2007 Illinois Fighting Illini football team

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2007 Illinois Fighting Illini football
Fighting Illini logo.svg
Rose Bowl, L 49–17 vs. USC
Conference Big Ten Conference
Ranking
Coaches #18
AP #20
2007 record 9–4 (6–2 Big Ten)
Head coach Ron Zook
Offensive scheme Spread option
Captain J Leman
Captain Rashard Mendenhall
Captain Kevin Mitchell
Captain Martin O'Donnell
Home stadium Memorial Stadium
(Capacity: 57,078)
Seasons
« 2006 2008 »
2007 Big Ten football standings
Conf     Overall
Team   W   L         W   L  
#5/4 Ohio State   7 1         11 2  
#18/19 Michigan   6 2         9 4  
#20/18 Illinois   6 2         9 4  
#24/21 Wisconsin   5 3         9 4  
#NR/25 Penn State   0* 4         0* 4  
Iowa   4 4         6 6  
Purdue   3 5         8 5  
Indiana   3 5         7 6  
Michigan State   3 5         7 6  
Northwestern   3 5         6 6  
Minnesota   0 8         1 11  
† – BCS representative as champion
‡ – BCS at-large representative

The 2007 Illinois Fighting Illini football team represented the University of Illinois in the 2007 NCAA Division I FBS football season. The team's head coach was Ron Zook. The Illini played their home games at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Illinois. Illinois entered the season in search of improvement upon a 2–10 record in 2006, and secured bowl-eligibility the first time since 2001 with a homecoming win over Ball State. From weeks 2–6, the Illini won five straight games, their longest win streak since 2001. On November 10, the Fighting Illini upset the then #1 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.

Schedule[edit]

Date Time Opponent# Rank# Site TV Result Attendance
September 1 2:30 PM vs. Missouri* Edward Jones DomeSt. Louis, MO (Arch Rivalry) ESPN2 L 34–40   62,352[1]
September 8 6:00 PM Western Illinois* Memorial StadiumChampaign, IL BTN W 21–0   48,301[1]
September 15 11:00 AM at Syracuse* Carrier DomeSyracuse, NY ESPNU W 41–20   34,188[1]
September 22 11:00 AM at Indiana Memorial StadiumBloomington, IN BTN W 27–14   34,707[1]
September 29 11:00 AM #21 Penn State Memorial Stadium • Champaign, IL BTN W 27–20   57,078[1]
October 6 11:00 AM #5 Wisconsin Memorial Stadium • Champaign, IL ESPN W 31–26   57,078[1]
October 13 11:00 AM at Iowa #18 Kinnick StadiumIowa City, IA ESPN2 L 6–10   70,585[1]
October 20 7:00 PM #24 Michigan Memorial Stadium • Champaign, IL ABC L 17–27   57,078[1]
October 27 11:00 AM Ball State*dagger Memorial Stadium • Champaign, IL BTN W 28–17   55,578[1]
November 3 7:00 PM at Minnesota Hubert H. Humphrey MetrodomeMinneapolis, MN BTN W 44–17   46,604[1]
November 10 2:30 PM at #1 Ohio State Ohio StadiumColumbus, OH (Illibuck) ABC W 28–21   105,453[1]
November 17 11:00 AM Northwestern #20 Memorial Stadium • Champaign, IL (Sweet Sioux Tomahawk) ESPN W 41–22   54,516[1]
January 1 3:30 PM vs. #6 USC* #13 Rose BowlPasadena, CA (Rose Bowl) ABC L 17–49   93,923[1]
*Non-conference game. daggerHomecoming. #Rankings from AP Poll. All times are in Central Time.

Game notes[edit]

Missouri[edit]

1 2 3 4 Total
Tigers 7 16 14 3 40
Fighting Illini 6 0 21 7 34

The Illini scored first off a Vontae Davis blocked-punt return. Quarterback Juice Williams looked sharp in the first quarter before leaving due to injury in the second. Mizzou jumped out to a 37–13 lead late in the third quarter, before backup quarterback Eddie McGee led the Illini to 21 unanswered points. A late fourth-quarter interception sealed the game for the Tigers. McGee ended the day 17–31 for 257 yards with a TD, but lost 2 fumbles and threw 2 interceptions. The loss increased Illinois' losing streak to 8 games.

Western Illinois[edit]

1 2 3 4 Total
Leathernecks 0 0 0 0 0
Fighting Illini 0 7 7 7 21

The Illini returned to Memorial Stadium to face FCS Western Illinois in the home opener. Illinois built upon a 7–0 halftime lead with a Juice Williams touchdown run in the third quarter and a Rashard Mendenhall touchdown run in the fourth. Mendenhall finished the day with 142 yards.

Syracuse[edit]

1 2 3 4 Total
Fighting Illini 14 3 17 7 41
Orange 0 0 10 10 20

Illinois looked to secure its first road win at the Carrier Dome. After one quarter, the Illini led 14–0 off a Juice Williams touchdown pass and a Rashard Mendenhall touchdown run. Syracuse got on the board in the third quarter with a field goal, and eventually cut the deficit to 20–10. But big plays hurt the Orange in the second half. Arrelious Benn ran for 23 yards on one play, and one drive later, Rashard Mendenhall ran for 50. He finished the day with 150 rush yards and 3 TD's. 378 of Illinois' total yards came on the ground, and they outgained Syracuse 508–286 overall.

Indiana[edit]

1 2 3 4 Total
Fighting Illini 6 14 0 7 27
Hoosiers 0 7 0 7 14

Illinois opened their Big Ten season at Indiana. Two Jason Reda field goals put the Illini on the board before Juice Williams found Michael Hoomanawanui in the endzone. They led 20–7 at the half. After a Rashard Mendenhall touchdown put Illinois up 27–7 in the fourth quarter, Indiana QB Kellen Lewis drove down the field to find James Bailey for a 30-yd touchdown, Lewis' second TD on the day. But with a minute left, Vontae Davis picked off Lewis in the endzone, securing a 27–14 Illinois victory, their first in a Big Ten opener since 1993 and their first in Bloomington since 2001. Mendenhall finished the day with a career-high 214 rush yards. Tracy Porter picked off two Juice Williams passes, and Williams finished a disappointing passing effort 13–28 with a TD.

Penn State[edit]

1 2 3 4 Total
Nittany Lions 10 7 3 0 20
Fighting Illini 14 7 3 3 27

The Illini faced ranked opposition for the first time in 2007 when the #19 Nittany Lions came to Memorial Stadium. Penn State scored first with a field goal, but Arrelious Benn returned the ensuing kick-off 90 yards for a touchdown, putting Illinois up 7–3. They never would relinquish the lead. Their defense intercepted Penn State quarterback Anthony Morelli 3 times, and allowed the Nittany Lions to score only 3 times out of 6 red zone possessions. A Kevin Mitchell interception with 9 seconds on the clock ended Penn State's comeback hopes. Illinois' victory marked their first over a ranked opponent since the 2001 season and gives the Illini a 4-game win streak, also their longest since 2001.

Wisconsin[edit]

1 2 3 4 Total
Badgers 0 6 13 7 26
Fighting Illini 7 10 7 7 31

Going into the game, the unranked Fighting Illini were actually favored by oddsmakers to beat the #5 Badgers, who entered the game undefeated but having had numerous close games against unranked opponents, including a close game against The Citadel. The Illini won in a game not as close as the score.[2]

Iowa[edit]

1 2 3 4 Total
Fighting Illini 3 0 3 0 6
Hawkeyes 0 3 7 0 10

The #18 Fighting Illini suffered their first Big Ten loss of the season at Kinnick Stadium. In the fourth quarter, trailing 10–6, Eddie McGee appeared to complete an 82-yard pass for a touchdown, but an ineligible receiver downfield penalty negated the would-be go-ahead score. With two minutes left, Eddie McGee drove the Illini to the Iowa 11-yardline, but threw an interception to seal the win for the Hawkeyes.

Michigan[edit]

1 2 3 4 Total
Wolverines 3 14 0 10 27
Fighting Illini 7 7 3 0 17


Ball State[edit]

1 2 3 4 Total
Cardinals 0 3 14 0 17
Fighting Illini 0 7 14 7 28


Minnesota[edit]

1 2 3 4 Total
Fighting Illini 14 20 3 7 44
Golden Gophers 0 10 0 7 17


Ohio State[edit]

1 2 3 4 Total
Fighting Illini 14 7 7 0 28
Buckeyes 14 0 7 0 21

With their win over the Buckeyes, the Illini defeated a number 1 ranked team for the first time since 1956, and for the first time ever on the road. Juice Williams completed 12 out of 22 passes for only 140 yards, but four receptions were caught for touchdowns. With the win, the Illini damaged the Buckeyes' national title hopes, though Ohio State eventually reached the national championship game. The Illibuck was returned to Champaign in 2008. This was arguably one of the greatest victories in the history of Illinois football.[citation needed]

Northwestern[edit]

1 2 3 4 Total
Wildcats 0 7 7 8 22
Fighting Illini 14 7 14 6 41


Rose Bowl[edit]

1 2 3 4 Total
Fighting Illini 0 3 7 7 17
Trojans 14 7 14 14 49

The Illini ended the 2007 season by participating in the 2008 Rose Bowl, held on New Year's Day in the Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena, California. Although it traditionally hosts the champions of the Big Ten and Pac-10 conferences, the 2007 Big Ten Champion, Ohio State, was ranked #1 in the final BCS poll and instead participated in the 2008 BCS National Championship Game. The rules governing BCS bowl selections allowed the Rose Bowl to select a BCS "at-large" team from the top fourteen teams ranked in the BCS Standings that have at least nine wins. Keeping with its traditional bowl ties, the Rose Bowl selected #13-ranked Illinois Fighting Illini (9–3), under third-year head coach Ron Zook.[3]

The Illini entered the Rose Bowl after a Cinderella season where they won nine games, including an upset victory over at-the-time #1 Ohio State, after winning a total of four games the previous two seasons.[4] It was Illinois' first bowl game since winning the 2001 Big Ten Championship and playing in the 2002 Sugar Bowl. The Illini offense was led by sophomore quarterback "Juice" Williams, who in the regular season passed for 13 touchdowns and ran for seven, junior running back Rashard Mendenhall, who averaged 127 yards rushing per game and scored 18 touchdowns, and freshman receiver Arrelious Benn, who caught 49 passes and had 158 yards in 32 carries.[3] For taking Illinois to the Rose Bowl a year after going 2–10, Zook won both national and Big Ten coach of the year honors.[5] The Illini entered the game 13.5-point underdogs, the biggest of any of the season's 32 bowl games.[6]

The Trojans defeated the Illini 49–17 before a sold out Rose Bowl crowd.


Roster[edit]

(as of 8/30/2007)

Quarterbacks

  • 14 Ryan Baise – Freshman
  • 12 Billy Garza – Junior
  • 19 Phil Haig – Freshman
  • 10 Eddie McGee – Freshman
  •  7 Isiah WilliamsSophomore

Running Backs

  • 22 Daniel Dufrene – Sophomore
  • 36 Maurice Haney – Junior
  •  5 Rashard MendenhallJunior
  • 34 Walter Mendenhall – Junior
  • 49 Tyler Pacha – Junior
  • 29 Troy Pollard – Freshman
  • 30 Rahkeem Smith – Sophomore
  • 41 Russ Weil – Senior

Wide Receivers

  • 18 Kevin Bailey – Freshman
  •  9 Arrelious BennFreshman
  • 17 Jeff Cumberland – Sophomore
  • 23 Jack Eastman – Sophomore
  • 21 Kyle HudsonJunior
  •  6 Chris James – Sophomore
  • 82 Frank Lenti Jr. – Senior
  • 86 Greg McClendon – Junior
  • 11 Joe Morgan – Sophomore
  •  8 DaJuan Warren – Senior
  •  3 Marques Wilkins – Sophomore
  • 83 Jacob Willis – Senior

Tight Ends

  • 16 Michael HoomanawanuiSophomore
  • 85 C.J. Jackson – Sophomore
  • 87 John Stock – Freshman
  • 89 Tom Sullivan – Sophomore

Offensive Line

  • 52 Jon AsamoahSophomore
  • 63 Will Bergen – Sophomore
  • 62 Eric Block – Junior
 
  • 73 Jack Cornell – Freshman
  • 68 Xavier FultonJunior
  • 57 Mike Garrity – Freshman
  • 66 Randall Hunt – Freshman
  • 75 Mark Jackson – Freshman
  • 74 Brandon Jordan – Freshman
  • 39 Tad Keely – Freshman
  • 49 Kyle Knezetic – Senior
  • 61 Cole Knuth – Freshman
  • 60 Ryan McDonald – Junior
  • 69 Akim Millington – Senior
  • 58 Dan Motuliak – Junior
  • 76 Charles Myles – Senior
  • 65 Mike Nabolotny – Junior
  • 64 Martin O'Donnell – Senior
  • 78 Ryan Palmer – Freshman
  • 79 Craig Wilson – Freshman

Defensive Line

  • 98 Daryle Ballew – Freshman
  • 92 Josh Brent – Freshman
  • 99 Jerry Brown – Freshman
  • 81 Will Davis – Junior
  • 90 Antonio James – Sophomore
  • 94 David Lindquist – Junior
  • 93 D'Angelo McCray – Freshman
  • 96 Chris Norwell – Senior
  • 97 Clay Nurse – Freshman
  • 95 Doug Pilcher – Sophomore
  • 91 Derek Walker – Junior
  • 76 Mike Ware – Senior
  • 58 Bryson Whalen – Sophomore
  • 56 Sirod Williams – Junior

Linebackers

  • 43 Sam Carson III – Junior
  • 39 Conor Gillen – Sophomore
  • 55 Anterio Jackson – Freshman
  • 53 Dustin Jefferson – Freshman
  • 52 R. K. Weiben- Freshman
 
  • 47 J Leman – Senior
  • 44 Brit Miller – Junior
  • 45 Rodney Pittman – Junior
  • 48 Erique Roberts – Freshman
  • 40 Antonio Steele – Senior
  • 38 Ian Thomas – Freshman
  • 51 Anthony Thornhill – Senior
  •  2 Martez WilsonFreshman

Defensive Backs

  • 31 Travon Bellamy – Sophomore
  • 18 Nate Bussey – Freshman
  • 1 Vontae DavisSophomore
  • 15 Chris Duvalt – Sophomore
  • 20 Garrett Edwards – Freshman
  • 24 Bo Flowers – Freshman
  • 26 Brian Gamble – Freshman
  • 27 Antonio Gully – Freshman
  • 32 Justin Harrison – Senior
  • 28 Dere Hicks – Sophomore
  • 13 Will Judson – Junior
  • 30 Mike Locksley Jr. – Freshman
  • 23 Drew McMahon – Senior
  • 42 Kevin Mitchell – Senior
  • 33 Mike Mucha – Sophomore
  • 19 Tony Petruzzello – Freshman
  • 35 Darius Purcell – Freshman
  • 46 Tyler Rouse – Junior
  • 25 Justin Sanders – Senior
  • 14 Marcus Thomas – Freshman

Kickers

  • 36 Jared Bosch – Sophomore
  • 38 Matt Brandabur – Freshman
  • 35 Mike Cklamovski – Sophomore
  • 84 Matt Eller – Freshman
  • 13 Jason Reda – Senior
  • 87 Anthony Santella – Freshman
  • 37 Kyle Yelton – Sophomore

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Big Ten Conference. "The Automated Scorebook". Retrieved October 5, 2011. 
  2. ^ Bannon, Terry (October 2, 2007). "Zook Scoffs at Illini's Favored Status". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved October 2, 2007. 
  3. ^ a b Klein, Gary (December 3, 2007). "USC-Illinois Accents Rose Bowl Tradition". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 3, 2007. 
  4. ^ David Wharton, Underdog role suits Illini, Los Angeles Times, December 17, 2007.
  5. ^ Illini's Zook wins coach of year award, Associated Press, December 29, 2007.
  6. ^ Pells, Eddie (January 1, 2008) (6) USC 49, (13) Illinois 17, Associated Press.