Another close game. Yet another injury, which lately seems to be the norm rather than the exception. This can be daunting on a head coach, interim or not.
Illinois (4-3, 1-2), which seems to continue giving teams good games, but ending up on the short end of the stick, finds themselves in familiar territory as they head east to Happy Valley to visit Penn State.
The Illini, who fell victim to Wisconsin last Saturday 24-13 in their annual Homecoming game at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, had their chances against the Badgers, but with an ailing team on both sides of the ball, bodies are getting thin in number.
The latest to be sidelined is tight end Tyler White, who appears to be out for the remainder of the season. White joins a growing list of players that have seen their last action of the season, including Mikey Dudek, Jamal Milan, Teko Powell, Dre Brown and Patrick Nelson. Add to that the injuries of Josh Ferguson, Marchie Murdock, and Justin Hardee, the medical staff is keeping very busy this fall.
In the loss to Wisconsin, freshman Ke'Shawn Vaughn continued to impress, as he was the only running back to carry the ball, rushing 13 times for 55 yards and a touchdown. Vaughn, who has been pressed into extensive action with injuries to Ferguson and Brown, has utilized his opportunity nicely and is making the best of it. Wes Lunt, who remains healthy despite being prone to injuries over the past couple of seasons, completed 22 of 43 passes for 278 yards, but did not throw a touchdown in the loss. Lunt's main target continues to be Geronimo Allison, who caught 8 passes for 99 yards against the Badgers. Interim head coach Bill Cubit figures that Ferguson may miss the game at Penn State this Saturday (11:00 am CT, ESPN2), but hopefully will return to action next weekend when the Illini travel to Purdue.
Speaking of the Nittany Lions, they narrowly defeated Maryland last Saturday in Baltimore 31-30, behind quarterback Christian Hackenberg, who completed 13 of 29 passes for 315 yards and three scores. Penn State running back Saquon Barkley rushed 20 times for 65 yards and a touchdown, sending the Nittany Lions to 6-2 overall and 3-1 in the Big Ten's Eastern Division.
Kevin Hambly's Illini womens' volleyball team has been in a rut as of late, and this past weekend, it was more of the same. On Friday night the Illini ventured to Bloomington to battle Indiana and came away with a 3-0 win, which was big for the team, since they hadn't had much success lately. Then, on Sunday, the Illini went up the road to West Lafayette to take on Purdue and things were looking good as the Illini took an early 2-0 lead over the Boilermakers. What happened next was befitting of the season thus far. The Boilermakers came back and won the next two games, setting up a pivotal game five, which the Illini also dropped. The heartbreaking loss drops Illinois to 13-8 overall, and just 4-6 in Big Ten play. The Illini will have another chance to right the ship this weekend, when they welcome Michigan State on Friday night (7:00 pm CT), then will take on Michigan on Saturday night at home as well (7:00 pm CT).
The Fighting Illini womens' soccer team wrapped up the regular season on Wednesday night when they traveled to Minneapolis to battle the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The Illini came away victorious, defeating the Golden Gophers 3-1 behind two goals by Janelle Flaws. With the win, Illinois improves to 10-5-3 overall and 4-4-3 in the Big Ten. The Illini will now await their seeding in the Big Ten Tournament, which begins on Sunday.