2008 Illinois Fighting
Northwestern 27 …
Northwestern took a 13-0 lead into halftime as Stephen Simmons ran for a
one-yard score and Ross Lane caught a 14-yard touchdown pass for all the points
the team would need. Illinois came out of the locker room and put together its
best drive of the day, finishing with a one-yard Jason Ford touchdown run, but
that would be it for the end zone. The Cats put it away with an 18-yard Eric
Peterman catch as part of a run of 11 unanswered points in the final 9:08.
Player of the game:
Northwestern DT Kevin Mims made seven tackles, two
sacks, and forced a fumble
Stat Leaders: Illinois - Passing: Juice Williams, 20-36,
212 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Juice Williams, 25-94. Receiving: Daniel Dufrene, 6-51
Northwestern - Passing: C.J. Bacher, 22-33, 230 yds, 2 TD,
Rushing: Stephen Simmons, 22-69, 1 TD. Receiving: Eric Peterman,
8-111, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The disappointing
season ended on a true down note as Illinois never got the offense going against
Northwestern in yet another puzzling performance. Juice Williams was fine, but
he didn’t provide the spark needed with his legs, and the fantastic receiving
corps didn’t do nearly enough against the mediocre NU secondary. The defense
couldn’t come up with a game-changing stop over the last three weeks, and now,
to see the year finished up by losing four of the last five isn’t going to sit
well for the next nine months.
2008 Illinois Preview
2007 Illinois Season
2008 Record: 5-7
Aug. 30 Missouri (St.
L.) L 52-42
Sept. 6 Eastern Illinois
Sept. 13 UL Lafayette W
Sept. 20 OPEN DATE
Sept. 27 at Penn State L 38-24
Oct. 4 at Michigan W 45-20
Oct. 11 Minnesota L 27-20
Oct. 18 Indiana W 55-13
Oct. 25 at Wisconsin L 27-17
Nov. 1 Iowa W 27-24
Nov. 8 WMU (Detroit) L
Nov. 15 Ohio State L 30-20
Nov. 22 at Northwestern L 27-10
2007 Record: 9-4
Missouri (St.L) L 40-34
Sept. 15 at
Syracuse W 41-20
Sept. 29 Penn
State W 27-20
Wisconsin W 31-26
Iowa L 10-6
Michigan L 27-17
Ohio State W 29-21
Jan. 1 USC L 49-14
Ohio State 30 …
Ohio State cranked out 305 yards of rushing offense with Beanie Wells and
Terrelle Pryor each going over the 100-yard mark. Pryor started out the scoring
with a one-yard run in the first quarter, but Illinois responded with a
brilliant fingertip catch from Jeff Cumberland from seven yards out. The
Buckeyes responded with the next 16 points helped by a three-yard Wells run and
20-yard catch from Dane Sanzenbacher. Illinois tried to come back with two field
goals late in the first half, but Dan Herron put it away for OSU early in the
second on a 12-yard run.
Player of the game:
Ohio State RB Beanie Wells ran 24 times for 143 yards
and a touchdown
Stat Leaders: Illinois - Passing: Juice Williams, 17-26,
192 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Daniel Dufrene, 8-79. Receiving: Daniel Dufrene, 5-42
Ohio State - Passing: Terrelle Pryor, 6-10, 49 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Chris Wells, 24-143, 1 TD. Receiving: Dan Sanzenbacher,
2-22, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Illinois did a good
job of spreading the ball around to several different players against Ohio
State, both in the passing game and on the ground, and it put up 455 yards of
total offense, but mistakes by the special teams and a few turnovers proved to
be a problem. That and the lack of run defense against Terrelle Pryor and Beanie
Wells. Brit Miller did his best to get in on every tackle, he made 14, but the D
couldn’t come up with any game-changing plays or takeaways. Now the Illini has
to beat Northwestern to be bowl eligible.
Western Michigan 23 …
Western Michigan stunned Illinois by holding on late after Juice Williams drove
the offense down to the Bronco 18, while Tim Hiller did his part early on. The
Bronco offense was stuffed in the second half, managing just a 45-yard John
Potter field goal, but got two Hiller touchdown passes in the second quarter to
go along with two other Potter field goals. Illinois kept pace with a Jason Ford
one-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and a five-yard Jeff Cumberland
scoring catch in the fourth, but it wasn’t enough. Brit Miller made 17 tackles
and forced a fumble for Illinois.
Player of the game:
Western Michigan WR Jamarko Simmons caught 11 passes
for 174 yards and a touchdown
Stat Leaders: Illinois - Passing: Juice Williams, 20-45,
328 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Juice Williams, 12-68. Receiving: Arrelious Benn, 7-111
Western Michigan - Passing: Tim Hiller, 28-40, 301 yds, 2
Rushing: Brandon West, 18-57. Receiving: Jamarko Simmons, 11-174,
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Illinois didn’t
appear to take the game seriously. It wasn’t physical enough on the offensive
front and Juice Williams didn’t pick up the blitz nearly as well as he needed
to. There were chances to make a statement early on, but a pick six was negated
by a holding call, and the team never seemed to get its rhythm on either side of
the ball. 6-6 might not get it done for a bowl; the Illinois might have to beat
both Ohio State and Northwestern to get a 13th date after the clunker
Illinois 27 … Iowa 24
Illinois rallied with Matt Eller hitting a 46-yard field goal with 24 seconds to
play after almost blowing a 24-9 lead. Iowa came up with 13 straight points in
the fourth quarter with Andy Brodell catching a 29-yard touchdown pass, followed
up by a two-point conversion, and Shonn Greene added a five-yard touchdown dash
on the way to a 24-24 tie before Juice Williams led the Illini on the
game-winning drive. Trent Mossbrucker his three field goals for the Hawkeyes,
but the Illini took the early lead on a one-yard Jason Ford run and a 50-yard
Fred Sykes touchdown catch.
Player of the game:
Illinois QB Juice Williams completed 22-of-37 passes
for 272 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions, and hr ran 12 times for 30
Stat Leaders: Illinois - Passing: Juice Williams, 22-37,
272 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Juice Williams 12-30. Receiving: Arrelious Benn, 7-96
Iowa - Passing: Richard Stanzi, 11-29, 191 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Shonn Greene, 21-103, 1 TD. Receiving: Andy Brodell,
3-81, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... All of a sudden,
the team knows just how important Daniel Dufrene is. After missing the Iowa game
due to personal reasons, Dufrene needs to get back into the mix to breathe some
life into the Illinois running game that only averaged 2.1 yards per carry and
gained 60 yards. There weren’t any big plays. Juice Williams wasn’t great, but
he was great when he had to be and hit the throws he needed to make. Now that
the losing streak is over, and a bowl game is still in sights, getting by
Western Michigan, in Detroit, is a must before facing Ohio State. The Illini
don’t want to get into the Northwestern game needing a win for a bowl game.
Wisconsin 27 …
Wisconsin scored 17 unanswered points in the second half on David Gilreath
touchdowns from 49 and eight yards out along with a 38-yard Philip Welch field
goal. Illinois got two Juice Williams touchdown passes, including a 14-yard
strike to a wide open A.J. Jenkins, but three interceptions proved costly. Brit
Miller made 16 tackles for the Illini.
Player of the game:
Wisconsin WR David Gilreath caught three passes for 71
yards and two touchdowns.
Stat Leaders: Illinois - Passing: Juice Williams, 17-32,
221 yds, 2 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Jason Ford, 12-47. Receiving: A.J. Jenkins, 3-61, 1 TD
Wisconsin - Passing: Dustin Sherer, 12-22, 174 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: John Clay, 25-88. Receiving: Garrett Graham, 6-79
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Illinois isn’t playing
well and the team, at least the Ron Zook and the coaching staff, isn’t happy.
The running game did next to nothing against Wisconsin, failing to find any
openings and not breaking off any big runs. Juice Williams hit on a few big pass
plays, but his three interceptions proved costly. Brit Miller appeared to make
every play on defense, but the entire front seven did a nice job. There were
some defensive breakdowns, but this loss is on the offense.
Illinois 55 … Indiana
Illinois rolled for 563 yards with freshman Jason Ford scoring three times
including a 41-yard dash early in the third quarter. Indiana, who was without an
injured Kellen Lewis, struggled to get the offense moving with a 25-yard Bryan
Payton touchdown dash in the first quarter doing little to stop the momentum.
Juice Williams got the Illinois passing game involved with three touchdown
passes to go along with an eight-yard scoring run. The special teams added the
finishing touch answering a fourth quarter Austin Starr field goal with a A.J.
Jenkins kickoff return for a score.
Player of the game:
Illinois RB Jason Ford ran 19 times for 172 yards and
Stat Leaders: Indiana - Passing: Ben Chappell, 12-29, 172
Rushing: Marcus Thigpen, 17-69. Receiving: Andrew Means, 4-67
Illinois - Passing: Juice Williams, 16-22, 271 yds, 3 TD
Rushing: Jason Ford, 19-172, 3 TD. Receiving: Arrelious Benn,
7-130, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Illinois was in
desperate need of a breather. Even the supposed layup games this year weren’t
easy, and to rip apart Indiana with ease was a big boost after the painful loss
to Minnesota. The more weapons, the better as Jason Ford now adds a new element
to the mix to go along with Juice Williams, who was razor-sharp. Arrelious Benn
came up with another huge day, catching seven passes for 130 yards to help
balance out the running game. Now the team has to use this to come up big during
a tough finishing kick.
... Illinois 20
The Minnesota defense gave up 462 passing yards to Juice Williams, but it
stopped him just short on a fourth and goal run and forced a late fumble, which
Simoni Lawrence returned nine yards for a touchdown with just over five minutes
to play. The Illini tried to come back as A.J. Jenkins caught a 35-yard
touchdown pass, to go along with a 54-yard touchdown earlier in the fourth
quarter, but a final Hail Mary attempt got knocked away. DeLeon Eskridge ran for
touchdowns from one and 54 yards out for the Gophers, and Eric Decker caught a
25-yard scoring pass. The two teams combined for eight sacks.
Player of the game: Minnesota LB Simoni Lawrence made nine tackles with a
sack, two tackles for loss, and a fumble recovery for a score.
Stat Leaders: Illinois - Passing: Juice Williams, 26-41,
462 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Juice Williams, 18-41. Receiving: Arrelious Benn, 12-181
Minnesota - Passing: Adam Weber, 18-26, 184 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: DeLeon Eskridge, 26-124, 2 TD. Receiving: Eric Decker, 9-86,
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
Juice Williams was brilliant
against Minnesota. He was in total command of the passing game, he ran for 41
yards, and he and Arrelious Benn, who caught 12 passes for 181 yards, and A.J.
Jenkins were tremendous. But the three turnovers and the lack of a run defense
turned out to be a killer. Minnesota kept coming with a decent balance and the
key plays in the fourth quarter that Illinois couldn't come up with. The
offensive line had one of its worst games of the year, getting little for the
running game while allowing four sacks.
Illinois 45 … Michigan 20
Michigan took a 14-3 lead into the second quarter as Greg Mathews caught an
11-yard touchdown pass. And then it was all Juice Williams as the Illinois
quarterback ran for a six-yard score, swing a pass to Daniel Dufrene for a
57-yard touchdown, and connected with Jeff Cumberland for a 77-yard touchdown as
part of a 28-point run to put the game away. Williams closed out the scoring
with a two-yard run. In all, Williams accounted for 431 yards of total offense,
the most by any player ever at Michigan Stadium. Illinois outgained Michigan 501
yards to 319.
Player of the game: Illinois QB Juice Williams completed 13-of 26 passes
for 310 yards and two touchdowns, and he ran 19 times for 121 yards and two
Stat Leaders: Illinois - Passing: Juice Williams, 13-26,
210 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Juice Williams, 19-121, 2 TD. Receiving: Arrelious Benn,
Michigan - Passing: Steven Threet, 18-35, 250 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Sam McGuffie, 19-70, 1 TD. Receiving: Martavious Odoms,
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
Juice Williams carried the team
on his back and made everyone around him better in the win over Michigan. The
team didn’t panic after the Wolverines got off to a hot start and calmly and
coolly made the big plays needed to not only get back in the game, but to also
blow the doors off. Williams averaged a whopping 23.8 yards per completion, and
the defense came through with stop after stop to allow the scoring run to
continue. The defensive front came up with four sacks, while the O line held the
great Wolverine D line out of the backfield.
38 ... Illinois 24
Derrick Williams was the first player under Joe Paterno to run for a touchdown,
catch a touchdown pass, and return a kick for a score in the same game. Illinois
hung around with two touchdown catches from Arrelious Benn, the first a
twisting, brilliant 33-yard grab which was ruled incomplete, and then reversed,
and the second a 54-yard pass play to pull the Illini within seven in the fourth
quarter. But Penn State always had an answer with Daryll Clark leading a seven
play, 77-yard drive culminating with a 17-yard Andrew Quarless touchdown catch
to put the game away. Navorro Bowman and Mark Rubin each made ten tackles for
Player of the game:
Penn State WR Derrick Williams caught six passes
for 75 yards and a touchdown, ran six times for 33 yards and a score, and
returned three kickoffs for 133 yards and a touchdown.
Stat Leaders: Illinois
Juice Williams, 13-24, 183 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Daniel Dufrene, 14-96. Receiving: Arrelious Benn, 4-110, 2 TD
Penn State - Passing: Darryl Clark, 14-20, 181 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Evan Royster, 19-139. Receiving: Derrick Williams, 6-75,
Whoopty doo. What
does it all mean, Basil? ... Penn State
has a serious defense, and Illinois was able to get the offense moving. 189
rushing yards and 183 passing yards didn't do enough to overcome the Nittany
Lion explosiveness, but Arrelious Benn did his part. The defense couldn't come
up with the one big stop needed for the offense to take over. Penn State was
always one step ahead and the Illini couldn't do anything to slow the machine
down. If the Illini offense plays as well as it did this week at Michigan next
week, the season will get back on track.
20 ... UL Lafayette 17
Brit Miller stole the ball away from ULL QB Michael Desormeaux and took it 27
yards for a touchdown and Daniel Dufrene took a pass ten yards for a score, but
the Illini had to hold on for deal life. Desormeaux an for a 34-yard score with
5:30 to play to pull the Ragin' Cajuns to within seven, but Illinois was able to
get up by ten with a 27-yard Matt Eller field goal with 1:36 left. Erik Jones
made a fingertip catch for an 11-yard score with 18 seconds to play to make it a
three point game, but Illinois recovered the on-side kick.
Player of the game:
Illinois RB Daniel Dufrene ran 19 times for 126
yards, and had three receptions for 24 yards and a touchdown.
Stat Leaders: UL Lafayette-
Passing: Michael Desormeaux, 25-35, 200 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Michael Desormeaux, 14-42, 1 TD. Receiving: Tyrell Fenroy,
Juice Williams, 13-25, 147 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
19-126. Receiving: Michael Hoomanawanui, 5-74
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Illinois
defense did a decent job of keeping Michael Desormeaux and the UL Lafayette
running game under wraps, but the offense didn't exactly turn on the juice to
put the game away. The running game only came up with 194 yards and Juice
Williams struggled both as a passer and to get the running game going. With a
week off, the team needs to sharpen up the passing game and get the timing down
on the ground attack before dealing with Penn State.
Illinois 47 .. Eastern
Juice Williams ran for 174 yards and two touchdowns and threw for two scores as
Illinois took a 47-7 lead into the fourth quarter. Eastern Illinois tied it at
seven with a five-yard Desmin Ward touchdown run, but didn't get back on the
board until late in the fourth with two garbage touchdowns. Arrelious Benn
caught touchdown passes from four and 13 yards in the third quarter, and Troy
Pollard added a 25-yard touchdown run in the fourth. Illinois outgained EIU 533
yards to 378.
Player of the game:
Juice Williams went 16-of-25 for 124 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions,
adding 174 yards and two scores on 16 carries.
Stat Leaders: Eastern Illinois - Passing: Bodie Reeder, 7-17,
102 yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs
Rushing: Travorus Bess, 15-183. Receiving: Charles Graves,
Illinois - Passing: Juice Williams, 16-25, 124 yds, 1 TD, 2
Rushing: Juice Williams, 16-174, 2 TDs. Receiving: Arrelious
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Last week Juice
Williams threw well against Missouri, and this week he ran over Eastern
Illinois. However, there were too many turnovers with two interceptions and
three fumbles, two from Williams, to keep the game from being even uglier.
Daniel Dufrene ran for 99 yards while the team finished with 399 rushing yards
and five scores. Expect more of the same next week against UL Lafayette.
Missouri 52 ...
Missouri cranked out 549 yards of total offense, but had a hard time putting
Juice Williams and the Illini away. Williams threw for 451 yards with five
touchdown passes, but the Illinois defense didn't have an answer for the Tiger
passing game, either. Chase Daniel threw three touchdown passes including two in
the third quarter to Tommy Saunders, while the special teams and defense also
came through with Jeremy Maclin answering an Illinois 34-yard interception
return for a touchdown by Derek Walker with a kickoff return for a score. Sean
Weatherspoon killed the Illinois fourth quarter comeback with a 35-yard
interception return for a score with 3:18 to play.
Player of the game:
In a losing cause, Illinois QB Juice Williams completed
26 of 42 passes for 451 yards and five touchdowns with
two interceptions, and he netted 10 yards rushing.
Stat Leaders: Missouri - Passing: Chase Daniel, 26-45, 323
yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Derrick Washington, 19-130, 2 TD. Receiving: Chase
Coffman, 9-120, 1 TD
Illinois - Passing: Juice Williams, 26-42, 451 yds, 5 TD, 2
Rushing: Daniel Dufrene, 13-75. Receiving: Arrelious Benn, 7-92
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Missouri game
was all on Juice Williams' shoulders. Get used to it. The lack of a Rashard
Mendenhall running back didn't seem to be that big a problem, Daniel Dufrene ran
well, but Williams has to carry the offense and be a steady leader throughout.
The offensive line had problems at times allowing five sacks, and going forward,
it needs to be far better in pass protection with Penn State coming up in a few
2008 Recruiting Class
Star of the Class
OL 6-7 316 Lemont, IL
Enrolled at the University of Illinois in January, 2008 ... PrepStar
Magazine Dream Team ... Named to the Chicago Sun Times All-Area
team ... Earned first-team All-State honors by the Chicago Tribune ...
Named to the Rivals250 team ... First-team All-State by the Champaign
News-Gazette ... Four-star recruit by Scout.com ... Named to the Midwest
Hot100 list by Scout.com ... Team broke 6A record for rushing yards in a playoff
game vs. Highland Park ... Also broke school records for points per game (35),
points in a season (490), total offense in a season (4,863) and rushing yards
per game (295.2) ... Listed as the 16th-best offensive tackle in the nation by
Scout.com ... SuperPrep All-American ... Led Lemont team to the
school's first appearance in the Illinois state finals in 2007 ... Named team
captain ... Had 26 scholarship offers ... Played in the Offense-Defense All-Star
game in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., after his senior season ... Bench presses over 350
pounds and squats 450 ... Chose Illinois over Michigan, Florida, Penn State,
Tennessee and Wisconsin
Potential Instant Impact Players
Four-star recruit by Scout.com ... Helped lead
Georgia Military College to a 9-2 record and a No. 9 national junior college
ranking in 2007 ... Team's defense ranked fourth in total defense and No. 1
against the rush ... Earned honorable mention All-America honors by JC
Gridwire ... Posted 28 tackles, two tackles for loss, four forced fumbles,
four interceptions, including an 85-yard touchdown, and five pass breakups ...
Had five interceptions, including a 84-yard return for a touchdown, and a
95-yard fumble recovery for a score in his first year of junior college ...
Posted 15 catches for 300 yards and five touchdowns, while recording 80 tackles
and seven interceptions as a high school senior in 2005 ... Chose Illinois over
Alabama, Miami and South Carolina
Four-star recruit by Scout.com ... Ranked as the
25th-best recruit in the state of Florida and the seventh-best defensive end by
Rivals.com ... Listed as the No. 8 defensive end nationally by Scout.com ...
Listed among Florida's Top-25 by the Miami Herald ... Named to Scout's
Florida Top-50 team ... Rated the No. 17 defensive end by ESPN.com ... Earned
first-team 6A All-State honors ... First-team All-Area by the Miami Herald
... Registered 59 tackles and 11 sacks in 2007 ... Named to the Atlanta
Journal Constitution's Super Southern 100 as the seventh-best defensive end
... SuperPrep All-American ... Recorded 55 tackles and six sacks as a
junior and 59 tackles and 11 sacks as a sophomore ... Also a member of the
wrestling team ... Chose Illinois over Miami, LSU and Florida State
Rest of the Class
Scranton , PA
2008 Early Lookahead
Why to get excited: There's a good nucleus of players coming
back, led by QB Juice Williams, WR Arrelious Benn, and CB Vontae Davis,
to challenge for yet another trip to the Rose Bowl. There's a boatload
of young talent waiting in the wings from Ron Zook's first two
recruiting classes, and while this might be a bit of a transition year,
the overall skill level is there to prevent a big dip. It'll be an
absolute shock if this isn't one of the four best teams in the league.
Why to be grouchy: Missouri (in St. Louis), at Penn State, at
Michigan, at Wisconsin, Ohio State. Uh-oh. Illinois might be happy to
win two of those five. While there's talent ready to shine through, you
don't get better by losing certain first round pick Rashard Mendenhall
out of the backfield, tackling-machine LB J Leman, all-star OG Martin
O'Donnell, and unsung DT rock Chris Norwell.
The number one thing to work on is: The passing game. It was far,
far better than it was in 2006, but teams still didn't respect Williams
when he had to put the ball in the air. He made Ohio State pay, but
couldn't do the same against USC. Benn might grow into the Big Ten's
best receiver, and there will always be single coverage with everyone
selling out to stop the run, so if Williams can be a little more
efficient, the offense should explode.
Biggest offensive loss: RB Rashard Mendenhall
Biggest defensive loss: LB J Leman
Best returning offensive player: QB Juice Williams, Jr.
Best returning defensive player: CB Vontae Davis, Jr.
When the Illini lost to Missouri, 40-34, on opening day, who would have guessed
that both schools would play bowl games on New Year’s Day? In Illinois’ case,
it copped a spot in the Rose Bowl, its first since 1983, after winning nine
games, finishing in a second place tie in the Big Ten, and authoring the
nation’s biggest turnaround after going 2-10 in 2006. More than anyone in
Champaign, the storybook season was vindication for Ron Zook, a respected
recruiter, who proved that he can coach a little as well.
Offensive Player of the Year: RB Rashard Mendenhall
Defensive Player of the Year: LB J Leman
Biggest Surprise: The Illini knocked off three ranked teams during the
season, none bigger than its upset of No. 1 and unbeaten Ohio State on Nov. 10.
Using a shrewd offensive gameplan to get QB Juice Williams into space, Illinois
held off the eventual Big Ten champs, beating a top-ranked opponent for the
first time since 1956.
Biggest Disappointment: Although Illinois’ Cinderella season was safe no
matter what happened in Pasadena, getting embarrassed by USC left many wondering
if the Illini ever belonged in a BCS bowl game. The Trojans toyed with the
Illinois defense, scoring seven touchdowns and racking up a Rose Bowl-record 663
yards of total offense.
Looking Ahead: Mendenhall’s early defection to the NFL hurts, but
Illinois has been recruiting so well, and has so much returning talent that
another nine-win season will catch no one off guard in 2008. Williams needs to
tighten up his consistency as a thrower, or else Eddie McGee will see his role
increase next fall.