Football looks to end with win

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Online Poster

By Lisa Koulias

Throughout the entire 2004 football season, the Illini have said they are ready to turn some heads. Although the season hasn’t gone as planned, the Illini are ready to end with a win – their second Big Ten victory of the season. Illinois and Northwestern face off Saturday at 11 a.m.

“I’m excited,” senior offensive lineman Bucky Babcock said. “We’re coming off a win and a bye week. We’re looking to end it on a positive note, not just for us seniors in our last collegiate game, but for the younger guys to build a winning tradition here.”

Babcock said the excitement for this game stems not only because it’s the last game of the season, but also because both teams have a lot in common.

“I think it is a very good rivalry because both teams have a competitive spirit and it will be a physical game,” Babcock said. “The general proximity of the two schools makes it a good rivalry. Plus, the two schools have so many guys from Illinois.”

To make the game even more intense, the Wildcats are in a must-win situation if they want to prolong their season. The team needs to win its last two games to be bowl-eligible. Northwestern clinched its bowl eligibility last year with a 37-20 win over Illinois at Memorial Stadium.

“We’re not too focused on letting them go to a bowl,” Babcock said. “We’re focused on going out with a win. We are looking at a win and getting that Sweet Sioux Tomahawk back in Champaign.”

The Illini have two weeks of practice under their belt, not only to prepare for Saturday’s game, but also to rest injured players and give the younger ones a chance to get out there.

“We rested a couple of guys last week. We did a lot of work with the young guys,” Illinois head coach Ron Turner said. “It was a chance for them to get out and run our offense.”

Series standing

Saturday’s game marks the 98th time Illinois and Northwestern will meet. Illinois holds the all-time record at 51-41-5 since the teams first met in 1892. The Illini also hold an advantage in games played in Evanston, Ill., 26-23-3.

Trophy series

With tomorrow’s game, the Illini are looking to regain control of the Tomahawk – a trophy the two teams have played for in the past 58 years. Legend has it that the trophy dates back to 1945, when staff members of the two student newspapers came up with the idea of having a wooden Indian trophy between the schools. In 1946, “Sweet Sioux” was stolen from a showcase at Northwestern. In 1947, the Tomahawk Trophy was presented to replace the wooden Indian, and has been traveling between the two schools ever since.

Doing what they can

“There is only one guy that controls what will happen with Coach Turner – Mr. Guenther. All we can do is get a win for a guy everyone on the team wants to stay.”

– Ryan Matha, on keeping head coach Ron Turner