Two Steps Forward.......Three Steps Back.

Two Steps Forward.......Three Steps Back.
The rebuild of the Illinois football program continues as they drop a tough 34-31 loss in overtime to Purdue.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Back To The Drawing Board

After a quick 6-0 start to the football season, the Fighting Illini was knocked back down to earth last Saturday, as they suffered their first loss of the 2011 season, 17-7 to the Ohio State Buckeyes at Memorial Stadium in Champaign. This was the first time in quite a few years that the Illini were favored over the Buckeyes, and who could blame them? Given Ohio State's 3-3 record coming in, as well as the recent suspensions over "tattoo gate", the Buckeyes were reeling and headed for a downward spiral. But that all changed with Dan Herron returning from his hiatus. Herron proceeded to crack the century mark in rushing yards and score a touchdown in the process, but it could have been much better for the Illini, had they not repeatedly turned the ball over. Nathan Scheelhaase, who had carried the team on his shoulders for the first half of the season, led the team in rushing, as the Buckeyes came to play on defense. The loss dropped Illinois to 6-1 overall, but they still have a 2-1 record in the Leaders Division, which is more important than it has ever been. The Illini will get a chance to get back on the winning track this Saturday when they travel to West Lafayette, Indiana to battle the Purdue Boilermakers (11:00 am CT, ESPN2). The Boilermakers are 3-3 overall, and 1-1 in the Leaders Division of the Big Ten, and are coming off a 23-18 loss to Penn State last Saturday in State College, Pennsylvania. The Boilermakers have had some issues at the quarterback spot, but signal caller Caleb Terbush, who hails from Metamora, Illinois, will get the starting nod. Terbush would have started last season, but academic issues sidelined him for the year. Last year's starter Rob Henry is out with an injury, leaving the backup duties to Robert Marve, who started several games last season as well. With the meat of the schedule coming up for the Illini in the next few weeks, this game is crucial for the Illini to get to maintain their stranglehold in the Leaders Division.

The Fighting Illini women's volleyball team continued their winning ways this past week, by defeating Michigan State in 5 games last Saturday, then traveling up to Evanston to sweep Northwestern to run their unbeaten streak to 20 games without a loss. Cementing their hold on the top ranking in the country hasn't been easy for Kevin Hambly's spikers, but they have done the best that they can. Colleen Ward had a monster game for the Illini, as she completed a rare double-double in volleyball, getting 20 kills, as well as 20 digs. The road doesn't get any easier for the Illini, as they travel to Lincoln, Nebraska to battle the #4 ranked Cornhuskers on Saturday evening (7:00 pm CT, Big Ten Network). This will be an epic matchup of two elite teams, and with the addition of Nebraska to the Big Ten, provides yet another hurdle in hopes of a conference championship. The Cornhuskers have been a perennial power in volleyball for many years, so when they joined the Big Ten, the conference itself got a whole lot tougher.

It's hard to believe, but basketball practice has begun, and in a normal year, people would be clamoring for hoops talk. But not this year. With the sudden success of the football team, basketball season takes a backseat for now, but soon the Illini will be taking the court, adding yet another sport in this crossover season of sorts. This should be an interesting season to say the least, with so many new faces. Your first chance to see the Illini in game action is this Sunday afternoon, when the annual Orange and Blue Scrimmage takes place at the Assembly Hall at 4:00 pm. Tickets are still available, which are general admission, and parking is free for the event.

Finally, the Illini women's soccer team is on a bit of a roll themselves, winning their last 6 matches. During this winning streak, they have shut out the opponent the last five times, including their latest, a 3-0 win over Northwestern on Thursday in Evanston. The Illini are 12-4-1 overall, and 5-2-1 in the Big Ten, and will travel to Lincoln, Nebraska to battle Nebraska on Sunday at 1:00 pm central time. After a rocky start to the season, it seems that Coach Janet Rayfield has her team turning the corner, and at the right time.

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