittner, four punt returns for 36 yards and one kickoff return for 36 yards. Rocky the Rocket also made his first career interception on a NU trick punt play. Harvey set an Illinois freshman single-game record with 215 yards and three TDs in 24 carries vs. MTSU.
AND HE RETURNS KICKS, TOO . . .
Harvey is averaging 132 yards in all-purpose per game, returning kickoffs (77 vs. Louisville, 47 vs. Iowa) and punts. He leads the team in scoring with 36 points (5 TDs running, 1 catching).
GIVING THEM (steve) FITTS
True frosh punter Steve Fitts enjoyed a career day vs. OSU, booting the ball 10 times for a gaudy 48.2 average, including a 66-yarder. Fitts is averaging 41.3 on 48 kicks in 1998 with seven downed inside the 20.
IT'S NO ACT . . . BIG YEAR FOR CLARK!
Junior Butkus Award candidate Danny Clark continues his leadership role on the Illini "D" with team-high 15 tackles vs. Ohio State and a PBU. Clark, who aspires to a broadcasting or acting career, enjoyed a summer theatre class and is making his curtain call on the field with team-leading 63 tackles, including 45 solos, 6 TFLs and 5 PBUs. On opening day, Clark caught, stripped and recovered the fumble from WSU tailback DeJuan Gilmore.
FRANKLIN IN MINT CONDITION AT MLB
Since replacing injured Eric Guenther at MLB following the Louisville game, St. Louis sophomore Robert Franklin has gone from linebacking "utility infielder" (he played all 3 LB spots) to leader on "D" with team-high 11 stops vs. Iowa, 6 tackles vs. NU and team-leading and career-best 15 tackles (with 12 solo stops) vs. Ohio State.
ANOTHER INTERCEPTION, PLEAS!
Junior Asim Pleas, who hails from Youngstown, Ohio (Cardinal Mooney H.S.), was moved from safety to cornerback during spring practice. The move continues to pay off as Pleas picked off his third pass of 1998 vs. NU, returning it 11 yards. Pleas returned a pass 89 yards for a TD vs. Middle Tennessee, the second TD of Pleas' career. Pleas now has eight career interceptions for 141 yards and two TDs in his career.
YOUNGEST BIG TEN TEAM . . .
There's been plenty of talk around the Big Ten about having young teams, but no squad features as many first-year starters as the Orange and Blue with 10 Illini starting for the first time in 1998 (TE Brian Hodges, LG J.P. Machado, SE Larry Davis, QB Kurt Kittner, FB Chris Hoffman, HB Rocky Harvey, FL Terrance Smalls, DE Jason Eberhart, FS Muhammad Abdullah, P Steve Fitts).
That's nearly half of the starting lineup !
. . . AND YOUTH IN THE 2-DEEP
In this week's two-deep depth chart, Illinois features 17 players who are completing their first season wearing the Orange and Blue, including four true freshman (QB, HB, FS, P).
vs. TOP TEN TEAMS
Since 1966, Illinois is . . . 27-83-3 vs. Top 20 teams and 6-42-2 vs. Top 10 teams
The Illini have dropped 13 in a row vs. ranked teams since beating No. 17 Arizona, 9-7 Sept. 16, 1995.
"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 Monday's show at Kappa Delta sorority. Locally, the show can be heard on WDWS-AM 1400. The show is open to the public and features a ticket trivia contest and an appearance tonight by starting QB Kurt Kittner. Here is the schedule for the next several weeks:
Oct. 19 Alpha Tau Omega
Oct. 26 Sigma Alpha Mu
Nov. 2 4-H House
Nov. 9 Farmhouse
Nov. 16 Delta Delta Delta
Nov. 23 Assembly Hall (prior to UI men's bkb game)
"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), DE Tim McGill (knee); WR William Loyd (leg); DT Joe Lauzen (mono); TE Mike Cracioniou (knee); DOUBTFUL -- None; QUESTIONABLE -- None; PROBABLE -- FS Mike Gusich (knee).
READY FOR THE RED ZONE
Illinois is 8-11 (73%) in the Red Zone this season, scoring seven touchdowns and one field goal. The Illini were 2-3 vs. WSU, 3-3 vs. MTSU and 2-2 vs. Northwestern. The Illini were 0-1 last week, reaching the OSU 15-yard line late in the game before turning the ball over on downs.
Wisconsin is ranked No. 9 in this week's AP poll, the highest ranking for the Badgers since the final poll after the 1994 Rose Bowl (also No. 9).
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:
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 6 games . . . All backups have seen some game action, including juco transfer Matt Carlton at LG, jr. OT Chip Nicastro (entire 2nd half vs. NU) and a trio of redshirt frosh in C (Luke Butkus, nephew of Hall-of-Famer Dick Butkus), RG (Jay Kulaga), and RT (Dan Cutter). . . Kulaga also blocks on extra points and field goals. . . Nicastro, Kulaga, Carlton and Butkus joined Sullivan in 4th quarter vs. OSU. . . R. Schau sprained ankle vs. NU but returned full speed for OSU.
QUARTERBACK -- Fr. Kurt Kittner continues to gain confidence, making his 3rd career start vs. OSU and setting career-highs for attempts (43) and completions (19) vs. Bucks . . . Kittner was 13-20 for 124 yards with one TD and one interception vs. NU and chucked for 245 yards vs. Iowa in his first college start, including 8-16 for 211 yards in the fourth quarter . . . Kittner tossed his first career TD pass, a 6-yard strike to Rocky Harvey vs. NU . . . Kittner was 9-27 vs. Louisville after replacing Hoekstra on first play of second quarter . . . Kittner also has a 61-yard TD run and has rushed for two TDs . . . Kittner is 54-123 for 599 yards (43.9 %) and has 9 passes of 20+ yards . . . 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 steady 4.9 yards per carry through his first 5 games, leading the Illini in rushing for the last month. . . Harvey rushed for 132 yards on 40 carries vs. NU with one TD rushing and one TD receiving . . . Harvey also racked up 72 yards in kick returns and intercepted a pass . . . 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 -- Converted LB Chris Hoffman is a ferocious blocker who caught 2 passes for 7 yards vs. OSU . . . Hoffman also caught two passes vs. Louisville and shares time with jr. Elmer Hickman. Hoffman is a two-year letterman at LB who moved to FB during spring drills. . . Hoffman missed the NU game after injuring his head and neck in practice.
SPLIT END -- Juco Larry Davis became first UI receiver since Ken Dilger (11/5/94 vs. Minn.) to top 100 yards in a game with 116 on four catches (40,50 yds) in his first career start vs. Iowa. . . Davis made a clutch 6-yard catch late in the NU game on 3rd down. . . Michael Dean leads Illini with 17 catches for 233 yards (13.7 per catch) and moves back into starting lineup.
FLANKER -- Jr. Lenny Willis joined Davis in the 100-yard club vs. Iowa with 100 yards on four catches, including a near-TD reception in the 4th quarter. . . Willis has 15 catches for 226 yards in last 3 games after catching 0 passes in first 4 games . . . Willis started at flanker vs. Northwestern and teamed with Kittner on three consecutive catches on a 77-yard TD drive. . . Willis led Illini with 6 catches for 39 yards vs. OSU.
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 . . . Hodges made a 9-yard catch vs. NU . . . Soph. Mike Cracioniou (pronounced "Crass-ih-noy") injured his knee vs. Iowa . . . 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 picked up 2 sacks vs. OSU and ranks 2nd on UI in TFLs with 8 for 33 yards . . . Connor ranks 6th on squad with 24 tackles, including 14 solos . . . Sr. DE Jeff Weisse set a school record with six TFLs vs. MTSU . . . Jason Eberhart has started all 6 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 is enjoying injury-free season with 39 tackles, including 25 solos, team-high 11 TFLs for 46 yards, 5.5 QB sacks . . .Johnson had 7 stops with 1 QB sack vs. OSU, he was MVP vs. NU with 6 tackles, 3 TFLs and 2 QB sacks . . . 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 . . . Karleton Thomas made his first start of 1998 vs. NU with three tackles and a TFL. . . Mike McGee has started 5 games, making 16 stops.
LINEBACKER -- Soph. Robert Franklin continues to make noise, replacing Eric Guenther at MLB 3 games ago . . . Franklin had 15 stops vs. OSU, with 12 solos to move into 2nd on UI tackle chart with 43 stops . . .Leader of Illini "D" is jr. All-Big Ten pick Danny Clark, who also had 15 stops vs. OSU and leads squad with 63 tackles . . . Clark, who would like to become a sports broadcaster or actor, took a theatre class this summer and is an outstanding interview. . . Clark was all over the field vs. NU with 12 tackles, including 8 solos and a team-high 3 TFLs . . . 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 for the season with a left knee injury. . . Guenther has lettered his first three seasons and has not used a medical redshirt season. . . Soph. Mike Young recorded his first QB sack of the season with a nine-yard drop of NU QB Hoffman . . . Young, the starting "Sam" LB, has 22 tackles, including 3 TFLs and 2 PBUs . . . Soph. Eric Garrett, who played FB last fall, returned to LB this year and saw extensive playing time vs. OSU with 3 tackles . . .Soph. Mondrian Long is an accomplished sketch artist who showed his art at Krannert Art Museum last year.
DEFENSIVE BACK -- Jr. Asim Pleas had 9 tackles and 1 PBU vs. his homestate Buckeyes . . . Pleas also enjoyed a huge game vs. NU with seven stops and his third theft of the season and eighth of his career . . . Pleas also 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 . . . First name, Asim, is Swahili for "Protector & Defender" . . .6-2 jr. Tony Francis had career-best 8 stops vs. OSU with 7 solos . . . Francis is tallest UI DB and had INT vs. Iowa and 4 tackles vs.NU . . . Johnny Rogers made the play of the game vs. NU, recovering a fumble on a punt early in the 4th quarter that led to the clinching UI TD.
SAFETY -- True soph. strong safety Bobby Jackson enjoyed career-high 10 tackles vs. OSU, including 5 solos . . . He had 5 stops vs. Iowa and NU . . . Muhammad Abdullah, a native of Barnegat, New Jersey, made 1st start with 6 tackles vs. Iowa . . . Abdullah came up big vs. NU with 7 tackles, including 5 solos, and a TD saving interception early in the game, his first career interception which he returned 18 yards . . . Abdullah added 6 stops vs. OSU . . . Veteran jr. Ivan Benson is capable backup at safety spots . . . Benson is also an outstanding UI scholar (3.5 in Advertising, Arthur Ashe Scholar-Athlete).
PUNTER/KICKER -- True frosh and South Carolina native Steve Fitts enjoyed his best day as a collegian, averaging 48.2 yards on 10 punts vs. OSU, including a 66-yarder . . . His father, Steve, was kicker at Clemson . . . Jr. Neil Rackers hit a career-best 46-yard FG vs. WSU and is 3-5 on FGs in 1998, including a perfect 2-2 from 40-49 yards. . . Rackers has not attempted a field goal in 3 games.