Tag:Illinois
Posted on: January 12, 2012 12:30 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2012 3:19 pm
 

Report: Jerry Sandusky saw win 409 for Paterno

Posted by Tom Fornelli

According to a Patriot-News report, a week before former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky's arrest following a grand jury investigation into his alleged sexual assault of young boys, he watched Penn State beat Illinois for Joe Paterno's 409th career victory from the president's box at Beaver Stadium. A source told the Patriot-News said that Sandusky was seen in the box during the game and then he was later seen in the Nittany Lion Club.

Former Penn State linebacker Brandon Short also said on Wednesday that he was told by two independent sources that Sandusky had been in the president's box for the game that day as well.

Penn State president Rodney Erickson told national radio host Michael Smerconish that the report was "absolutely false," according to Smerconish, but one Penn State alum reported being in the Nittanly Lion Club with Sandusky for the Purdue game two weeks prior, and said he was under the impression that Sandusky "was always there."

Penn State spokesman Bill Mahon told the paper that a search through the guest list of every game of the last three seasons shows that Sandusky had never been invited to the box. However the report goes on to say that then athletic director Tim Curley -- who resigned following the grand jury indictment -- didn't want to give Sandusky tickets to the game but changed his mind at the insistence of Sandusky's wife, Dottie.

Penn State officials were aware of the investigation into Sandusky long before Penn State's game against Illinois that day.

Photo courtesy of the Patriot-News

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Posted on: January 12, 2012 1:29 am
Edited on: February 3, 2012 12:22 pm
 

1-to-35: Ranking the 2011 bowl games



Posted by Jerry Hinnen


Each December, there's plenty of rankings out there as to how good each bowl should be. But if that's the "before," what about the "after"? Here's the Eye on CFB's (highly subjective) ranking of all 35 bowls from the 2011-2012 college football postseason, best game to worst.

1. Rose. Unlike certain other bowls we could name (who happen to rhyme with "Schmalamo"), the Rose's outburst of offense came despite the presence of legitimate championship-level defenses--making the punch and counter-punch between Russell Wilson and Montee Ball on one side and LaMichael James and De'Anthony Thomas on the other like haymakers in a heavyweight prizefight. Add in college football's greatest venue, a down-to-the-wire ending, and even the aesthetic battle between the Badgers' understated uniforms and the Ducks' glitter factory helmets, and you've got the best bowl-watching experience of the year.

2. Fiesta. Andrew Luck vs. Justin Blackmon at the top of their powers -- at the top of the powers of anyone at their positions in college football -- would be worth a top-five placement alone. Luck vs. Blackmon and 79 points and overtime drama? That's worth top-two.

3. Alamo Bowl. To call the defenses in this game abominably porous would be an insult to pores (and abominations). But the Alamo is a random weeknight bowl game--just as no one wants to watch an Oscar-baiting 17th-century literary adaptation on their Guys' Night Out, so no one tuned into the Alamo for rugged defense and awesome punting. Thankfully, what Baylor and Washington gave us was the college football equivalent of four hours of Jason Statham shooting explosions.

4. Outback. Come for Kirk Cousins leading the most unlikely comeback this side of the whooping crane, stay for Mark Richt nominating himself for the (dis)honor of "World's Fraidiest-Cat Football Coach." Oh, and triple overtime.

5. New Orleans. We'd ask if you could remember this thriller between Louisiana-Lafayette and San Diego State from the bowl season's opening night, but we don't think anyone who watched could forget Ragin' Cajun kicker Brett Baer deliriously celebrating his last-second game-winner if they tried.

6. Military. One word: #MACtion. And two numbers: 42-41. And, all right, eight more words to help do this game justice: last-minute do-or-die failed fake extra point holder-kicker option.

7. Sun. We're suckers for any game featuring the triple-option (see the Air Force game ranked one spot above), and Utah's 4th-and-14 touchdown conversion to send the game into OT was one of the more dramatic single plays of the entire bowl season. That 3-0 anti-classic between Pitt and Oregon State was a particularly distant memory in El Paso this year.

8. Belk. A matchup of Utterly Average ACC team vs. Utterly Average Big East team -- in a bowl sponsored by a department store that thinks Macy's is way too wild and edgy -- should have been one of the snoozers of the year. Instead, Mike Glennon caught fire, Louisville mounted a spirited comeback, and this wound up one of the better games of the postseason.

9. Little Caesars. The quality of play in this game at times was like ... well, have you ever actually eaten the pizza of the sponsor? But Western Michigan receiver Jordan White put on a spectacular show (13 catches, 249 yards), the teams combined for 69 points, and the Boilers special teams pulled off two onsides kicks and a kick return for TD. Tasty!

10. Famous Idaho Potato. OK, OK: we're giving this game (which was less-than-must-see-viewing for much of the first 55 minutes) a slight bonus for its killer logo. But we're giving it a much bigger bonus for the pulse-pounding final drive from quarterback Tyler Tettleton and the Bobcats for the first bowl win in program history.

11. Armed Forces. If you're going to be a sorta-dull game between two sorta-unmemorable teams, better come up with a memorable play and/or a big finish. Riley Nelson's game-winning fake spike touchdown to become college football's answer to Dan Marino just about did the trick.

12. Sugar. Another for the "ugly game, fascinating ending" file, but this was Michigan doing their damnedest to be Michigan again and Virginia Tech doing their damnedest to avoid the rabbit's feet and horseshoes and four-leaf clovers falling out of the Wolverines' pockets -- Danny Coale most especially -- and it was in New Orleans. You didn't quit watching, did you?

13. Poinsettia. Not a classic, but three-and-a-half back-and-forth hours with a feisty Louisiana Tech team and an underrated TCU squad most definitely qualified as "serviceable." Think of this year's Poinsettia as the quality burger-and-fries plate from the local joint down the street--not mind-blowing, but spend a few weeks in Peru, where they don't have burgers or college football, and you'll crave a Poinsettia Bowl so badly you could scream.

14. Orange. In the space of about an hour, Dana Holgorsen's evisceration of Clemson went from thrilling to discomfiting to boring to morbidly fascinating to -- once we all realized the Mountaineers weren't going to hit triple digits -- back to boring again. Not every game that hits 100 points is one for the DVD vaults, as it turns out.

15. Liberty. Give me Cincinnati defeating Vanderbilt in surprisingly convincing, mildly entertaining fashion or give me death! (Actually, we've got that first thing already, so no need to worry about providing the second, thanks.)

16. Chick-Fil-A. For 2.5 quarters, this was a delightful shootout with all the requisite trickery you'd hope for from a game involving Gus Malzahn. Then Virginia remembered that it was not only Virginia, but proud ACC member Virginia, and the fun was over.

17. Meineke Car Care. Seriously, Texas A&M, we didn't tune in to see you only flirt with blowing a huge lead against a team that hasn't won a bowl game since approximately the Grover Cleveland administration.

18. Capital One. This game featured an abundance of must-watch plays -- Alshon Jeffery catching a  bomb, Alshon Jeffery hauling in a half-ending Hail Mary, Alshon Jeffery getting ejected for fighting -- but aside from, well, Alshon Jeffery, there wasn't much to it.

19. Cotton Bowl. The 15 seconds of Joe Adams' punt return, the 10 seconds of Jarius Wright's touchdown, and the 5 minutes when it looked like Kansas State might mount yet another smashing comeback were riveting stuff. The other 54:35? Not so much.

20. BCS National Championship. A great game, if you're the sort of fan who enjoys watching nature shows where a pride of lions tear a wildebeest to pieces because the wildebeest can't complete a downfield pass to save its life.

21. TicketCity. If he'd stuggled, he'd have been called a fraud; because he ripped Penn State's D into tiny shreds, no one paid attention. Which is why we're working on a sitcom pilot right now called Case Keenum Can't Win.

22. Gator. When one team's special teams scores just one fewer touchdown than the two offenses combined (as Florida's did), it's safe to say you're not watching a classic.

23. GoDaddy.com. Thanks to a 31-0 run from Northern Illinois, what was expected to be a nailbiting shootout ended up the biggest disappointment since that "unrated web content" we checked out.

24. Champs Sports. It wasn't pretty, but at least the Seminoles and Irish were trying their best ... to make us wish they'd just aired a repeat of the 1993 meeting instead.

25. Las Vegas. College football produces a lot of emotions, but from the neutral perspective, it's rare that one of them is outright legitimate anger. Seeing Kellen Moore forced to end his career slumming it against an Arizona State team that checked out in early November sure turned the trick, though.

26. Independence. The Tar Heels came out so flat, and were finished off so quickly, that we're pretty sure the only lovely parting gift they walked away with was "Independence Bowl: the Board Game."

27. Music City. Mississippi State turned the ball over four times, and Wake Forest averaged 2.9 yards per-play. If Hank Williams or some other old-time country artist had come to Nashville to write a sad song about a sad bowl game, this is the game they'd use for inspiration.

28. Insight. Sadly, the only "insight" we got from this game was that Vegas oddsmakers -- who had the Sooners installed as the biggest favorite of the entire bowl season -- know what they're talking about. And who didn't know that already?

29. Holiday. It wasn't that long ago when Jeff Tedford's Cal and Mack Brown's Texas squaring off would have been appointment television. This game was, too, though in the sense that it was the sort of game you made an appointment somewhere else to avoid viewing.

30. Hawaii. Nevada and Southern Mississippi were collectively as sharp as your average butter knife, but let's see you spend a week chilling in Hawaii and then play a quality football game. The best players the NFL has to offer try it every single year and haven't succeeded yet.

31. Pinstripe. The only thing we remember from this game was our wish to travel back to, say, 1998, and explain to a random college football fan that in 2011, Rutgers would win a bowl game in Yankee Stadium that would give them the nation's longest postseason winning streak. (We're still not sure it's actually happening.)

32. Beef 'O' Brady's. Newton's Second Law of Bowl Aesthetics: Whensoever a Game Produces Fewer Offensive Touchdowns Than the Game Has Apostrophes in its Title, That Game Shall Be, Verily, Entirely Terrible.

33. New Mexico. We'd waited so long to be able to sit down and watch a college bowl game, and by halftime we were sort of wishing we'd gotten to wait a little bit longer.

34. BBVA Compass. For two straight years, Pitt has been forced to play in Legion Field on a January weekday afternoon in front of no one under an interim coach against a nondescript opponent. Vs. SMU the Panthers looked like they'd much rather be off somewhere doing something much more fun, like peeling potatoes with their teeth--and we don't blame them a bit.

35. Kraft Fight Hunger. Comedian Patton Oswalt once called a certain famous KFC product a "failure pile in a sadness bowl." Capitalize that B, and we can't think of a better way to describe 2011 Illinois "battling" 2011 UCLA.

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Posted on: January 5, 2012 12:18 pm
Edited on: January 5, 2012 12:18 pm
 

Keys to the Game: GoDaddy.com Bowl

Posted by Tom Fornelli

NORTHERN ILLINOIS WILL WIN IF: Northern Illinois won the MAC this season, and did so because it has one of the most explosive offenses in the country. The Huskies finished 9th in the country in total yards per game at 481.8 yards per game while scoring 38.3 points a game, but the biggest difference maker for Northern Illinois in this game may be its defense. Odds are that the Huskies are going to score some points, but can their defense keep somebody else off the board? NIU allowed 31.3 points a game this season, and will be facing an Arkansas State offense that isn't exactly a pushover, as the Red Wolves scored 33.5 points a game and feature Ryan Aplin at quarterback. Aplin finished 10th in the country in total offense for Red Wolves this year. Northern Illinois will need to find a way to keep Aplin in check during this contest, or else we're going to see a game that could end up rivaling the Alamo Bowl, and whichever team has the ball last will win.

ARKANSAS STATE WILL WIN IF: Northern Illinois has a pretty good quarterback of its own in Chandler Harnish, and he will not be an easy test for this Arkansas State defense. Harnish finished eighth in the country in total offense ahead of Arkansas State's Aplin. The biggest difference here between these two teams, and what may decide this game, is that Arkansas State's defense was a lot more successful in 2011. The Red Wolves allowed only 19.3 points a game this year, good enough to place the Red Wolves in the top-15 nationally in scoring defense. Aside from Virginia Tech and Illinois, no offense was able to score more than 24 points in a game against Arkansas State. If Arkansas State's run defense -- which finished the year ranked 14th in the nation -- can keep Chandler Harnish and Jasmin Hopkins from running wild, then the Red Wolves are going to win this game.

X-FACTOR: It's hard to pick only one, so the X-Factors in this game will be both quarterbacks, Ryan Aplin and Chandler Harnish. These are two players who do more for their teams than just about any other player in the country, and odds are whichever one of these two players has the best day, their team is going to win. 

Check out all the latest updates on Northern Illinois and Arkansas State right up until kickoff at the GoDaddy.com Bowl Pregame 

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview
Posted on: January 4, 2012 3:04 pm
Edited on: January 4, 2012 3:08 pm
 

Jon Tenuta leaving Illini, back to NC State

Posted by Chip Patterson

Just one day after NC State linebackers coach Jon Tenuta reportedly accepted the defensive coordinator position on Tim Beckman's staff at Illinois, the 31-year veteran assistant coach has decided to return to Raleigh.

Tenuta has played a big role in the Wolfpack's success at linebacker over the last two seasons, coaching all-conference talent like Nate Irving, Terrell Manning, and Audie Cole. On Wednesday, Illinois released an official statement from Tenuta regarding his decision to return to NC State.

"Illinois is a great program and I think the world of Tim Beckman," Tenuta said the official release. "I've known Beck for 20 years and I have no doubt that with the staff he is putting together, he will have Illinois at the top of the Big Ten very soon.

"However, my family comes first and I may have made a decision without fully thinking through the situation with them. My son is a senior in high school and has signed a letter of intent to play baseball at N.C. State, and it is something I just don't want to miss. I was one of the first people to contact Beck and congratulate him on the opportunity at Illinois, and I wish him and the Illini nothing but the best."

The Wolfpack have won 17 games in two seasons since Tenuta joined Tom O'Brien's staff, including two bowl game victories. He spent time with Chan Gailey at Georgia Tech and Charlie Weis at Notre Dame, but was not retained after head coaching changes at both stops.

The decision leaves Beckman with four unfilled slots on the Illinois coaching staff. He will be bringing two assistants with him from Toledo - Alex Goldsh as an offensive assistant and Mike Ward as a defensive assistant - and has opted to retain defensive line coach Keith Gilmore from Ron Zook's staff. Beckman has chosen to wait on assigning specific titles, though it was reported Tenuta would be the defensive coordinator.

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Posted on: January 3, 2012 11:33 am
Edited on: January 3, 2012 1:58 pm
 

Illinois' Mercilus to enter NFL Draft

Posted by Tom Fornelli

In the wake of Ron Zook's dismissal and the hiring of Tim Beckman, Illinois had already lost defensive coordinator Vic Koenning. Koenning was the man who helped build one of the best defenses in not only the Big Ten, but the entire country. Now the Illini are on the verge of losing the most devastating force on that defense.

Defensive end Whitney Mercilus announced on Tuesday that he would be entering the NFL Draft.

"After a lot of prayer and discussion with my family, I have decided the time is right for me to forgo my senior year and enter the 2012 NFL draft," said Mercilus in a statement.

Mercilus was an absolute beat for Illinois on the defensive line in 2011. Mercilus was named a first-team All-American this season, and deservedly so. He finished his junior season tying the school record for sacks in a season with 16, and he set a Big Ten record with 9 forced fumbles on the year. A mark that is the second-highest of all-time in college football. Tack on his 22 1/2 tackles for loss, which also led the Big Ten, and you get a lot of quarterbacks around the Big Ten high-fiving each other on Tuesday morning.

They can all breath a bit easier now.

Mercilus is ranked third amongst defensive ends by CBSSports.com behind USC's Nick Perry and LSU's Sam Montgomery, both of whom are underclassmen as well. Neither have declared for the draft as of yet, which would leave Mercilus at the top of the list for now.
Posted on: December 31, 2011 7:13 pm
Edited on: December 31, 2011 7:13 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Illinois 20 UCLA 14



Posted by Tom Fornelli


ILLINOIS WON. There was not a lot of offense in this game, nor were there a lot of spectacular plays, but Illinois rode the strength of an outstanding defense to put an end to its six-game losing streak. With running back Jason Ford missing the game for Illinois, the Illini put the ball in Nathan Scheelhaase's hands and relied on him to do all the work on the offensive side of the ball. 

Scheelhaase finished the day with 249 yards of total offense and hit A.J. Jenkins for a 60-yard score in the fourth quarter to ice it. Still, the true star of the day was the Illinois defense, particularly defensive end Whitney Mercilus. Mercilus lived up to his name, terrorizing Kevin Prince and the UCLA offense all day as the Bruins only managed 220 yards of offense in the game, with 38 of those yards coming on a touchdown pass in the final minute of the game after this one was essentially over.

WHY ILLINOIS WON. Defense, defense, defense, a little more defense, and then some defense. Illinois' offense only managed one touchdown and two field goals in the game, as cornerback Terry Hawthorne provided the other 7 Illini points with a pick-six in the third quarter that turned the tide of this game.

WHEN ILLINOIS WON. When Scheelhaase hit Jenkins for the 60-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter with 5:36 left on the clock to make it 20-7, there wasn't much reason to believe UCLA could overcome a two-score deficit given how this game was going.

WHAT ILLINOIS WON. For the first time in school history, Illinois won consecutive bowl games in back-to-back seasons. Which is about as much as the Illini could hope for considering how the season started and the firing of head coach Ron Zook.

WHAT UCLA LOST. UCLA lost a game, but it also won the end of a 2011 season that did not feature a lot of highlights and saw Rick Neuheisel get fired. The Bruins can now move forward to what they hope will be a much brighter 2012.

BOWL GRADE: F. I'm sorry, I went into this game with the absolute lowest of expectations. Both teams were under interim coaching staffs that won't be returning next season, and neither team had a winning record coming in. Illinois had lost six straight and UCLA was just as big of a mess. You would think those low expectations would only leave me pleasantly surprised by what took place in this game, but I wasn't. It was exactly what I expected it to be, and it was incredibly boring. It may as well have been called the Fight Narcolepsy Bowl. That said, I have to give the players credit. They may not have played well, but they showed up and played. Nobody was just going through the motions, but that being said, this was still a very boring game.
Posted on: December 28, 2011 10:58 pm
 

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl Key Matchup



Posted by Bryan Fischer


A look at the key matchup that could decide the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. 

UCLA's pistol offense vs. Illinois defensive line

When it comes to stopping UCLA's Pistol, an attacking front four can cause havoc against the run-based offense. The Bruins have been pretty good on the ground this year - one of the few things they've seemed to execute ok - finishing 29th in the country with 190 yards per game rushing. Kevin Prince wasn't the greatest signal-caller (1,627 yards passing, 10-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio) but was a solid trigger man who could pull the ball and run for a first down when needed. Johnathan Franklin had a big game against Colorado but other than that was nothing to write home about after being held under 100 yards rushing in all but three games this season. Fellow back Derrick Coleman was on and off throughout the year but turned in a productive season.

Though the Bruins have faced some good defensive lines, they haven't faced anybody like defensive end Whitney Mercilus. The 6-foot-4, 265-pound All-American led the country in sacks with 14.5 and led the conference in tackles for loss with a total of 19.5 for the year. Though Illinois struggled down the stretch by losing six straight, it wasn't because of the defense, which finished seventh overall in total defense. Michael Buchanan finished 8th in the Big Ten in tackles for a loss playing on the line and was also a disruptive force at times this season. If the line can get penetration and make some plays, that allows the back seven to matchup well against UCLA's skill position talent that hasn't done much all at all outside of Nelson Rosario. Freeing up linebacker Jonathan Brown to make some plays will be something to watch if the Illini want to win the game.

Points might be hard to come by given the way Illinois' offense has looked down the stretch so that puts the pressure on the defense once again. If the team has any hope of ending the slide, they're going to have to limit big plays from an offense that can create some with misdirection. A good push from the defensive line against a bad UCLA offensive line is where things start.

On the other side, if the Bruins want to avoid going 6-8 on the year, the offense has to execute less like they did against USC and show some of the signs of life like they did against Oregon. Prince can pick up first downs and there should be a solid rushing game but if the o-line can't block Mercilus and the defensive line, interim head coach Mike Johnson could be in for a long night.

Posted on: December 28, 2011 8:44 pm
 

Keys to the game: Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl

Posted by Bryan Fischer

UCLA WILL WIN IF: The defense has to step up and get some stops. The Bruins defense looked better in the Pac-12 Championship game than they did in the regular season finale but still gave up nearly half a hundred. The secondary is young but has come along late in the season and should be healthier than they were at the end of the year. Both lines need for a few players to step up and become solid contributors this game, especially along the disappointing defensive line that was among the country's worst at getting into the backfield. The offense should be solid but if UCLA wants to get back to .500 for the season, they're going to need the defense to play the best they have since the Colorado game in mid-November.

ILLINOIS WILL WIN IF: The Illini have a pretty solid defense that has surprised some folks this season so it's up to the offense to use the extra time off before the game to get things going again. Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino has already left the team and that might be a good thing considering the team averaged just 11 points per game in their six game losing streak to end the season. Luckily their weakness (the offensive line) is matched up against the Bruins' weakness (the front seven - without middle linebacker Patrick Larimore) so it's likely quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase could have some time to make some plays. You can probably put All-American defensive end Whitney Mercilus down for a big game against the UCLA line he'll be facing.

X-FACTOR: Does anybody really want to be here? That seems to be the biggest question surrounding the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl given that two interim head coaches will be leading two teams that ended the year by falling flat on their faces. Illinois, sans Ron Zook, lost six straight games and you would figure that they want to get that taste out of their mouths. UCLA was thumped in their final two games to become the first team to make a bowl game at 6-7 and has several players who didn't make the trip up to the Bay Area due to a variety of reasons. Needless to say, motivation will be an issue in this one.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com