Illini Leading Rusher to Miss Bowl Game

jason_ford

Illinois football announced today that senior running back Jason Ford and redshirt freshman wide receiver Jake Kumerow are academically ineligible under NCAA rules and will not participate in the 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl versus UCLA on New Year’s Eve in San Francisco.

Ford is the Illini leading rusher this year with 600 yards on 155 carries (3.9 ypc) and seven touchdowns. He finishes his career 1,962 career rushing yards, which ranks 16th on the all-time Illinois rushing list, and 26 career rushing touchdowns, second in Illinois history behind only Howard Griffith (31).

This really isn’t that big of a loss for Illinois though. In fact, no Ford could be addition by subtraction.

[Read more…]

Illini Receiver A.J. Jenkins: Probably Best WR Weapon in Big Ten

Earlier this college football season, University of Illinois senior wide receiver A.J. Jenkins made some comments that proclaimed himself the best wide receiver in the Big Ten.

He has since backed off from those remarks, and now maintains a more standard, PR-friendly, humble and some could say vanilla manner in his on-the-record comments to the media. But his play on the field (third in the nation, first in the Big Ten in receiving yards) is making a loud and powerful statement.

[Read more…]

Illini LB Kick to Northwestern OL Groin Earns him 1 game Suspension

The Big Ten Conference announced today that it has accepted the one-game suspension of University of Illinois linebacker Jonathan Brown for violating the Big Ten Sportslike Conduct Agreement during the rivalry game versus Northwestern this past Saturday.

In case you missed it, Brown blatantly and very intentionally kneed Wildcats OL Patrick Ward in the, um, let’s say he hit him right in the Marvin McBucknuts. Watch the video here.

And the cheap shot/act of unwarranted aggression cost him the opportunity to play this week versus the Indiana Hoosiers.

[Read more…]

Groin Kicks. Juvenile Insults. Illinois-Northwestern Rivalry Gets Low Brow

The video that follows after the jump makes me anything but proud to be an Illinois alum.

Illini linebacker Jonathan Brown has had his issues within the program. He’s found himself benched when he’s failed to meet his commitments and expectations, but this is only going to further tarnish his reputation.

He kneed Northwestern offensive lineman Patrick Ward in the groin in the first half on Saturday.

[Read more…]

Illini Beat Northwestern 38-35: Chicago’s Big Ten Team?

scheelhaase

It was a week where one school’s marketing slogan became a motivational rallying cry for the other school in the state. Northwestern has been promoting themselves as “Chicago’s Big Ten Team” for a season and half, and today Illinois made stated pretty loudly how they felt about it.

Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase scored a 1-yard touchdown with 13 seconds left to lead #22 Illinois to a 38-35 comeback win over NU. He threw for a career-high 391 yards and three touchdowns (one interception) for the Illini (5-0 for the first time since 1951). All three TD passes went to A.J. Jenkins, who had 12 catches for a school-record 268 yards. The previous school receiving yards record was also set versus Northwestern in 1984. (David Williams 204).

[Read more…]

#22 Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Northwestern Wildcats: Brutally Honest Game Preview

Big Ten conference play begins with the annual in-state rivalry game between the Northwestern Wildcats and Illinois Fighting Illini. It does feel a little weird not having this game played on the last week of the season, when all the other intrastate, intra-region bloodfeud games are held.  But last year it was such a special event that it’s hard not to get excited for the 2011 edition.

Remember last year? The Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs hosted the Wrigleyville Classic, with ESPN Gameday and Erin Andrews visiting Chicago. And of course, the goofy everyone going the same way on offense because of the short-sighted brain-dead planning in regards to the end zone barrier less than six inches from the wall. That didn’t make anyone here look good.

One guy who did look good was Mikel Leshoure who broke the Illini single game rushing record. Illinois relied on a powerful rushing attack—totaling 519 yards on the ground—to turn a 27-24 halftime deficit into a 48-27 win over NU. The Wildcats were playing for the first time without quarterback Dan Persa, who injured his Achilles tendon the week prior against Iowa.

[Read more…]

Why the Illini Will Win More Games than Notre Dame

scheelhaase

You’re like, “ok Captain Obvious.”

Not so fast my friend, I was saying this in August too. I thought my local media friends would find that assertion crazy given all the BCS preseason hype Notre Dame was getting, and the fact that Illinois was getting zero votes in either poll.

But the truth is Notre Dame is 2-2, and very mediocre, while the Illini are this year’s Michigan State- a team that will finish with a much better record than they deserve. Like the ’10 Spartans, Illinois’ schedule sets up perfectly for a very fast start and a sweet record.

[Read more…]

Questioning Ron Zook’s Very Questionable Play-Calls, Rationale

erin andrews and ron zook

Fans of the Florida Gators will understand this piece.

Actually non college football fans will probably understand it even.

It feels like we publish this column every season. Last year, we did the “Did Ron Zook’s play-calling cost Illinois a win?” story after the Illini had a chance to upset then #2 Ohio State at home in the Big Ten conference opener. Go here to brush up on that.

And then there’s the 2006 loss to the Indiana Hoosiers, in which Zook inexplicably went for 2-pt conversions not once, but twice (both attempts failed) with the game tied early in the second quarter of what ended up being a 1-pt loss. The Zooker told the media afterward that the decisions didn’t matter.

Even though it was a ONE point loss (32-31), but yeah…

..the Zook terrible decision making season got started earlier in 2011. This time it happened in the pre-conference, and the questionable play-calls didn’t actually cost them a victory, as the Illini held on to beat Western Michigan 23-20.

[Read more…]

Illini Escape Western Michigan; Illinois 4-0 First Time since 1951!

western michigan cheerleaders

Sandwiched in between last weekend’s emotional prime time upset of nationally ranked Arizona State and next week’s Big Ten opener versus hated in-state rival Northwestern, today’s contest against MAC opponent Western Michigan certainly had a “trap game” feel.

And given the Illini performance in the first half, it certainly looked that way for awhile (think Minnesota game last season and again in ’08). But Illinois held on to beat the Broncos 23-20, despite finding themselves both trailing at halftime, and with a genuine opportunity to lose on the final defensive possession in the closing minute.

[Read more…]

Illini Win Over #18 Arizona State Feels Like Champaign Campaign

illini_cheerleader

With Illinois defeating the #18 Arizona State Sun Devils 17-14 tonight; and getting off to their first 3-0 start since 2001, it’s starting to feel quite a bit like that year. It was Illinois’ most recent Big Ten title season, but that’s not why it feels that way. The Fighting Illini have a long way to go to reach that Champaign Campaign plateau.

However, there are a few similarities. Start with our national day of remembrance last week for the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Throw in the 3-0 start coincidence, and the last win over a Pac-10 team coming in the ’01 season opener (at California 44-17), and it’s reminiscent a bit.

But the 2001 game this matches up with is the shootout win over a ranked Louisville team and Chris Redman. Both were early non-conference, first real test and the Illini pass with flying colors.

[Read more…]

#22/#18 Arizona State Sun Devils vs. Illinois Fighting Illini: Brutally Honest Game Preview

Illini Need Wide Receiver Ryan Lankford to Develop Into Third Option

Illinois Fighting Illini WR Ryan Lankford was the team’s most improved player this spring practice session. But he didn’t have a catch on Saturday in the big 33-15 win over Arkansas State. Someone preferably Lankford needs to become Illinois’ third option.

Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase threw for a career-best 267 yards. His 16 completions went to A.J. Jenkins, who had 11 catches for 148 yards and a touchdown, and Darius Millines, who caught five balls for 119 yards and a score.

[Read more…]