Brown picks up where he left off after suspension

He may be just a sophomore, but linebacker Jonathan Brown has made plenty of headlines already this season, both on and off the field.

A week after being suspended against Indiana for kneeing a Northwestern player in the groin, Brown was back on the field Saturday against Ohio State and once again showed why he’s become one of Illinois’ defensive leaders. Brown racked up 17 tackles, including eight solo stops, as well as one and a half sacks and two-and-a-half tackles for loss. After the game, Brown said not playing last week meant his body was fully ready for Ohio State.

“It felt good being back, just being able to help the defense out,” Brown said. “Just being back from suspension, I had fresh legs. It was pretty exciting to be back out there.”

Defensive coordinator Vic Koenning said he still believes the sky is the limit for Brown, despite his already missing time on two separate occasions for disciplinary reasons.

“Jonathan’s capable of being a really, really fine player,” Koenning said. “I’ve talked to him about that from early on, that any goal he wants to reach is attainable, that the good Lord has given him the ability to do things, and that anything and everything is within his reach. It’s just a matter of what he does with it. I don’t have a lack of confidence in what he’s capable of doing, we just gotta continue to head in the right direction.”

Despite missing Illinois’ game against Indiana, Brown is still tied with cornerback Tavon Wilson for the team lead in tackles. His eight-and-a-half tackles for loss are tied with bandit Michael Buchanan for second on the team, trailing only defensive end Whitney Mercilus, and he has also picked up three and a half sacks and an interception on the season.

*The streak is over*

For 21 consecutive games, the Illinois defense managed to force at least one take away. On Saturday, the longest turnover streak in the nation came to a halt, when Koenning’s squad failed to force a turnover against Ohio State’s methodical rushing attack.

“We couldn’t get them today,” Koenning said after Saturday’s game. “We had a ball on the ground and didn’t get it, which could have been a big turning point in the game. Whitney, I think, on the first sack that he got. We didn’t get enough take always. They did.”

Head coach Ron Zook said turnovers were the deciding factor in Saturday’s game. The Buckeyes forced three Illini fumbles, although only one was recovered, and two interceptions. Illinois couldn’t respond with a take away of its own, despite four sacks on Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller and nine tackles for a loss against the run.

“Any time there’s a ball on the ground there’s a concern,” Zook said. “You have to make sure you take care of the football. It’s going to be hard to win a lot of games, with the remaining games, if we don’t get it fixed.”

The Illini have had trouble holding onto the football through the first seven games of the season, fumbling 16 times and losing nine of them.