Illini, Hoosiers both hungry for a win

The Virginia Cavaliers needed a confidence boost badly when they faced off against Indiana last Saturday, after disappointing their fans with a sluggish 2-3 start.

But when the Cavaliers left the field Saturday after a 47-7 drubbing of the Hoosiers, they seemed to have all the confidence they needed.

Illinois (1-4, 0-3) has encountered early-season struggles similar to the ones Virginia faced. Entering Saturday’s game, the Illini are 0-4 against Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) opponents and have scored one touchdown in the first three quarters of those games.

They hope the matchup with the Hoosiers can cure their wounded confidence, as it did with Virginia.

“(Virginia) struggled early in the year, and they’ve flipped the switch,” Illinois head coach Ron Zook said. “That’s hopefully a thing we can do.”

Indiana (3-3, 0-2) won its first three games of the season, all against non-BCS opponents, but heads into Saturday’s contest riding a three-game losing streak just like Illinois.

But rather than analyze last Saturday’s loss to the Cavaliers, Zook looked back to the Hoosiers’ battle against Michigan on Sept. 26, when they led most of the game before succumbing in the final minutes and falling 36-33.

“I started looking at tape on Sunday,” Zook said. “You see that score, and you see the yards, and then you go back and look at what they’re doing. They have a nice scheme, and they run it extremely well.”

Indiana head coach Bill Lynch knows from experience that he can’t overlook the Illini.

“Illinois is a very good football team,” he said. “I said that about Virginia last week and some people looked at me funny. Who you play and when you play has an impact on your record early in the year. (The Illini’s four FBS opponents) Missouri, Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State … are four really good football teams.”

The Illini just hope to replicate last season’s 55-13 blowout win against the Hoosiers in Champaign, while Indiana hopes to reverse roles in its own Memorial Stadium.

The Hoosiers will have that game on their mind when the teams play Saturday, Lynch said.

“They remember the game,” he said. “In all honesty, Illinois got after us like Virginia did. I don’t think anybody that made the trip to Virginia last week will forget that and the same goes with those who made the trip to Champaign last year. If that is the source of motivation, then fine.”

Illinois cornerback Dere Hicks knows how crucial a win Saturday is for the Illini, but he also realizes that Illinois isn’t the only team desperate for a victory.

“I just think they had a rough Saturday,” he said. “But this week they’re just as hungry as us, trying to get a win.”