Illini Hit Road Again for PSU -10/27/98
Kickoff: 11:10 a.m. CT/12:10 p.m. ET. . . Site: Beaver Stadium (93,967, Grass), State College, Penn. . . . Expected Attendance: 93,967 (sellout).
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, multi-state area (WCIA-TV, Channel 3 in C-U, WBBM-Channel 2 in Chicago) . . . Wayne Larrivee, play-by-play; Randy Wright, color analyst; Jim Barbar, sidelines.
A LOOK AT THE COACHES
RON TURNER 2-17 in second season at Illinois, 9-21 overall in two seasons as a college head coach, 0-1 vs. PSU. 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.
JOE PATERNO 303-78-3 in his 33rd season at Penn State . . . The legendary Paterno has led Penn State to five undefeated seasons and seven consecutive New Year's Day bowl games in the 1990's, compiling the 4th best winning pct. among Division I schools in this decade . . . Won the 1994 Big Ten title and culminated undefeated season by beating Oregon in 1995 Rose Bowl . . . Has a 33-10 mark in Big Ten and is 4-0 vs. Illinois.
ILLINI-LIONS MEET FOR 8TH TIME
Illinois and Penn State meet for the eighth time in series history, dating to 1954. However, the teams have only played once in State College (a 28-14 PSU win in 1993). Penn State leads the series 6-1 and has won four in a row in the series dating to a 10-8 UI victory in Champaign in 1960. The Lions have won in 1972, 1993, 1994 and 1997, defeating the Illini, 41-6 in Champaign last fall. The teams have not played at PSU since 1993.
Overall series record: Penn State leads 6-1 (1954)
in Champaign: PSU leads 4-1
in State College: PSU leads 1-0
in Cleveland: PSU leads 1-0
Ron Turner vs. Penn State: 0-1
Joe Paterno vs. Illinois: 4-0
Longest UI streak: 1 (1960)
Longest PSU streak: 4 (1972-current)
Last 10 years: PSU 3-0
First game: PSU 14-12 (9/25/54 in Champaign)
Last game: PSU 41-6 (10/4/97 in Champaign)
PENN STATE QUICK FACTS
1997 record: 9-3 (6-2/2nd in Big Ten)
1997 final ranking: # 16
1997 bowl game: Citrus, Florida, L, 6-21
1998 record: 5-1 (2-1 Big Ten)
Current ranking: # 10 (AP)
Offensive system: Multiple
Defensive system: Multiple
Lettermen returning: 38
Starters returning: 11 (6 offense, 5 defense, 2 kickers)
Last week: Idle (beat Purdue 31-13 two weeks ago)
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
After playing five home games in six weeks, the Fighting Illini hit the road for the second consective week this Saturday at Penn State . . . Illinois is appearing on ESPN-Regional for the fourth time in six weeks (Iowa, Northwestern, Ohio State) with Wayne Larrivee, Randy Wright and Jim Barbar calling the action . . . Illinois is 1-2 on ESPN-Regional this season . . . Illinois is 1-2 on the road in 1998 (W, 13-10 at Northwestern) . . . Illinois snapped an 11-quarter TD-less streak with a TD pass from Kirk Johnson to Rob Majoy on the game's final play at Purdue . . . Mike Gusich and Danny Clark had INTs vs. PU.
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).
. . . 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).
"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 Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity. 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 by an Illini player. Here is the schedule for the rest of the season:
Oct. 26 Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity
Nov. 2 4-H House sorority
Nov. 9 NO SHOW - UI BASKETBALL TRIP
Nov. 16 Farmhouse fraternity
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); TE Mike Craciunoiu (knee); DOUBTFUL -- None; QUESTIONABLE -- None; PROBABLE -- None.
69% in the "RED ZONE"
Illinois is 9-13 (69%) in the Red Zone this season, scoring eight touchdowns and one field goal. The Illini were 2-3 vs. WSU, 3-4 vs. MTSU, 0-0 vs. Louisville, 1-2 vs. Iowa, 2-2 vs. Northwestern, 0-1 vs. OSU, 0-0 vs. Wisconsin and 1-1 vs. Purdue.
Penn State is ranked # 10 in Associated Press.
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 8 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 set career-highs for attempts (43) and completions (19) vs. Ohio State, but has been pulled at halftime in last two games . . . 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 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 . . . Mark Hoekstra started vs. Washington St., Middle Tennessee State and Louisville and played the 4th quarter vs. Wisconsin (8-22, 80 yards) and 3rd/4th quarter vs. Purdue (4-13, 50 yards) . . . Kirk Johnson played 4th quarter vs. Purdue, hitting 7-12 for 75 yards and one TD, throwing a TD pass to Rob Majoy on game's final play.
RUNNING BACK -- Fr. Jameel Cook gained 80 yards on 19 carries vs. Purdue, setting career marks in both categories. He had not carried the ball that much since 8 attempts vs. Iowa and 42 yards vs. WSU in season opener . . . Fr. Rocky Harvey 58 yards rushing on 30 carries in last 3 games . . .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 -- Jr. Elmer Hickman enjoyed his best rushing day, gaining a career-high 37 yards on 3 carries at Purdue, including a 24-yarder . . . Converted LB Chris Hoffman caught 1 pass for 8 yards vs. Purdue.
SPLIT END -- Juco Larry Davis started vs. Purdue and caught 2 passes for 16 yards . . . Davis caught 4 passes for 41 yards vs. Wisconsin. . . He 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. . . Davis leads the Illini in yards per catch at 15.0. . . Michael Dean has 18 catches for 242 yards but DNP vs. Purdue . . . George McDonald-Ashford had 3 catches for 30 yards vs. PU.
FLANKER -- Sr. Rob Majoy caught 3 fourth-quarter passes for 50 yards vs. Purdue, including a 2-yd. TD pass from Kirk Johnson on the game's final play . . . Jr. Lenny Willis caught 20 passes in 4 games but DNP vs. Purdue due to missing practice with an illness . . . Willis leads the Illini with 20 catches for 255 yards (12.8 avg.), averaging 51 yards per game. . . 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 had 5 catches for 28 yards vs. Wisconsin . . . 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. . . Rob Majoy made 3 catches for 34 yards vs. Wisconsin and has 6 catches for 84 yards in last 2 games.
TIGHT END -- Soph. Josh Whitman caught 2 passes for 19 yards at Purdue and hauled in a 25-yarder vs. Wisconsin . . . Redshirt frosh and converted QB Brian Hodges is the starter at tight end and has caught 5 passes for 40 yards, backed up by Whitman, who played in all 11 games as a true frosh . . .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 -- So. Fred Wakefield led the DEs with 5 tackles and one TFL vs. Purdue . . . Sr. Jeff Weisse earned the start alongside Rameel Connor vs. Purdue . . . Sr. Ryan Murphy made a surprise start at DE in place of Jason Eberhart vs. Wisconsin . . . Murphy had 6 tackles, including a TFL vs. Badgers . . . Jr. Rameel Connor had 4 stops and one TFL vs. UW and picked up 2 sacks vs. OSU , ranking 2nd on UI in TFLs with 9 for 36 yards . . . Connor leads the team with 4 QB hurries . . . Connor had one TFL and one PBU vs. Purdue . . . Sr. DE Jeff Weisse set a school record with six TFLs vs. MTSU and leads the team with 5 QB sacks . . . Jason Eberhart started first 6 games at DE 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.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE -- Sr. Garrett Johnson had 4 tackles vs. Purdue and is enjoying a great season with 48 tackles, good for 4th on UI squad with 33 solos, team-leading 10 TFLs for 39 yards and 4.5 QB sacks. . .Johnson, whose father, Herschel was a DL at Illinois from 1966-68, had six solos and 7 tackles vs. Wisconsin . . . Johnson had 7 stops with 1 QB sack vs. OSU, he was MVP vs. NU with 6 tackles, 3 TFLs and 2 QB sacks . . . Karleton Thomas made his first start of 1998 vs. NU with three tackles and a TFL. . . McGee has started 6 games, making 21 tackles and team-leading 5 QB sacks.
LINEBACKER -- Franklin and Clark led Illini with 8 tackles vs. Purdue with Franklin adding a TFL and Clark making his 2nd career interception . . . Clark, Franklin and Young all made 12 stops to lead Illini vs. Wisconsin . . .Franklin replaced Eric Guenther at MLB 4 games ago . . . Franklin had 15 stops vs. OSU and has 63 stops, including 48 solos, good for 2nd on UI squad behind All-Big Ten pick Danny Clark, who also had 15 stops vs. OSU and leads squad with 81 tackles and 9 TFLs . . . 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 . . . 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, had a career-best 7 stops vs. Wisconsin, including 5 solos in extended action.
DEFENSIVE BACK -- Jr. Asim Pleas had 7 stops vs. Purdue after a career-high 10 stops vs. Wisconsin, including 7 solos and 3 PBUs . . . Pleas, who leads Illini with 3 picks for 100 yards, including an 89-yard TD vs. MTSU, had 9 tackles and 1 PBU vs. OSU . . . 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 -- Look who's back . . . Sr. Mike Gusich made his first start in 4 weeks after injuring his knee vs. Louisville and responded with his 3rd career interception, returning a pick 24 yards early vs. Purdue . . . Gusich also had 7 tackles vs. Boilers in his 4th start of 1998 . . . True frosh Muhammad Abdullah, who started 4 games in Gusich's absence, made first career fumble recovery vs. Purdue and had career-high 10 tackles vs. Wisconsin, including 7 solos . . . Abdullah replaced injured Mike Gusich vs. Louisville . . . True soph. strong safety Bobby Jackson enjoyed career-high 10 tackles vs. OSU, including 5 solos . . . 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 -- Big Ten Special Teams POW Steve Fitts has averaged nearly 45 yds. per boot last 3 weeks, including 78-yarder vs. Wisconsin . . . Jr. Neil Rackers has hit 5 of last 7 FGs, including 39-yarder vs. Purdue and 38-yarder vs. Wisconsin . . . Rackers hit a career-best 46-yard FG vs. WSU and is 5-8 on FGs in 1998, including 2-3 from 40-49 yards.