Road test awaits Illini

Tim Eggerding

Tim Eggerding

By Lisa Koulias

There is nothing like playing at home, being in front of the home crowd and seeing a sea of orange all around.

But Saturday, the Illini football team will have to travel away from that comfort zone and see what the team is really made of – on the road at Wisconsin.

Although Saturday’s game is a test for the Illini to see how they handle the adversity of a road game, it’s also an opportunity for the Illini to pick up their first Big Ten win since November 2002. October marks the team’s hardest stint of the season, with three road games and two home games.

“The month of October is an opportunity for us to step up and challenge our guys and see how we respond to going on the road,” head coach Ron Turner said. “It’s obviously the most challenging, playing good teams week in and week out. It’s an opportunity to see how we respond and how we adjust.”

No. 20 Wisconsin is looking to earn its fifth straight win of the season and second straight Big Ten win. The last time the team was 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the Big Ten was in 1998.

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    In its first four games, Wisconsin has kept its opponents to seven points or less. The team also leads the nation in scoring defense (4.8 points per game) and ranks No. 2 in the nation in total defense (190 yards per game).

    The Illini are hoping to use the excitement of being on the road to their advantage and to feed off the Badger fans.

    “I like road games; I like the atmosphere,” cornerback Kelvin Hayden said. “At home, everyone is cheering for you, but when you are out there (on the road), you’re getting booed, the defense especially. I really enjoy that.”

    Series standing

    Illinois and Wisconsin meet for the 73rd time on Saturday, with Illinois leading the all-time series 35-30-7. But in the last decade, Wisconsin is 2-1-1 over the Illini at Camp Randall and 5-2-1 against Illinois at both sites.

    Renovating Randall

    Camp Randall, home of the Wisconsin Badgers football team, is in the midst of a $107 million facelift.

    Some of the noticeable changes that have taken place include the addition of 72 suites, 260 Buckingham Club seats and 625 Varsity Club seats, the enclosure of the south endzone seating for 4,300 and an office building for the Wisconsin Department of Athletics that is built into the southeast corner of the stadium. They also added a north end scoreboard with video capabilities, as well as smaller video/scoreboards in the southeast and southwest corners of the stadium.

    Next on the list of renovations is widening the concourses, adding restrooms and concessions areas and increasing fan amenities.

    Getting pumped

    “The atmosphere up there is one of the best in the country. It’s one of the best stadiums we will play in all year.”

    – Quarterback Jon Beutjer on playing at Camp Randall