2011 Illinois Fighting Illini Football

 
Big Ten football fans

Illinois Fighting Illini @ Indiana Hoosiers Football Preview

 

 

After playing five home games to start their season, the Ilinois Fighting Illini will put their undefeated record on the line when they visit the struggling Indiana Hoosiers on Saturday. This isn’t a daunting road trip for a team that has benefited from a very favorable schedule. Yet, Illinois – to its credit – has avoided every landmine to this point in the season. It must now steer clear of trouble once again if it wants to reach the midpoint of the season without a single blemish.

It’s true that the road has been smooth for the Illini in 2011… because there hasn’t been a road game to play for coach Ron Zook’s team. Illinois is now 5-0 after a come-from-behind 38-35 victory over Northwestern last week. Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase plunged into the end zone from one yard out with 13 seconds left for the game-winning touchdown. Illinois receiver A.J. Jenkins was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week after catching 12 passes for a school-record 268 yards and three touchdowns.




The Illini are noted for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, but after five weeks of success, it’s clear that they’ve played against type and have shown more resilience than a lot of people were initially expecting. This is what has to encourage the Zooker as he brings his boys to Bloomington, Indiana.

The challenge for the Illini will be to avoid a letdown against an opponent they should hammer into the ground. Indiana struggled offensively in a 16-10 loss to Penn State last week in Bloomington. The Hoosiers are now 1-4. After Saturday, four of the Hoosiers’ next five games are on the road, making this week’s matchup crucial to their season.

Dusty Kiel made his first career start at quarterback last week, replacing Edward Wright-Baker. Kiel has completed 33 of 63 passes for 356 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. He hit tight end Ted Bolser for IU’s only touchdown last week. The Indiana defense allowed 464 yards to the Nittany Lions, and has given up 402.2 yards per game this season.

 

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Northwestern tested Illinois’s defense last week, particularly in the second half, as the Wildcats built a 28-10 third-quarter lead behind quarterback Dan Persa, making his first start since rupturing his Achilles tendon last season. The Illini answered with consecutive touchdown passes from Scheelhaase to Jenkins, which set up the frantic and feel-good finish for a team that is learning how to close down opponents. Illinois has proven to be adept at the art of the last-minute survival act in 2011. This weekend against Indiana, however, the Illini need to strike early and keep the boot on the throat of the Hoosiers. If the outcome of this contest is still in question when the final minutes of regulation arrive, Illinois’s gleaming and glowing season could have its shine removed in a hurry.

 

By: Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer