Illinois tries to win one for home crowd

Carol Matteucci

Carol Matteucci

By Lisa Koulias

Illinois is said to be the originator of Homecoming, a tradition almost every college campus celebrates.

Fans and alumni from all over the country come back to their alma mater for good times and great football. And the Illinois football team wants to make sure fans go home with a win, along with those great memories.

“I tell our team and our team knows that there are a lot of people out there that will be coming to this game from around the country, and it is the only game they make,” head coach Ron Turner said. “They make an effort to come to this game so it’s an opportunity for us to go out and show them what kind of football team we have. We’ll go out and play with great fight and great energy and great pride and so that the people come out of the game with pride for their alma mater.”

On Saturday at 11 a.m., Illinois faces Iowa, a team it has met several times on Homecoming day. The Illini hold a 41-50-2 all-time Homecoming record and are 4-3 over the Hawkeyes in homecoming games.

“We’re going to go out and work as hard as we can this week,” wide receiver Mark Kornfeld said. “We know that there is no bowl game now and some people might say, ‘Where is the motivation and what’s the purpose of you going out working hard?’ All I can tell the fans and the alumni is that with the 100 guys on this team, you’re not going to find any more heart and desire of guys who just love playing the game and want to go out and play.”

The players enjoy Homecoming not only because of the hype surrounding the game but also because it gives them an opportunity to catch up with former teammates.

“It’s something that guys are excited about,” Kornfeld said. “Really the biggest thing is that a lot of guys that you have played with in the past get a chance to come back. Obviously when you play college football a lot of the teammates that I had when I was growing up here and this is really the only chance I get to see them if they come back for this game.”

Injured in Iowa

Iowa has lost a running back due to injury in all of its four home games this season. Marcus Schooner suffered a season-ending knee injury in the team’s opener against Kent State. Albert Young injured his knee a week later to end his season. Three games later, Jermelle Lewis’ season ended with an ACL injury, and Marques Simmons sprained his ankle against Ohio State. Simmons is the only player to be out indefinitely.

Series standing and

statistics

Illinois and Iowa will meet for the 65th time on Saturday. The Illini lead the series with a 37-25-2 advantage. Illinois also has an advantage over Iowa in games played at Memorial Stadium, 19-10. The last time the Hawkeyes went home from Champaign with a win was in 1998.

Iowa’s head coach Kirk Ferentz will be looking for his 50th career head coaching victory on Saturday.

If the Hawkeyes win on Saturday, they will become bowl eligible. Iowa has gone to three straight bowl games (Alamo Bowl in 2001, Orange Bowl in 2002 and Outback Bowl in 2003).

There are eight Illinois natives on Iowa’s roster, however Illinois has no one on its roster from Iowa.

Working all year long

“We work all year round for these 11 games and we know that we can’t go to a bowl. But we are still thinking about all those mornings of getting up at 5 (a.m.) in the morning when everyone else is sleeping and going through spring ball and all the running and lifting. We want to go out and get a win and we are going to prepare to win, and if we don’t, we are going to be upset.”

– wide receiver Mark Kornfeld