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Monday, June 17
The Indiana Daily Student

sports football

In search of a table-turning win

Whoever penciled in Illinois as this year’s homecoming opponent must have had revenge on the mind.

The last time the Hoosiers faced off with the Fighting Illini in a homecoming battle under the lights in Champaign, IU took a 55-13 uppercut to the chin. This season, the parades will be marching through Bloomington and IU’s Memorial Stadium will be illuminated. 

With the memory of last year’s beatdown – and one they received just last Saturday – fresh in their minds, the Hoosiers have all hands on the table, ready to rotate.
 
“In all honesty, Illinois got after us like Virginia did,” IU coach Bill Lynch, who is 0-2 in his career against Illinois, said. “I don’t think anybody that made the trip to Virginia last week will forget that, and the same goes with those who made the trip to Champaign last year. If that is the source of motivation, then fine.”

The members of the defensive backfield are among those looking to dish out some bitter medicine. 

After allowing Illinois quarterback Juice Williams to throw for 271 yards and three touchdowns in last season’s contest, coveragemen like junior cornerback Richard Council are hoping to prove last year was a fluke.

“Once you get beat real bad, you always want to come back with revenge,” Council said. “So we’re just using that highly as motivation.”

If revenge is best served chilled, Council and his fellow members of the secondary may be in for a treat Saturday. 

Early forecasts have the temperatures bottoming out at around freezing for Saturday night, which will easily be the coldest game of IU’s season so far. The bitter weather will also serve as a retardant to an already fledging Illinois passing offense.

This season, Illinois quarterbacks Williams and Eddie McGee have combined for only 174 yards passing per game for 870 total yards, the fewest in the Big Ten. 

The struggle to move the ball through the air against top-flight pass defenses this season has hindered Illinois’ ability to score. Entering Saturday, the Illini are the only team in the conference with fewer points scored per game than IU, putting up only 17 per contest. 

Meanwhile, the Illinois defense is allowing more than 400 yards per game, thanks in large part to a front seven that has chipped 185 yards rushing into the pot. 

The stable of Hoosier running backs will be counted on to halt their first losing streak of the season, but retribution may not be on their minds.

Senior running back Bryan Payton, who had 68 yards and the only touchdown against the Illini last year, remembers the rout, but his focus is simply on Saturday being his last homecoming game, not revenge.

“I guess they did whup us pretty bad last year, and we want to win this year,” Payton said. “But I can honestly tell you that word has not crept into my head.”

If the backs can’t get it done, the game will be on junior quarterback Ben Chappell, and his memory of Illinois isn’t a good one, either.

Last season’s matchup with Illinois marked Chappell’s first career start, and he was greeted with a relentless pressure that sacked him four times and allowed only 41 percent of his passes to be completed.

His chances for payback also appear bright, as Chappell has thrown for more than 220 yards per game in his first full year under center, and Illinois has only five sacks total thus far. 

While Illinois has had an arduous schedule this season, the stat sheets imply the Hoosiers can prepare for a homecoming party similar to what their opponents had last season.

The schedule makers wouldn’t ask for anything different.

Prediction:

The stage is set for the Hoosiers to get back at Illinois for the embarrassment they suffered last year, but there remain question marks. Freshman running back Darius Willis is dinged up, and it’s unknown how much he’ll contribute, and the defense is still recovering from the flu. 

There’s an unwritten rule that you don’t pick a team to win after they lose by 40 points to a team on the bottom of the ACC standings.

IU 21 – Illinois 27

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