When one looks at the scores of the first two Illinois football games thus far in the 2015 season, you would think that there is a sense of domination going on. Well, in some way, shape or form, there is a little of that going on. You certainly cannot argue that the Illini defense has done much better so far, winning 52-3 over Kent State and 44-0 over Western Illinois. But then again, they defeated Kent State and Western Illinois, not your powerhouses by any means. Still, scoring 96 points in your first two games speaks for itself, I don't care who you are playing.
Since taking over for the fired Tim Beckman, Illinois interim coach Bill Cubit has given his team a spark of energy that can be attributed to this early power surge. Quarterback Wes Lunt was sharp once again in the win over the Leathernecks, completing 33 of 45 passes for 316 yards and a touchdown pass to Tyler White. The Illinois running game remains a little in question, with senior Josh Ferguson struggling a little bit. Freshman Ke'Shawn Vaughn led the Illini with 53 yards on 15 carries, while Ferguson ran the ball 13 times for just 39 yards, but scored a touchdown. On the receiving side of the offense, Geronimo Allison continued to impress early, catching 8 passes for 124 yards, but was held out of the endzone. Marchie Murdock scored twice, once on a 12 yard blocked punt return for a touchdown, and the other score was a 5 yard pass from backup signal caller Chayce Crouch. But it all points back to defense and the fact that the Illini are keeping opponents out of the endzone in impressive fashion.
So, what will happen this weekend when the Illini take to the road for the first time this season, a test against the North Carolina Tar Heels in Chapel Hill? North Carolina on Saturday (11:00 am CT, ESPN2). The Tar Heels are 1-1 overall on the season, and after losing their opener to South Carolina, the Tar Heels rebounded nicely by defeating North Carolina A & T 53-14 last Saturday at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill. Illinois hasn't fared well in non-conference road games, last winning at Syracuse in the 2007 season. The Tar Heels are coached by Larry Fedora, who is well-known in the college coaching circles. The Tar Heels are not known for their defense, so this has the makings of a high scoring shootout. The defensive coordinator, Gene Chizik, is trying to re-vamp the defensive unit and get it back on track.
North Carolina has a dual threat quarterback in Marquise Williams, who has already completed 34 of 51 passes for 443 yards and 3 touchdowns, but has also thrown 3 interceptions. Williams has been responsible for 63 career touchdowns during his time in Chapel Hill, and is coming up on the all-time Tar Heel record of 79, set by Darian Durant back in the early 2000s. If the Illini can somehow squeak out a victory against the Tar Heels on Saturday, they will be in good shape as they return home to conclude the non-conference portion of the season next weekend.
The #6 ranked Fighting Illini women's volleyball team continues to play well early in the season, and are coming off a three match sweep this past weekend in Wichita, Kansas. The Illini did not lose a game in three matches, taking down Kentucky, South Dakota State and Wichita State in successive fashion. The Illini (7-1) will continue their extended road trip away from the cozy confines of Huff Hall this weekend when they travel to Tempe, Arizona to round out the non-conference portion of their season by facing Texas Southern, UNLV and the host Sun Devils of Arizona State.
The Illini women's soccer team begins Big Ten play this weekend, when they travel east to battle Indiana and Purdue. The Illini played one match this past weekend, as they defeated Northern Kentucky 1-0 on a free kick by Hope D'Addario. The Illini will play the Hoosiers on Friday evening in Bloomington (6:00 pm CT), before heading north on Sunday to battle the Boilermakers in West Lafayette (12:00 pm CT).
After three years of constant misses, it appears that Fighting Illini men's basketball coach John Groce has finally landed his coveted point guard for the 2016 recruiting class. Te'Jon Lucas, who is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, verbally committed to the Illini on Wednesday afternoon, ending the drought of recruiting near misses. Groce has had some misfortune with injuries as of late, losing Tracy Abrams for a second straight year, as well as incoming freshman Jalen Coleman-Lands also being sidelined with an injury. As of right now, the only true point guard on the Illinois roster is Jaylon Tate, so a commitment by Lucas was just what the doctor ordered. Now, to get him inked.