CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Reilly O'Toole will get his third straight start at quarterback when the Illini visit Ohio State this weekend. The senior earned another start by leading Illinois to its first Big Ten home win in more than three years Saturday against Minnesota. "I thought we played really hard, came ready to go," O'Toole said. "We got off to a quick start, but really again we gotta be more consistent, put all four quarters together."
Illinois used a scoop and score from V'Angelo Bentley late in the fourth quarter and a strong defensive effort to upset Minnesota 28-24 Saturday afternoon on Homecoming at Memorial Stadium.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Tim Beckman said this week you will see both quarterbacks, Reilly O'Toole and Aaron Bailey, in the game this Saturday against Minnesota. It has been an up-and-down season for O'Toole, who has completed 55 percent of his passes and thrown more interceptions than touchdowns. He wants to play, but he says he is prepared to share the snaps if that helps the team win.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Tim Beckman told reporters on a conference call Tuesday that both Aaron Bailey and Reilly O'Toole will get a lot of reps in practice this week, but he wouldn't say who will be the starter at quarterback when the Illini take the field in a week-and-a-half against Minnesota. Beckman did say Bailey will be a part of the game plan moving forward now that he isn't redshirting.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - What would've happened if Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had played his college football at Illinois? Well it turns out, that's exactly where he wanted to play. Rodgers told The Dan Patrick Show on Tuesday that Illinois was his first choice of schools, but they never offered. Instead he became an NFL MVP and Super Bowl champion as a product of Cal - instead of the Illini.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Almost nobody outside the Illinois locker room is giving the Illini any chance to win at Wisconsin this weekend. The Illini are 25.5 point underdogs against the Badgers. Talking to head coach Tim Beckman and the team this week, they're using their opportunity to show everybody everybody what they're made of. "I ask our players to play hard, and they're playing hard," Beckman said. "It comes down to me, and we've got make sure that our players are doing exactly what they're supposed to be doing and just keep playing hard because it'll all come if we're playing with enough effort."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – University of Illinois freshman receiver Mike Dudek (Naperville, Illinois/Neuqua Valley HS) was added to the watch list for the 2014 Biletnikoff Award on Tuesday. The Biletnikoff Award is given annually to the nation’s top receiver. Dudek is having a steallar freshman season, currently standing 19th in the Football Bowl Subdivision in total receiving yards (539) and second among FBS freshmen.
Illinois head football coach Tim Beckman said 'it's all about the players' at his weekly press conference Monday afternoon. The response came after he questioned whether he feels the need to make a statement to the fans about his team.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Mikey Dudek has made an immediate impact on the Illini football team this season, and now the true freshman is being recognized among the best freshmen nationwide. Dudek has been named to the watch list for the freshman of the year award given by the College Football Performance Awards. He is among the Top 10 in the conference in receiving yards, and he has proven to be one of Wes Lunt's favorite targets especially late in games. Dudek has caught for 339 yards and three touchdowns in his first five career games. "I've had a great time. It's been fun," said Dudek. "Definitely a lot of stress leading up to the games wanting to perform well. Becuase you put in all that work, and you don't want to see that work not pay off for you."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Wes Lunt has declared himself ready to go this weekend vs. Purdue. Head coach Tim Beckman told reporters early Tuesday on a conference call that Lunt has been practicing as if he were 100% healthy; Lunt echoed that Tuesday night, and it looks like Illinois is moving forward with the hope that Lunt will be back under center against the Boilermakers.
Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt sat out Injured as the Illini fell to Nebraska 45-14.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - We'll find out later Thursday whether wide receiver Geronimo Allison will be cleared to play in Illinois' Big Ten opener at Nebraska Saturday night. Allison missed last week's game against Texas State with an injury, but he did participate with limited contact in practice this week. Of the guys that helped pick up the slack in Allison's absence Saturday was true freshman Mike Dudek, who got the start alongside fellow true freshman Malik Turner. Dudek caught seven passes for 90 yards and a touchdown against Texas State. Dudek ranks sixth in the Big Ten with 19 catches this season.
The Illinois defense got good news Monday. They'll need it as they prepare for a tough Nebraska team with the second leading rusher in the nation. Illini star defender Earnest Thomas has been cleared to play the entire game against Nebraska this Saturday. He was ejected from the Texas State game in the second quarter for targeting. That foul typically comes with a one game ejection (the second half of the Texas State game and first half of the Nebraska game), but the Big Ten will allow him to play after a misapplication of the rule.
The Illinois football team moves to 3-1 Saturday after defeating Texas State 42-35. Illinois had to come from behind to win and also sit through a 1:56 weather delay in the second quarter. Josh Ferguson rushed for a career high 190 yards. He had three total touchdowns as well. Illinois plays at Nebraska next week to open Big Ten play.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Illinois football team isn't panicking after suffering their first loss of the season Saturday at Washington. In fact the Orange and Blue are keeping things positive as they look to pick up win No. 3 this weekend. Illinois ran into a buzz saw in Seattle, and some early mistakes were the difference. All things considered, they still feel like they sit in a pretty good position. "The first three games are done," said head coach Tim Beckman. "We're 2-and-1. I mean a lot of teams aren't 2-and-1, and we are. So we're happy to say that, yeah, we can make definite strides in everything we gotta do, but we've got 2 W's and we've got 1 L. So we're heading, at least moving in that direction we want to go."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Illinois football team is dead last in the Big Ten in rushing offense through the first three games of the season. In fact the Orange and Blue are getting less than 20% of their offense on the ground. That's one of the worst in the country. Early on the emphasis hasn't exactly been on running the ball. Only two Big Ten teams have run less often, but the success hasn't been there. The Illini are averaging a little better than 70 yards per game on the ground, and it's not just a running back problem.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt has been one of the best in the Big Ten so far this year, but he will be the first to admit Saturday's game at Washington wasn't one of his best. Lunt threw an interception that got run back for a touchdown, and then later he had the ball stripped away, and it was run back for a Washington score - a couple mistakes in what has been an otherwise outstanding start to Lunt's season. He was proud of the way his team responded in Seattle after he says he put his team in a tough spot.
If the last few weeks are an indication of what's to come, Illinois is in for a high-scoring game when they visit Washington Saturday afternoon.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - One thing was missing from Justin Hardee's career performance Saturday - his mother. She passed away in December after a long fight with lung disease. "That was my best friend," Hardee said. "She really didn't know how football went, but she only watched it because of me. That was very special to me."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois defensive tackle Austin Teitsma put together the best individual performance on his Illinois career Saturday against Youngstown State, and he's hoping it's just the start of a huge senior season. Teitsma had a career-high nine tackles and two-and-a-half tackles for loss in Saturday's win, but he and the defense will be put to a different kind of test this week against Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers ran 96 plays from scrimmage - and they play fast meaning Teitsma and his guys on the defensive line will be pushed to the limit.
COLUMBIA, Mo. - Could we see a revival of the Illinois-Missouri football series down the road? Missouri athletic director Mike Alden isn't shutting the door on that possibility. Alden told reporters Wednesday he is "all ears" when it comes to entertaining the idea of playing a neutral site football game, possibly against Illinois in St. Louis. The earliest that could happen would be 2019, but Alden says there hasn't been any in-depth discussion yet on renewing that series.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - One of the biggest knocks on Illinois' defense last year was their inability to force turnovers. The Illini were dead last in the Big Ten in takeaways a year ago, and they didn't force a single turnover in Saturday's win over Youngstown State. The Illini had their opportunities against the Penguins. Mason Monheim dropped a sure interception after a pass hit him right in the hands, and Taylor Barton stripped a ball loose before it rolled out of bounds. A couple close calls, but head coach Tim Beckman says they have to capitalize on those opportunities.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - During camp we heard a lot about the freshman wide receivers for the Illinois football team, especially Malik Turner and Mikey Dudek. They got their first taste of game action Saturday against Youngstown State, and it's not a stretch to say Illinois might not have won without them.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - If you look at just the numbers from Saturday, Wes Lunt put together the best debut for an Illinois quarterback in school history. He threw for 285 yards and four touchdowns, leading the Illini to a 28-17 win over Youngstown State. Lunt had to knock some rust off early Saturday, but he completed 10 of his final 12 passes and didn't throw an interception all day. Taking into consideration that was Lunt's first game in nearly two years, head coach Tim Beckman likes what he is seeing.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - It was supposed to be an easy win, but it proved to be anything but easy. Illinois trailed on two different occasions in the fourth quarter Saturday before surviving with a 28-17 win over Youngstown State. The players say first game jitters had a lot to do with their struggles. "First couple series we got out there, and it was a shock and [we] got away from what we practiced," said senior Donovonn Young. "Toward the end of the game we started getting back into the groove of things."
Illinois trailed Youngstown State 9-7 in the fourth quarter before rallying to win 28-17. Wes Lunt set Illini records for a new-coming starting quarterback after throwing for 285 yards and four touchdowns.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The non-conference games will be a critical time for Illinois running back Josh Ferguson to prove he can shoulder the load and be the go-to guy for Tim Beckman's offense. Ferguson took hold of the No. 1 job early in the season last year, but this will be his first season opener as the top running back. He says he gained ten pounds in the offseason and is ready to show what he can do. "I'm definitely ready to go," he said. "I put in a lot of work this offseason in order to do so. I'm excited. It's been a long offseason, and we're just ready to play." Ferguson racked up more than 1,300 total yards and 11 touchdowns last year.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - When Illinois takes the field Saturday against Youngstown State, it will be our first chance to see how much the defense has improved. "It still comes down to tackling," said head coach Tim Beckman. "It still comes down to rushing the passer, and catching the football on interceptions. But I think we've gotten better. We see that as a defense throughout this preseason."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Zach Grant likes being the underdog. It's all he knows, so he embraces it. "I love it," he said. "It's just motivation to go out and do your best everyday and prove people wrong." Grant was an all-state receiver at Rochester High School, teaming up with Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt to help the Rockets win back-to-back state titles. He set an IHSA record for most receiving yards in a season his senior year. He's second in the record books in receptions. But at 6' 0'' tall and 190 pounds he didn't have any Division I scholarship offers out of high school.
WCIA 3 Sports brings you a preseason look at the Illinois football team and some of the top storylines we'll be watching this high school football season.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - It is finally game week for the Illinois football team, and they have already spent some time game planning for the season opener Saturday against Youngstown State. There has been a lot of talk about optimism this offseason, and now it's time to show what they can do. Illinois will try to snap a four-game home losing streak when they take the field Saturday, and head coach Tim Beckman says he likes what he is seeing from his team and thinks they will be ready to go.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - As game week arrives, there is really only one starting job still up for grabs, and that is at right tackle where junior Pat Flavin and redshirt freshman Christian DiLauro are fighting for that spot. Head coach Tim Beckman said Monday Flavin holds a slim edge, but DiLauro has been charging hard. Beckman wants to let that battle play out this week before making a final decision on Thursday. "I would give the nod if we were playing tomorrow to Pat Flavin," Beckman said. "We've still got three more days to compete to be that starting right tackle."
Rochester head coach Derek Leonard has high praise for his former quarterback Wes Lunt. Lunt was named the Illini starting quarterback this week.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Tim Beckman put an end to the quarterback competition Wednesday when he announced sophomore Wes Lunt will be the starting quarterback when the Illini open the season August 30 against Youngstown State. Lunt had been the frontrunner for the starting job since the end of spring practice, and today Beckman made his decision.
RANTOUL, Ill. - Every year before Camp Rantoul ends, each senior stands in front of the team and gives a speech. It is often a time of reflection, reminiscing about how fast their time has flown by. It is also about the future - cherishing every moment they have left in their final season. Donovonn Young's speech was no different. "I put a lot of emphasis on the fact that I was going to miss these guys a lot," said the senior running back. "College football has done so much for me, really molded me into the man that I am today."
RANTOUL, Ill. - All signs indicate that Wes Lunt is in the driver's seat to be named the starting quarterback when Tim Beckman makes that announcement Wednesday. Lunt has consistently outperformed senior Reilly O'Toole and sophomore Aaron Bailey so far in camp. The latest performance came in a scrimmage Saturday where Lunt completed more than 80 percent of his passes for nearly 250 yards. "I felt as an offense we did pretty well," said Lunt. "I thought we punched it in when we needed to. We had a couple three-and-outs. Need to cut down on penalties, but other than that I thought the offense played pretty well."
RANTOUL, Ill. - The Illinois quarterback competition is coming down the last couple days, as Tim Beckman says he will announce his starter on Wednesday. Sophomore Aaron Bailey may be running out of time to make an impression. That's because Bailey left Monday morning's practice with some stiffness in his shoulder and neck area. Beckman says it doesn't appear to be anything serious; he's just playing it safe.
After practice Monday, Tim Beckman and the Illinois football team accepted the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and also issued a few challenges of their own.
WCIA 3's Bret Beherns chats with illiniboard.com's Robert Rosenthal about Camp Rantoul.
Earnest Thomas is changing positions on the Illinois defense and WCIA 3's Bret Beherns reports he hopes to give the team a boost.
University of Illinois junior Kentrell Brown is in charge of the on field music during Camp Rantoul.
The Illinois football team is working to continue to improve in the kicking game this season.
RANTOUL, Ill. - Illinois head coach Tim Beckman said he will name a starting quarterback no later than Wednesday. He added that Saturday night's scrimmage will go a long way in determining who wins that job. The team wrapped up it's week of practices at Camp Rantoul Friday night, and now they will scrimmage under the lights at Memorial Stadium. That scrimmage will be closed to the public and media. Beckman said he is looking forward to finding out how far his team has come so far this season.
RANTOUL, Ill. - Whitney Mercilus had one of the best seasons in Illinois football history just three years ago. He was named the top defensive end in the country after breaking Big Ten and school records for forced fumbles and sacks. Just two years later the entire Illinois defense struggled to match Mercilus' individual effort. The Illini only managed 15 sacks last season - one less than what Mercilus tallied by himself in 2011. "We obviously know that that has to be a part of our game that improves drastically this year and we're working hard on it," said defensive line coach Greg Colby. "In fact, we're comparing ourselves to who was number one last year in the Big Ten and those are the numbers that we're shooting for."
RANTOUL, Ill. - Tom Brattan never saw himself at Illinois. He was happy at Maryland, where he had been for the last 13 years. But when his contract wasn't renewed, he was in a jam. Luckily for Brattan, so was Tim Beckman. "It's just one of those things that worked out well," Brattan said. "I don't know how you say it, the stars were all aligned correctly."
RANTOUL, Ill. - The Illinois football team enjoyed a little change of pace after practice Tuesday night. Head coach Tim Beckman surprised the team by renting a dunk tank. Every senior picked one person to get wet. DeJazz Woods nominated Beckman. The third-year coach says team bonding is a big part of Camp Rantoul, and he couldn't think of a better way to do it.
RANTOUL, Ill. - Jihad Ward grew up in North Philadelphia. It's a rough part of town. No one knows it better than Philly-native Bill Cubit, who recruited him to Illinois. "Grandma and mom, when I walked out of the house, they said, 'Be careful coach,'" Cubit said. "I said, 'My car is parked right outside. I got a real good parking spot right in front of the house.' She goes, 'Be careful coach.' That kind of tells you a little bit."
Update: 10:04 pm RANTOUL, Ill. - It's only day one of Camp Rantoul, and some tempers were already flaring. There was an incident Monday night toward the end of a scrimmage. Some players got into a pushing and shoving match.
Illinois opens Camp Rantoul Monday. The defense hopes to continue to improve and the linebackers are hoping to lead the way.
Several Illini cornerbacks were forced to play as true freshmen. Now they have a year under their belts and feel more prepared for the season.