Welcome to Illinois Week: Preview

Badger Nation's coverage of Wisconsin's 2003 opponents has reached the Big Ten opener, a road game with the Fighting Illini.

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How the Illini fared in 2002: (5-7 overall, 4-4 Big Ten)


2002 Results:


Missouri 33, Illinois 20

Southern Mississippi 23, Illinois 20

Illinois 59, Arkansas State 7

San Jose State 38, Illinois 35

Michigan 45, Illinois 28

Minnesota 31, Illinois 10

Illinois 38, Purdue 31

Illinois 45, Indiana 14

Penn State 18, Illinois 7

Illinois 37, Wisconsin 20

Ohio State 23, Illinois 16

Illinois 31, Northwestern 24


2003 Schedule:


Aug. 30 at Missouri

Sept. 6 v. Illinois State

Sept. 13 at UCLA

Sept. 20 v. California

Sept. 27 v. Wisconsin

Oct. 4 at Purdue

Oct. 11 v. Michigan State

Oct. 18 at Michigan

Oct. 25 v. Minnesota

Nov. 1 at Iowa

Nov. 8 at Indiana

Nov. 22 v. Northwestern


Starters returning: 15—7 defense, 6 offense, plus two punters who split time last season and kickoff/long field goal kicker.


Coach Ron Turner: Entering his seventh season at Illinois and eighth season as a collegiate head coach, Turner is 38-42 (Illinois, San Jose State) and 31-38 at Illinois.


Versus Wisconsin: The Illini lead the all-time series 35-29-7. Last season, Illinois quarterback Jon Beutjer completed 22 of 34 passes for 319 yards, three interceptions and four touchdowns in a 37-20 Illini victory. Wisconsin Quarterback Brooks Bollinger and running back Anthony Davis both missed the game with injuries. In their place, Jim Sorgi threw for 162 yards and Dwayne Smith ran for 122 in the loss. The story of the game, though, was the Illini offense, which ran up 504 total yards. Antoineo Harris carried 40 times for 158 yards, receiver Walter Young overpowered the Badgers secondary to the tune of nine catches for 114 yards and a touchdown, and receiver Greg Lewis added 86 yards and two touchdowns.


USA Today game story


UW Badgers game story


Badger Nation coverage from 2002:


Illinois Postgame: Barry Alvarez Verbatim


Postgame Notes


Have the Badgers Packed it In?


Illini 2002 in brief:


The Illini suffered through the first half of the season, defeating only Arkansas State while losing to the likes of San Jose State on their way to a 1-5 start. After getting trounced by Michigan and Minnesota to open the Big Ten season, Illinois rebounded, finishing the season 4-2. Their only losses during that stretch, quite respectably, were a low-scoring affair with Penn State and an overtime loss at the hands of eventual-national champion Ohio State.


Illinois put up gaudy offensive numbers last season, finishing ninth in the nation in total offense (second in the Big Ten to Purdue), setting a school record with 446.3 yards per game. Quarterback Jon Beutjer led the Big Ten in passing yardage (228.3 per game), running back Antoineo Harris set a school record for single-season rushing yardage with 1,330 and receivers Walter Young and Brandon Lloyd combined for 121 receptions, 1,832 yards and 15 touchdowns. Seniors Young, Greg Lewis and Aaron Moorehead and junior Lloyd finished their Illini careers with more than 7,700 yards and 57 touchdowns receiving.


Defensively, the Illini were mediocre, yielding more than 25 points and 420 yards per game. A few individuals shined, though. Linebacker Jerry Schumacher led the team with 122 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and five sacks and earned all-Big Ten accolades. Defensive end Derek Strong tied Schumacher for the team lead in TFL and sacks. Eugene Wilson broke up 14 passes, picked off one and finished with 66 tackles.


Looking ahead to 2003:


Beutjer returns to run the Illini offense but his weapons have all departed as has stalwart offensive lineman Tony Pashos. With three starting lineman returning, however, and the senior Beutjer at the helm, Illinois still expects to put points on the board in the bunches. Still, anything approaching the team's offensive production the past two seasons would be surprising after the loss of the feature-back Harris and the team's top four receivers.


Illinois will be tested in non-conference play by fast-improving Missouri and Pac-10 squads UCLA and California, but the Illini have the good fortune of avoiding two Big Ten contenders—Ohio State and Penn State—on this season's slate. Still, do not expect much noise from Champaign this fall. A .500 finish and bowl berth would mark a successful season.

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