Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Coachless 6-7 UCLA and coachless 6-6 Illinois's matchup in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl has been panned as one of the least intriguing of the bowl season from the day it was announced, and the Bruins haven't seemed particularly interested in the game themselves, skipping out on practice and having four players miss the game through academic and team rules issues. But just to prove they can match their opponent step-for-step in indifference as well as lack of regular season wins, the Illini have now also announced a major absence from the game.
The player in question is leading rusher Jason Ford, who the Illini have confirmed will be academically ineligible for the bowl and will not make the trip to San Francisco. The announcement ends the career of Ford, a senior with 1,962 rushing yards.
Reserve wide receiver Jake Kumerow will also miss the game through academics.
Ford appeared in at least 12 games all four years of his Illini career but had to wait to wait until the 2011 season for a chance as the featured back thanks to Mikel LeShoure. While Ford's total of 600 yards and 7 touchdowns led the Illini in both categories this year, an expected breakout season failed to materialize as Ford reached the 100-yard mark just one time (vs. Penn State) and averaged just 3.9 yards per-carry. His 26 career rushing touchdowns do place him second on the Illinois all-time list in that category.
Ford will likely be replaced by fellow senior Troy Pollard, who totaled 462 yards this season but on only 62 carries, a 7.5 yard average.