Illini Game Notes

Saturday will mark the 63rd meeting between Illinois and Indiana. The Illini lead the series, 41-18-3, and are 13-11-1 in Bloomington. This will mark the first meeting against Indiana for Illinois head coach Ron Zook, as well as Hoosier head coach Terry Hoeppner's first game against the Illini in his career.

Illinois won the last contest between the two teams, a 26-22 victory in Champaign. Indiana won 17-14 in the last game in Bloomington. The Illini have been winners in four of the last five meetings.

Zook and Hoeppner are the league's two newest coaches and have one other thing in common ... Miami of Ohio. Hoeppner began his head coaching career at Miami, while Zook began his collegiate football career there. Zook is a 1976 graduate of Miami of Ohio.

Illinois has eight players on its roster from the State of Indiana, including starters CB Charles Bailey (Ft. Wayne/Northrop), TE Melvin Bryant (Muncie/Central), S Kevin Mitchell (Ft. Wayne/Homestead), OT J.J. Simmons (Mishawaka/ Penn) and punter Steve Weatherford (Terre Haute/North).

With 12 freshmen (3) and sophomores (9) in the starting lineup, the Illini are the youngest team in the country (tied with Cincinnati). Illini have only four senior starters listed on the 2005 depth chart, which is the second lowest in college football (second to Rice's three), tied with Cincinnati.

As a team, Illinois ranks 15th nationally and second in the conference with a 26.9 kickoff return average. Running back Pierre Thomas is averaging 25.3 per return, which ranks 36th (fifth in the Big Ten). Last season he was 10th in the nation.

Thomas ranks 17th in the nation with 151.4 all-purpose yards per game, and fifth in the Big Ten.

Two Illinois players have been named to preseason award watch lists in Doak Walker candidate Pierre Thomas and 2004 Ray Guy semifinalist Steve Weatherford. Thomas leads the team in rushing this season with 323 yards, and ranks fifth in the conference in all-purpose yards. Last season, he led the Big Ten in all-purpose yards, racking up over 1,600 yards in rushing, receiving and kickoff returns. Weatherford already holds the school record for career and single-season punting average. Last season, the Big Ten coaches voted him first-team All-Big Ten and he ranked fourth nationally.c Junior punter Steve Weatherford rushed for 12 yards on a fake punt in the first quarter last season and kept a scoring drive alive for the Illini.

Senior Kendrick Jones had five catches for 91 yards and two touchdowns, including a 56-yarder.

Pierre Thomas rushed for 185 yards on 21 carries and had a touchdown on a 44-yard run.

Defensively, Morris Virgil, J. Leman and Justin Harrison all recorded seven tackles to lead the team.

Tight end Melvin Bryant caught a 16-yard touchdown pass. will have more game stories today for the upcoming game with the Hoosiers

Courtesy of the U of I.

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