Things are starting to look up for the Fighting Illini football team through the first two games of the 2014 season. After coming back in the first week to defeat Youngstown State, the Illini welcomed the Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky and their high-powered offense into Memorial Stadium. The Illini jumped on top early thanks to Josh Ferguson's 1 yard touchdown plunge and that lead held up until Western Kentucky scored the next 17 points to grab a 17-7 lead. The Illini scored before the end of the first half as a pass intended for Geronimo Allison was dropped and scooped up by freshman Mikey Dudek, who fell on it in the endzone to make the score 17-14 at the break. In the second half, the teams exchanged scores, and Illini quarterback Wes Lunt continued where he left off in the fourth quarter of the Youngstown State game. Lunt threw touchdown passes to Martize Barr (8 yards) and Justin Hardee (62 yards), en route to a 35-50 performance for 456 yards, just 6 yards shy of the Memorial Stadium for yards passed for in a game. The Illini defense even came through, as safety Taylor Barton recovered a fumble and ran it back 77 yards for a score. With the win, the Illini improve to 2-0 on the season and have a chance to be the fifth team in Illinois history to start a season 3-0. Western Kentucky falls to 1-1 with the loss, and their aerial show that they had against Bowling Green in week 1 was not nearly as effective against the Illini.
The Illini will venture away from Champaign for the first time this Saturday, when they travel to Seattle, Washington to battle the Washington Huskies at Husky Stadium (3:00 pm CT, FOX). The Illini and Washington met last season at Soldier Field in Chicago, a game that the Huskies won 34-24. However, Washington lost quite a few players off of that team, and will offer a new look to the Illini when they meet on the field Saturday afternoon. The Huskies come into the game with the Illini at 2-0 as well, and are coming off a 59-52 victory over Eastern Washington last Saturday in Seattle. The Huskies pose a threat on the ground, as running back Lavon Coleman who is averaging just under 100 yards per game so far. The Huskies have used two quarterbacks this season, starting Jeff Lindquist in the first game, and Cyler Miles in the win over Eastern Washington. Miles was 14 of 24 passing for 180 yards and a touchdown in his win, This will be a good barometer for the Illini, and if they can somehow sneak out a win on the road, the prospects of a successful season will be well within their grasp.
The Fighting Illini women's volleyball team ventured out west to play in the Big 10/Pac 12 Challenge against a couple of very tough opponents in UCLA and #2 Stanford. The Illini lost in 3 straight games to the Bruins, and then came back the next night to battle the Cardinal to the brink, losing in 5 games (22-25, 25-19, 25-20, 22-25 and 12-15). Despite the two losses, the Illini seemed to play pretty well away from Huff Hall. The Illini are 3-2 on the season, and this weekend finds them once again away from Champaign, taking part in the Blue Raider Classic in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The Illini will battle host Middle Tennessee State on Friday evening (5:00 pm CT), and then will play two matches on Saturday, first battling Virginia Tech (12:30 pm CT) and then taking on Washington State (7:30 pm)
The Illini women's soccer team continues to play well, as they improved their season record to 5-1 last weekend with a pair of wins in the College of Charleston Tournament in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. The Illini defeated the hosts, College of Charleston 3-0 on Friday night, then came back to defeat UAB on Sunday by a 3-1 score. The Illini are to begin Big Ten play on Thursday evening, when they travel to Iowa City to battle the Iowa Hawkeyes (7:00 pm CT, No TV), followed by a match at Nebraska on Sunday.
Finally, this week, some basketball news off the court. Head Coach John Groce continues his assault on the recruiting trail, but has yet to land one of the big names that he has sought. The latest disappointment for Illini Nation is Jalen Brunson, the talented point guard out of Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire. Briinson, whose father Rick played at Temple, chose Villanova over the Illini, fueling speculation that the family wanted to get back to the Philadelphia area. Groce still has a couple of targets on his radar, including Jawun Evans of Texas and Carlton Bragg from Ohio. One of these times, Groce will land one of these big names, but until then, it's once again being the bridesmaid.