Illin-eyes on tomorrow

By Lisa Koulias

Last year – history.

The year before that, they can’t even remember.

All the Illinois football team is focused on right now is tomorrow and Florida A&M.;

They know what they have to do – get a win. And with a new defense and returning veteran quarterback, the team feels confident they have what it takes to start to the season right – with a win.

“Getting off on the right foot – getting some wins, I think, will do wonders for their confidence,” head coach Ron Turner said. “We’ve worked hard to gain the confidence, to regain the confidence, and there is no reason we shouldn’t. But we have to get some wins to solidify that.”

Illinois football hasn’t won its season opener since 2001 when it defeated California on the road, 44-17. The past two years the team has lost to Missouri in St. Louis.

“I think the first game is the most important game of the season because once you get out the first game and get a win, it’s a momentum builder,” strong safety Morris Virgil said. “No one wants to start off with the first loss because it’s hard to bounce back. You kind of lose confidence and you say ‘Well are we good enough?’ Guys on the team might get down. But winning the first game is very important to a football team coming off a season like we did.”

If not for any other reason, the Illini just want to get out on the field and see how they will fare. They have confidence in themselves, but the big test will be how they match up against competition.

“Guys are tired of beating up on each other and tired of talking about the season and preparing,” Turner said. “We are ready to play some football. I am anxious to get out there and see how we are. I like what we have done so far. I think we had an outstanding camp – as good as we have had. I like the attitude of this team. I think we have a lot of good football players on this team.”

Marching together

The Marching Illini will welcome the nationally acclaimed Florida A&M; band “The Marching 100” to Memorial Stadium.

The two bands will collaborate for a five-minute pregame show. The Marching Illini will perform at halftime and then the two bands have prepared a special number for the fans to enjoy.

“We are just having some fun,” Marching Illini director Gary Smith said. “We had special music arranged to the tune ‘Anything you can do I can do better.’ We are going to have both bands on the field, switching off styles.

“At the end we are just going to have both bands playing real loud like a big party scene. We think this is exciting and the first time we know that two colleges have planned to do a routine together at halftime. We are pretty excited because their band is one of the most entertaining in the country, and I thought it would be a great time to get the two bands together and do something I think the fans will really like.”