Blue White Illustrated

Illinois Pregame

Penn State Sports Magazine

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P R E G A M E R E P O R T P E N N S T A T E @ I L L I N O I S T I M E 9 P . M . , S E P T . 2 1 | T V F S 1 ILLINOIS FACTS COACH Lovie Smith (Tulsa, '80) COACH'S RECORD 7-20 (2-16 Big Ten) in three seasons at Illi- nois; career record: same 2018 RECORD 2-1 RECORD VS. PSU The Nittany Lions lead the all-time series, 18- 5. MOST RECENT MEETING Chris- tian Hackenberg threw for two touchdowns and also caught a touchdown pass from backup running back Nick Scott, as Penn State shut out the visiting Illini, 39-0, on Oct. 31, 2015. GOOD NEWS Illinois' defense has been very oportunistic under Smith. The Illini have forced at least one turnover in 17 consecutive games and came up with two or more takeaways in each of their three nonconference games this sea- son. The last time the Illini didn't have a takeaway was in a 48-3 road loss to Wisconsin on Nov. 12, 2016. BAD NEWS Illinois has not defeated a Big Ten opponent since upsetting Michi- gan State, 31-27, on Nov. 5, 2016. The Illini concluded that season with lopsided losses to Wiscon- sin, Iowa and Northwestern, and they went 0-9 in conference play last year. DID YOU KNOW? Illinois is fielding one of the youngest teams in the nation, as 77 of the 101 players on this year's roster (76.2 percent) have either freshman or sophomore eligibil- ity. That's the highest percentage of underclassmen in the Football Bowl Subdivision this season. B Y   M AT T   H E R B MATT@BLUEWHITEONLINE.COM You name it, Illinois has tried it. Eager to revive a program whose alumni include the likes of Red Grange and Dick Butkus, the Fighting Illini have brought in a succession of coaches who were willing to accept the challenge, only to find sustained success elusive. Illinois has tried of- fensive gurus (John Mackovic, Ron Turner), defensive gurus (Lou Tepper, Tim Beckman) and even a special teams guru (Ron Zook). It has hired college lifers and guys with NFL pedigrees. But since Mackovic left for Texas following the 1991 season, the only head coach to compile a winning record in Champaign has been Vic Koenning, who took over when Zook was fired at the end of the 2011 regular season and coached the Illini to a victory FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS Prime time showcase gives Illinois a chance to show its progress LOVIE SMITH Bryan Fuller/ MGoBlog 1 S E P T E M B E R   1 9 ,   2 0 1 8 B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M

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