Complete Illinois Fighting Illini Bowl Game History and Bowl Summaries

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Good morning college football and Illinois Fighting Illini fans. Another autumn Saturday is in the books and the season is just flying by. Last night saw Illinois go on the road, to Michigan State, and win their fourth straight game. They did it in extremely dramatic fashion, achieving the biggest comeback in school history (25 points).

Illinois is now bowl eligible, for the first time under Lovie Smith, and there are still two games left to play. This will be Illinois’ 19th bowl appearance, and they are 8-10 all-time. Let’s take a look at where we’ve been, so we can try to see where we’re going.

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Illini Bowl History: Mixed Results, Lots of UCLA for some Reason

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This year marks Illinois’ 17th bowl appearance, where they are 7-9 all-time. The Big Ten has had to play 16 bowl games in the state of their opponent since 2005. That’s more than double that of any other conference, and extremely unfair. And that number will increase by five this holiday season.

By appearing in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco versus UCLA, the Illini are facing a bowl opponent in their home state for the 4th consecutive time. For some reason, they’ve drawn UCLA in 4/17 appearances, nearly one quarter. In this match-up of two traditional college basketball powers, the Bruins hold a 3-1 advantage over Illinois.

Let’s take a look at Illinois’ bowl history:

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Mikel Leshoure to Rashard Mendenhall Comparisons Running Wild Now

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Given that they are/were both Illinois Fighting Illini, wore the same jersey number, played the same position, and didn’t break out until their junior year (and when they broke out, they really did it in style) it’s inevitable to compare current Illini tailback Mikel Leshoure to current Pittsbrugh Steelers star running back Rashard Mendenhall.

Heck, I wrote a column about it in October.

And after Leshoure’s huge, record-setting game in the Texas Bowl, more people are making the analogy. Leshoure was even asked the question Wednesday night, in the post-game press conference. Both are local products. Leshoure is from Champaign (Centenniel h.s.) and Mendenhall is from suburban Skokie (Niles West h.s.).

By Paul M. Banks

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Texas Bowl Sees Illinois and Baylor Break Numerous Records

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Last night’s college football match-up won38-14 by the Illinois Fighting Illini over Baylor broke a bunch of Texas Bowl, bowl history in the city of Houston, as well as Illinois and Baylor records. Seriously, there were a ton, but here are some of the most notable.

-The Illini tied the Texas Bowl record for most points scored 38 and most net yards gained at 533.

-Leshoure tied a Texas Bowl (and Houston Bowl game) record for most touchdowns with 3, rushed for a Texas Bowl record 187 yards.

-Scheelhaase set a Texas Bowl record for most consecutive passes completed at 13, completion percentage of 78.0. highest average gain per pass attempt (min. 20 attempts) at 13.4 yards. Both also highest in Houston bowl game history.

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Scheelhaase, Illini Put Texas (Bowl) Sized Whooping on Baylor

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It was exactly like the first (and only) time Chicago and Houston met in a major postseason sporting event. Granted the stakes in the college football Texas Bowl were much lower than that of the 2005 MLB World Series between the Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros; and Baylor University is about as geographically far from Houston as the University of Illinois is from Chicago.

But the results were as similarly lopsided as when the Sox swept the ‘Stros in the ’05 Fall Classic. Both times the stars at night, were big and bright, for the team opposing the heart of Texas.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, and his Illinois Fighting Illini teammates certainly looked like they benefited from the 15 extra practices that come from obtaining a bowl berth, as the Illini put up 533 yards of total offense and 38 points; breaking the school record set during the Champaign campaign of 2001.

By Paul M. Banks

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Texas Forever! Illinois to Play Baylor in Houston Texans Home, Texas Bowl

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It’s official! The Illinois Fighting Illini have learned their college football bowl destination, and it’s Houston, or more specifically, Reliant Stadium, home of the NFL’s Houston Texans, and this year’s college basketball Final Four.

They’ll play the Baylor Bears in the Texas Bowl on December 29th 5 p.m. CT on ESPN.

By Paul M. Banks

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