Illinois football hoping to win like its 1999


Karolina Marczewski

Illinois’ Ke’Shawn Vaughn (5) attempts to run through Nebraska’s defense during the game against Nebraska at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Oct 3, 2015. The Illini won 14-13.

By Charlotte Carroll

It is the first time the Illini (4-1, 1-0) are headed to Kinnick Stadium since they lost there in 2007. Illinois has not won a game there since 1999. Iowa (5-0, 1-0) is the last Big Ten team to beat Illinois — the Illini are on a three-game winning streak against conference opponents, but Iowa is one of four unbeaten teams remaining in the conference.JT

Illinois has lost 10 straight and 19 of its last 20 games against teams ranked in the AP poll since beating No. 1 Ohio State in 2007. Head coach Bill Cubit is 0-4 against AP ranked teams in his years as a head coach.

The Illini will likely be without star running back Josh Ferguson, who suffered a shoulder injury during Saturday’s game against the Cornhuskers.JT Cubit said his return this weekend was doubtful. The Illini release their injury report Thursday night.

“It hurts if he’s not able to play just because he’s such an electrifying player,” quarterback Wes Lunt said. “He gets you those big plays but we want him in the long run, so if that means not playing this week, that’ll be okay.”

Freshman back Ke’Shawn Vaughn will take over the run game — he recorded 80 yards against Middle Tennessee State and 98 yards against Nebraska.JT

Though Vaughn is a valuable asset to the rush game, Illinois may need to rely more on its passing offense. The Iowa scoring defense is fourth and its rushing defense is second in the Big Ten. However, the Hawkeyes’ passing defense is eighth in the conference.

Lunt is happy to be back and healthy after struggling through injuries last season — Nebraska marked his first healthy Big Ten game since arriving at Illinois. Coaches said he provides a constant experienced pocket presence.

The red zone may also prove to be a problem. Iowa’s red zone coverage is third in the conference. Illinois’ red zone offense is 13th.

Saturday may provide another chance foe the Illinois defense to make big stops. Iowa is ranked seventh in total offense. Illinois coaches said Iowa’s offensive line is one to remain aware of.

“It’s a physical team,” Cubit said. “It’s a really good team with one of the few offensive lines I enjoy watching.”

Illinois receivers dropped six passes against Nebraska and at times failed to look cohesive. But mistakes aside, the Illini are optimistic for Iowa.

“It’s way easier to correct mistakes with a one-point win than it would be a 13-7 loss,” offensive lineman Ted Karras said.

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