USA Today // Mike Granse

Illini face Leathernecks on Saturday, look to continue dominance over public universities from state of Illinois

Illini face Leathernecks on Saturday, look to continue dominance over public universities from state of Illinois

Western Illinois (1-0) at Illinois (1-0)

Time: 11 a.m. CT, Saturday, Sept. 12

TV: Big Ten Network (Matt Devlin, J Leman and Rebecca Haarlow)

Last week: Illini defeated Kent State 52-3; Western Illinois beat Eastern Illinois 33-5

All-time series: Illinois leads the series 1-0; last game: Illinois 21-0 win over WIU in 2007

Vegas betting line: n/a

'White Out': Illinois encourages all its fans to wear white to Saturday's game.

Injury Report: Finney, Milan out vs. Western Illinois

Illini depth chart: Marchie Murdock now the starter at WR-T; Nick Allegretti moves to backup DT with Jamal Milan injured

Know Your Enemy: Five questions with Western Illinois beat writer Scott Holland

Video: One-on-one with Illini QB Wes Lunt

Press clippings: Backups get much-needed experience in Week 1

Micheal Young: How Illini defense dominated KSU rushing attack

WIU players to watch

1. Lance Lenoir, WR/KR/PR: The 6-foot, 200-pound junior was the FCS Special Teams Player of the Week after totaling 122 return yards, including a 71-yard kick return and 42-yard punt return. On offense, Lenoir led the Leathernecks with 10 catches and 124 yards and a touchdown. The Crete, Ill., native was a First Team All-MVFC selection last season after becoming the fifth Leatherneck to top 1,000 receiving yards in a season.

2. Trenton Norvell, QB: The 6-foot-5, 220-pound junior was an honorable mention All-MVFC last season after throwing for 2,871 yards (58.7% completion), 24 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He is not much of a running threat (80 carries, 144 yards, 2 TDs last season)

3. Devon Moore, RB: The 6-foot-2, 210-pound only ran for 33 yards on 21 carries but scored two touchdowns in Week 1. Steve McShane, a 5-foot-8, 185-pound freshman, led the Leathernecks with 52 rushing yards in the first game.

4. Kris Harley, DT: After transferring from Virginia Tech, the 6-foot-1, 290-pound senior was an MVFC All-Newcomer Team selection last season after logging 6.0 TFLs and 3.5 sacks.

5. Brett Taylor, LB: In the opener, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound sophomore from Macomb had six tackles, 1.0 TFL and one inteception that he returned for 42 yards.

Keys to the game

1. More D-Line dominance: Micheal Young broke down the Illini defensive line's dominance in Week 1. Repeat it. Illinois treated Kent State like the inferior, weaker team last week. The Leathernecks have a veteran offensive line, but each of the starters on the Illini front four could have a shot to play at the next level (I said "a shot to play", not "likely to play"). Jihad Ward sets the edge, Rob Bain stuffs the middle, Chunky Clements shoots through the B gap and Dawuane Smoot chases the play down. After two seasons of getting dominated -- even by non-power five conference teams -- it'd be an encouraging sign (for UNC and Big Ten play) to see the Illini DL dominate for a second straight game.

2. Inside run: The Illinois offense was efficient against Kent State but it was just OK in the run game (3.7 yards per carry). The Illini relied on sweeps, pitches and counters -- Josh Ferguson's strengths -- for most of its ground game.  But it struggled a bit with inside runs. Center Joe Spencer and Ted Karras are really effective at pulling on sweeps and screens, but you'd like to see the inside three get a bigger push off the snap. Because at some point during Big Ten play, the Illini likely will have to get a few yards on the ground when the defense knows what's coming.

3. Cut down penalties: The Illini offense looked dangerous last week (three scoring drives of one play) but it also looked inexperienced and a bit sloppy. The starters committed six penalties (for 60 yards) in the first half, most coming on illegal formation penalties. Time to clean that up before getting into games where it could really come back to haunt them.

Pick to click

Clayton Fejedelem, S: Kent State's offense was limited vertically, but Norvell and Lenoir present a bigger downfield threat. That's a bigger challenge for the Illini secondary, but it's also an opportunity. While they hauled in three interceptions last Saturday (two were gifts), the Illini defense also blew two coverages. Fejedelem had a really good camp and a good Week 1. The Illini free safety will have the opportunity to show his centerfield skills against the Leathernecks.

Prediction

The Leathernecks are getting paid a lot of money to bus over from Macomb and lose. Last week's victory over Eastern Illinois was an impressive start for the Leathernecks, but EIU has taken a dip the past two seasons and Illinois is a huge step up in competition. Illinois is 14-0 all-time against other public universities from the state of Illinois and that perfection will continue. Expect Lunt, Ferguson and the rest of the Illini offense to have their way and for the Illini defense to gain even more momentum before its biggest nonconference test next week at North Carolina.

Illinois 41, Western Illinois 13

 


Illini Inquirer Top Stories