Illinois at Home
If only Juice Williams could also line up on defense for Illinois.
After two dominating performances, the junior quarterback looks to continue his torrid pace when he leads the 24th-ranked Illini against Louisiana-Lafayette at home on Saturday.
Williams ran for 174 yards and two touchdowns last Saturday, breaking his own school record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a 47-21 win over Eastern Illinois. Williams also threw for 124 yards and a touchdown to help Illinois (1-1) bounce back from a demoralizing 52-42 loss to No. 6 Missouri in the season opener.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Illinois –24.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 50% of bets for this game have been placed on Illinois –24.5 (View College Football bet percentages).
In that game, Williams threw for 451 yards and five touchdowns, both career bests. In two games this season, the athletic signal-caller is averaging 379.5 yards of total offense. He needs just 36 yards on Saturday to move into fifth on Illinois' all-time list, and has helped the Illini average 532.5 yards per game, tops in the Big Ten.
"I love to run the ball, but as a quarterback," said Williams, who already holds the school record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 1,515. "We wanted to establish the run game early and anytime I or anyone else can make some big runs, it can spread the defense out and open some holes and create an opportunity to pass the ball over the top."
Illinois, which has won six of its last seven at home, has scored at least 40 points in four of its last five regular-season games.
"We are going to play a very good football team and great quarterback," Louisiana-Lafayette coach Rickey Bustle said. "They do a great job spreading the ball around. I think tempo is the biggest thing we need to contend with."
It's good the Illini have such a strong offense, because the defense could use some work. After getting torched by Missouri two weeks ago, giving up 549 yards of offense to the Tigers, Illinois surrendered 216 yards rushing to Eastern Illinois, a Football Championship Subdivision team.
"There is still work to do, we gave up too many big plays on defense and we just have to go back and grind a little bit," Illini coach Ron Zook said. "Whether we go back and scrimmage or whatever we do, we're going to get that corrected. It's critical but I know we can fix it."
It's important for Illinois to get the kinks worked out on defense, because after this week, the team enters conference play with road games against No. 17 Penn State and Michigan. The Illini rank last in the Big Ten in total defense, giving up 413.5 yards per game.
"Even though we made some stops today, we still need to stop the run," Illini linebacker Martez Wilson said. "As linebackers, that's our priority and we just weren't doing that today."
While Louisiana-Lafayette (0-1) doesn't pose quite the threat that Chase Daniel and Missouri did, the Ragin' Cajuns know how to run the ball. They ranked seventh nationally last season in rushing and have a star running back in Tyrell Fenroy.
Fenroy has rushed for 1,000 yards in each of his first three seasons and is second among active players with 3,327. He needs just nine rushing yards to break Brian Mitchell's school record, and needs only 109 combined rushing and receiving yards to break Brandon Stokley's combined record.
The Cajuns had 263 yards rushing in a 51-21 loss to Southern Mississippi in their season opener two weeks ago. Louisiana-Lafayette was off last week and may have other distractions to deal with on Saturday. With Hurricane Ike headed toward the Gulf Coast just two weeks after Hurricane Gustav threatened the area, the Cajuns are making arrangements to hang out in Illinois if the hurricane hits close to home.
Louisiana-Lafayette has lost nine straight to ranked teams, getting outscored 492-57 in those games. This is the first meeting between these teams.
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