Monday, October 5, 2015

Homecoming Saturday at Kinnick: Iowa's opponent the Illinois Fighting Illini

Bill Cubit

Illinois interim coach Bill Cubit has the Fighting Illini 4-1, 1-0 B1G West.
Cubit's last meeting in Iowa City was as head coach at Western Michigan,
where the former MAC coach pulled the upset over Iowa 28-19 to close
out Iowa's 2007 season. The Hawkeyes have had Cubit's respect for years.
Champaign, IL -  Illinois is 4-1 overall and 1-0 in the Big Ten West after Saturday's win over Nebraska 14-13 in the final minute, the program's best start since 2011, when the Illini were 6-0 overall and 2-0 in the B1G to start the season. Illinois has won three straight B1G games and four of last six dating back to last season. In the 25 Big Ten games prior to those last six, the Fighting Illini were 1-24.

Saturday, the Fighting Illini will travel to Iowa City to face the #22 Iowa Hawkeyes, 5-0 overall and 1-0 in the Big Ten West, at Kinnick Stadium for a 11 a.m. kickoff, televised on the ESPNU. Clay Matvick and John Congemi will have the coverage on Saturday. It is Homecoming in Iowa City on Saturday.

Illinois coach Bill Cubit is 0-4 against AP-ranked opponents in his 8+ years as a Division I head coach. He is 1-1 against Iowa, as a head coach, with the win coming in Iowa City, in 2007, when he lead his Western Michigan team to a 28-19 to close out Iowa's Senior Day.
Iowa's Kirk Ferentz against Illinois
in the 2014 game on the road.

Illinois holds an 18-16-2 advantage in games played in Iowa City in the all-time series. Illinois has an all-time series lead of 38-30-2.

The Hawkeyes are 5-5-2 against the Illini on Homecoming, and 12-4 in Homecoming contests under Kirk Ferentz.

Kirk Ferentz is in his 20th year as a college head coach and his 17th year as Iowa's head coach. His career record is 132-106 and he is 120-85 at Iowa. He ranks ninth in the Big Ten Conference in coaching wins and is Dean of Big Ten coaches, since Joe Paterno's departure at Penn State in 2011.

Ferentz is 6-3 all-time against the Illini, as a head coach. Iowa is the last Big Ten team to beat Illinois, which is on a three-game conference winning streak. Iowa defeated Illinois 30-14, on the road last season to reach their seventh win.

"We're going to play Iowa. Watching them on tape, a really physical football team. I think a really well-coached offense, line wise. They've been around football a long, long time and it's one of the few offensive lines that I really enjoy watching. Even when I was at the last place, I would always try and get film just to see how synced they are; they do such a good job. The quarterback is playing really well and then defensively their front collectively is the best we've played against. They've got some guys there that are really good football players and then the [Desmond] King kid in the back, he's leading the league in interceptions, he's a ball hawk and I remember being involved in recruitment with him back then when he was from Detroit so really a good player. For our kids, we've just got to stay with the process; understand what we're trying to do every day and I think they'll do that. I think they're buying in pretty well for us. We've got an opportunity to go up there and play a really good Iowa team so that's exciting." - Bill Cubit talking about Illinois' upcoming game with Iowa during his weekly media conference on Monday

Illinois' win over Minnesota last season gave the Illini their first win over a ranked team in either the AP or Coaches poll since 2011, as the Golden Gophers were No. 24 in the USA Today Coaches poll (they were not ranked in the AP poll).

The Illini had lost 10 straight and 19 of their last 20 against foes ranked in the AP poll since beating No. 1 Ohio State 28-21 on Nov. 10, 2007. The lone win during that span came on Sept. 17, 2011, over No. 22 Arizona State, 17-14. Illinois has lost its last nine road games against ranked foes since beating OSU in 2007.

This is the Fighting Illini's first road trip to Iowa in the Big Ten, since the 2007 season, when Iowa upset Illinois 10-6. The Fighting Illini won a birth in the Rose Bowl after the 2007 regular season. Iowa's longest winning streak in the series (five games) was snapped with the Illini's 27-24 win in 2008, in Champaign.

Illinois faces its first Associated Press Top 25-ranked opponent of the season on Saturday as Iowa is No. 22 in this week's AP poll. The Hawkeyes are No. 23 in USA Today coaches poll. The Hawkeyes are coming off a 10-6 win @ Wisconsin to open the 2015 Big Ten season. The Hawkeyes are ranked for the first time, since the 2010 season. The win over Wisconsin was the first win over a ranked opponent, since the Hawkeyes beat Michigan in 2011.
Both programs have had Cardiac moments lately in 2015
Illinois senior WR #8 Geronimo
Allison celebrates after his 1-yard
TD reception with 10 seconds
remaining in game vs. Nebraska.

Cardiac Illini: The last two Fighting Illini games, both victories, have each been decided in the final 10 seconds of regulation by a total of three points. Against Nebraska, QB Wes Lunt found WR Geronimo Allison for a 1-yard TD with 10 seconds left for a 14-13 Illini victory. That followed up a 27-25 win over Middle Tennessee on Sept. 26 after the Blue Raiders missed a 43-yard field goal with four seconds on the clock.

Cardiac Iowa: The Hawkeyes clinched wins in the fourth quarter this year @ Iowa State with two late touchdowns to clinch the game 31-17; with a 57 yard field goal on the last play against Pittsburgh at home to win 27-24 and in the fourth quarter @ Wisconsin in the 10-6 win.

Captain Comeback: Illinois has seven fourth-quarter comeback wins in the last two seasons (five in 2014 and two so far in 2015). QB Wes Lunt has orchestrated five of those seven fourth-quarter comebacks, including both this season (vs. Middle Tennessee and vs. Nebraska).

Last year, Iowa's starting quarterback for 12 of 13 games was Jake Rudock, who is now leading Michigan (4-1, 1-0 B1G East), after transferring to the Wolverines as a post-graduate transfer. In last year's 30-14 win in Champaign, Iowa's current quarterback, C.J. Beathard, finished the game 3-of-3 for 73 yards, with one touchdown pass.

Ferentz decided to move junior Beathard  to #1 in January. Beathard is now 6-0 as a starter at Iowa. He has shown a good ability to help make plays both running and passing the football in 2015. The Hawkeyes are 5-0 for the second time under Kirk Ferentz. A win Saturday would be Iowa's second 6-0 start in the Ferentz era (2009). The 2009 Hawkeyes won their first nine games, finished 11-2 overall, and won the 2010 FedEx Orange Bowl over #9 Georgia Tech.

Here is Iowa's DE #95 Drew Ott
tackling Illinois QB #12 Wes Lunt
in last year's game in Champaign.
Illinois is currently without sophomore WR Mike Dudek, due to a knee injury in the Spring. Dudek caught two touchdown passes against Iowa, in last year's game leading the Illini in receiving. QB Wes Lunt played part of the game, finishing 14 for 25, with one interception and one touchdown against Iowa. The Hawkeyes defense sacked Luck once.

D-Fence: The Fighting Illini defense over the first five games has shown vast improvement since last season. The same can be said about the Hawkeyes in 2015.

The Illini rank in the top-25 nationally in nine different stat categories, including blocked kicks (1), third down defense (4), TFLs (15), interceptions (18), passing efficiency defense (19), total defense (21), first downs allowed (23), scoring defense (23) and turnovers gained (24).

Iowa is the only school in the country yet to allow a rushing touchdown. The Hawkeyes yield an average of 84.4 rushing yards per game, second best in the Big Ten and 11th nationally. Iowa limits its opponents to 2.6 yards per carry (161 attempts, 422 yards), 10th best in the country.
Through five games in 2014, the Illini were allowing 468.6 ypg and 35.0 ppg. This season, they're allowing 303.4 ypg and 17.8 ppg through five games.

Iowa averaged 37.8 points per game in its first four wins, but scored just 10 in its Big Ten opener against Wisconsin. It marked the fewest points scored in a Big Ten win since defeating No. 18 Illinois, 10-6, in 2007. The 151 points scored (37.8 ppg) through four games was Iowa's highest total since 2011, when it also scored 151 points (34, 41, 31, 45).

The Illini have forced 31 three-and-out drives this season (6.2 per game), tied for the fifth-most in FBS. Illinois forced 44 three-and-out drives in all of 2014 (3.4 per game). 

The Illini rank fourth in the nation in third down conversion defense, allowing just 17 first downs in 78 third down attempts this season (.218).

Block Party: Illinois is tied for the FBS lead as one of four teams with three blocked kicks this season. The Fighting Illini have blocked two punts, returning both for touchdowns, and one field goal on the season.

Senior RB Josh Ferguson has climbed up to 11th on the Illinois career rushing list with 2,259 career yards. Ferguson was injured, during the game with Nebraska. It is unlikely he will play against Iowa. Next man in for the Fighting Illini will be true freshman Ke'Shawn Vaughn, who is coming off a 98 yard rushing game against the Cornhuskers.

Iowa RB Jordan Canzeri carried 12 times for 68 yards, as a backup last season against Illinois. Now a senior, Canzeri rushed 26 times for 125 yards against Wisconsin. It is his third 100-yard rushing game this season, and the fifth of his career.
Illinois senior WR Geronimo Allison leads the Big Ten in both receptions (32) and receiving yards (453), ranking in the top-20 nationally in both categories. A recent addition to the Biletnikoff Award Watch List, Allison had eight catches for 91 yards against Nebraska, pushing him over 1,000 career receiving yards (1,051).

Iowa junior WR Matt VandeBerg is second in the Big Ten in receptions (31) and has 303 receiving yards on the season. He has scored on two touchdowns from Beathard.
Last year, Illinois CB #2 V'Angelo
Bentley came up short defending on
Iowa's QB C.J. Beathard's TD pass.

Senior CB V'Angelo Bentley is the Illinois career leader in kick return yardage (1,530). He surpassed Pierre Thomas' record of 1,495 yards against MTSU on Sept. 26. The Hornung Award candidate is the first Illinois player in school history to record kick, punt, interception and fumble returns for TD in his career.

Senior WLB Mason Monheim has 331 career tackles, the second-most among active FBS players. The Butkus and Lombardi Award candidate has forced seven career fumbles, tied for fourth most in Illinois history and the fourth-most among active FBS players. Monheim had a career high 15 tackles against the Hawkeyes in 2014.

Last year, eight different Hawkeye players combined for seven tackles-for-loss against Illinois. 
Iowa junior CB Desmond King
against Illinois in 2014.

Iowa and Illinois tie for the conference lead with seven interceptions in 2015. Iowa CB Desmond King leads the Big Ten with five interceptions. Illinois DB Taylor Barton ties for second in the league with three interceptions.

Junior CB Desmond King was named Big Ten Conference Co-Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in Iowa's 10-6 win at Wisconsin. The Big Ten honor is the second for King. He was also recognized on Oct. 21, 2013, after recording 12 in a 34-24 loss at #3 Ohio State.

Illinois junior  SS #3 Taylor Barton
working to break up a reception by
Iowa senior TE #87 Jake Duzey.
Illinois junior SS Taylor Barton has three interceptions this season, tied for 10th-most in the nation through the first five weeks of the season. It's the most for an Illini in a season since Terry Hawthorne in 2011 and equal the total for the entire team in all of 2013. 

Iowa is one victory from becoming bowl eligible for the 14th time in 15 years under Ferentz. The Fighting Illini need two more wins to reach bowl eligibility and their first back to back bowls, since the 2010 and 2011 seasons.

Iowa senior RB #33 Jordan Canzeri is tied for the lead in rushing TDs in the
Big Ten and is #6 in rushing. Illinois senior CB #27 Eaton Spence had a
career high three pass breakups against Iowa, last year.

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