Positively Promoting the Student Athlete Since 1992

OPENING KICK
• Hitting the Road: After a season-opening 42-3 rout of Akron at Memorial Stadium, Illinois (1-0) travels to
Connecticut (1-0) to face the Huskies on Saturday in East Hartford (3:30 pm ET/2:30 CT on CBS Sports Network).
• First-time Foe: Saturday will be the first-ever meeting on the gridiron between the Illinois and UConn. It is the first
leg of a home-and-home series between the two programs. The Huskies will come to Champaign on Sept. 12, 2020.
• Dominant from the Start: The Illini wasted little time getting things going in 2019. The Illini won the coin toss,
took the ball, and promptly drove 63 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown to open the season. By halftime, the Illini
led 28-3 en route to a 42-3 season-opening victory over Akron. Here are a few standout stats from the opener:
» The offense rolled up 401 total yards with a balanced attack (207 on the ground and 194 through the air)
» The defense allowed its fewest points (3), fewest yards (192) and secured its largest margin of victory (39)
since a 52-3 win over Murray State on Sept. 3, 2016, Lovie’s Smith’s first game at Illinois.
» The defense racked up 12 tackles-for-loss and six sacks while forcing the Zips into two turnovers
• Impact Transfers: As expected, transfers made a huge impact in Saturday’s season-opening victory.
» Illinois started five transfers against Akron – QB Brandon Peters (199 total yards, 4 total TDs), WR Josh
Imatorbhebhe (2 catches, 34 yards), OL Richie Petitbon, DL Oluwole Betiku Jr. (6 tackles, 3.0 TFLs, 1.5
sacks), and LB Milo Eifler (2 tackles, 1.0 TFL), while two others saw action and contributed – WR Trevon
Sidney (2 catches, 26 yards, 1 TD) and WR Donny Navarro (1 punt return, 13 yards)
• Peters Shines in Debut: Michigan transfer QB Brandon Peters was in command during his first game in Orange
and Blue, completing 14-of-23 passes for 163 yards and three touchdowns, rushing for 36 yards and one
touchdown on six carries, and, most importantly, playing turnover-free football while leading the Illini to victory.
Peters was officially announced as the starter by Lovie Smith on Aug. 20. A former four-star recruit, Peters was
the No. 3 pro style QB in the nation coming out of high school (247Sports). He graduated from Michigan in three
years and transferred to Illinois this summer with two years of eligibility remaining.
• Hansen, So Hot in Openers: Junior LB Jake Hansen monster game against Akron, collecting a team-high seven
tackles, a half-sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and his first career interception. Hansen’s 90.7 PFF
grade ranked 25th in FBS on defense and sixth in FBS among linebackers. Last season, Hansen exploded onto the
scene with a 15-tackle, 6.0-TFL performance to open the season vs. Kent State en route to a 95-tackle season.
• Running Wild: The Illini started off 2019 with 207 yards on the ground against Akron, just below their 2018
season average of 243.0 rushing yards per game, which was good for 12th-best in FBS, 2nd-best in the Big Ten
and fifth on the Illinois season rushing average list. The 2018 average was 137.4 yards per game more than 2017
(105.6), the biggest improvement in the nation from 2017 to 2018.
• Home Sweet Home: With the win over Akron, Illinois now has 22 consecutive home-opening wins, the fourthlongest active streak in the nation behind only Florida (29), Wisconsin (24) and Oklahoma State (23 – hasn’t
played 2019 home-opener yet). Illinois is 92-33-5 all-time in home-openers.
• Streak-Breakers? With a trip to UConn this weekend, Illinois is looking to break a streak of seven straight
nonconference road losses dating back to 2008.
» Since a 41-20 win at Syracuse in 2007, the Fighting Illini have dropped games at Western Michigan (2008),
Cincinnati (2009), Fresno State (2010), Arizona State (2012), Washington (2014), North Carolina (2015) and
South Florida (2017).
» The last two times the Illini won a nonconference road game they
went on to play in a BCS bowl game (2001 – won at Cal and later
played in Sugar Bowl, and 2007 – won at Syracuse and went on play
in Rose Bowl).
• Talent Upgrade: The 2019 recruiting class was small in numbers (16) but
big on talent. The average recruit rating of .8679 by 247Sports was the
highest rated Illini class in the online recruiting era (since 2002), ranking
31st nationally and seventh in the Big Ten. 2019 signees Marquez Beason
(.9564 rating, No. 99) and Isaiah Williams (.9479 rating, No. 116) are the
highest rated Illini recruits since 2009 (Terry Hawthorne, No. 72), and the
highest duo since 2007 (Arrelious Benn, No. 12, and Martez Wilson, No. 15).
• 2019 Captains: Lovie Smith announced on Aug. 27 that LB Jake Hansen,
LB Dele Harding, P Blake Hayes, OL Doug Kramer and OL Alex Palczewski
were voted team captains for the 2019 season. The captains were
determined by a vote of Illini players.