Seniors take one last stand

Online Poster

By Lisa Koulias

For the past four, five or six years, the seniors on the Illinois football team have been through a lot.

They have reached the top of their collegiate careers with a Big Ten Championship and a trip to the Sugar Bowl.

In the past two years, the players have tasted the bitterness of defeat – losing 14 straight Big Ten games.

On Saturday, they are laying it all on the line when they match up against Indiana for their last home football game at Memorial Stadium.

“This is a great group of seniors, I have a lot of respect for these guys,” Illinois head coach Ron Turner said. “They’ve bought into our program. They’ve stuck with us and they’ve stayed the course and continue to battle, continue to compete. That’s tough sometimes when you don’t get the results you want and the results that you are working for. These guys have never wavered. They are a tremendous group of young men that are doing everything they can to get this program back to being successful.”

Fourteen seniors will be honored before Saturday’s game, and while some of these players may continue to either play football or coach the game they love, others will say goodbye to the game they love.

Although senior Kelvin Hayden has only worn orange and blue for two years, in which the Illini have not won a Big Ten game, the junior college transfer would like to go out with a bang and just enjoy the time on the field.

“It’s winding down for the seniors,” Hayden said. “We’ve been playing the game that we love – football. It means a lot to us to just go out there in front of the fans for the last time. It will be something special for all of us. We just want to go out there and have fun and win in the process.

“It came real fast, I have always been afraid of this day. Nothing is guaranteed after these last two games and I just want to go out there and just have fun and give it my all.”

Turner has seen the team come together and realize the importance of this game. They not only want to win their last game at home, but the younger guys want these seniors to leave Illinois on a high note – with a much-desired win.

“Some of the younger guys want to win because we need a win to help get this program get going,” Turner said. “But for those guys that I’ve talked about that have done so much and given so much and fought through and have gone through so many tough times, there is no doubt that everyone on this team wants those guys to at least go off with a couple of wins.”

Series standing

Illinois and Indiana meet on Saturday for the 62nd time, with Illinois leading the series 40-18-3. Illinois also holds an advantage in games played in Champaign, 26-7-1. Coming into Saturday’s game, the Illini hold a nine-game winning streak at home over Indiana. The Hoosiers’ last win at Memorial Stadium was in 1979.