The Fighting Illini - Pregame Intel Report

The Northwestern Wildcats play their final game of the 2002 Football season Saturday against the Illinois Fighting Illini. Here's the what being said about the game in the Illinois media...

Well, here it is...

The Last Game

And its the "last hurrah" for NU Seniors Austin King,  Jeff Roehl, Vince Cartaya, Raheem Covington, Onaje Grimes, Kevin Lawrence, Jon Schweighardt, and David Wasielewski. They have seen the agony of losing seasons, and the ecstasy of Big 10 Championships. Coach Randy Walker recognizes the greater importance of the game:
We both go into the game wanting to win badly ... and send off  a group of Seniors, who I know in both cases are going to be missed. You have 2 senior classes at both schools who have won championships in the Big 10, and you want to set a tone for the future.  [Big 10 Teleconference]
Illinois is coming off of an overtime loss to Ohio State. The loss was the last chance the Illini had for a bowl berth, and highlighted the turn around they've had late in the season...
Boy. they're playing great the last part of the season -- [Randy Walker]
The coach of the Illini echoes Walker's comments.
 And its an opportunity to get to 500 if we can and get a win to finish up the season. Its important to us, and makes us want to get on the practice field today and get going... get all our attention turned towards Northwestern and get this cranked up. -- [Ron Turner-Big 10 teleconference]
According to the coach, the big difference between Illinois this year and last was that last year Illinois figured out how to win the tight games. This year its a different story. His opinion is that this year his team didn't get it done at the end of the game and so they lost.
We probably weren't as good as everyone thought we were a year ago, and we're definitely not as bad as everyone thinks we are this year. -- [Turner]
Coach Ron Turner finally settled on a quarterback, Senior Jon Beutjer who finally Jon Beutjerseems to be realizing his potential after transferring from Iowa. Beutjer completes just under 60% of his passes, and has well over 2200 yards passing. He also has 18 TD passes.

There is an interesting matchup this game. NU Senior Jon Schweighardt used to line up with Illini safety Eric McGoey and catch passes from Illinois QB John Beutjer at Wheaton. They all won a 6A Illinois state championship their senior year. You might see Jon S lining up against McGoey at times during the game.

"It's kind of weird because they [Schweighardt & McGoey] were my two favorite targets in high school," - [John Beutjer - Daily Illini]
A possible big event for the Illini during the game is that Senior running back Antoineo Harris [Illinois Photo left - from Bollingbrook, IL] only needs 130 yards to break the Illinois school rushing record [1280 set in 1996]. The Illini are licking their chops, figuring to break this one easily against NU's young defense.

Another potential record is sought by Illinois WR Brandon Lloyd who only needs 58 yards to break 1000 receiving yards on his season. Lloyd represents Illinois' big outside threat.

He [Brandon Lloyd] means a lot, he's a big play player. Brand is a guy we've been able to go to in big times, clutch times in games where he's stepped up and made plays for us.
Lloyd isn't alone, Turner also noted that Walter Young, Aaron Moorehead and Greg Lewis also figure into the Illini attack. In all 13 players have receptions, including both running backs.

You know the Cats would like to shut down a few of these record attempts - especially on their home turf.

Nobody's saying much about the Illinois D. The Sporting News gives their check mark to the Northwestern D-Line and Secondary while giving their linebacker check to Illinois! It makes you wonder if this might be one of those high scoring affairs?

Randy Walker hinted that Illinois likes to throw multiple things at a team, but neither coach has had much to say about defense.

Then there's "The Rivalry" for the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk:
This is the last game for both of our teams, and our seniors are saying good-bye. I think it has a special meaning too because we're both in state...Its grown to be a strong rivalry and something to get excited about - [Randy Walker]
A sentiment echoed by Ron Turner:
We're excited, we're looking forward to the game this week. It will be a big challenge for us, a big rivalry for us, we're playing for the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk which is very important to our players - [Ron Turner]

We always have the intangible things you're talking about, you know,  your p

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