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Illinois to give 5-0 record first road test
CHAMPAIGN, ILL. (AP) - When a game starts to slip away from the home team, the visitors can hear it. Illinois offensive lineman Jeff Allen can tell.
At Penn State last year, the Illini delivered a big upset, 33-13, and Allen knew when Illinois started to take control.
“You kind of take that excitement away from the crowd and hear them dying slowly as you get a lead,” he said. “Taking control of the game and hearing 100,000 people be quiet _ it’s a great feeling.”
No. 19 Illinois (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) is undefeated and within a win of being eligible to go to a bowl game, but the Illini haven’t had a chance to throw a damper on a hostile crowd. They haven’t been on the road yet.
That will change Saturday when the Illini head to Indiana (1-4, 0-1).
Memorial Stadium in Bloomington isn’t exactly Beaver Stadium _ Allen and company silenced a crowd of 107,000 last October while the Hoosiers are averaging about 41,000 a game this season. And Indiana is 1-2 at home this season and 18-20 since 2006.
The Illini say it will be important to get off to a fast start, something they failed to do last Saturday against Northwestern before rallying for a 38-35 win.
“We don’t want to let the crowd get into it,” pass-rush specialist Michael Buchanan, who is second on the team with 4.5 sacks. “It’s almost like playing against a 12th player.”
While Illinois has pulled off big, signature upsets at Penn State, Michigan and Ohio State in coach Ron Zook’s six-plus seasons in Champaign _ the road has been tough on the Illini.
They’re 9-21 in away games under Zook _ 10-26 when you add in bowls and neutral-site games _ and 1-2 in three trips to Bloomington.
Zook said he makes no apologies for a schedule that had the Illini play five homes games before leaving town, but his players are looking forward to the road.
“Don’t get me wrong, we love playing at home,” he said. “But I think our guys are excited about the opportunity to go on the road, to band together, to bond.”
The Illini may be without two starters Saturday, Zook said.
Wide receiver Darius Millines probably won’t play after missing the Northwestern win with a foot injury, the coach said. The sophomore hasn’t practiced this week.
Millines’ absence didn’t slow the Illini. Senior receiver A.J. Jenkins had a career day with 12 catches, 268 yards and three touchdowns against the Wildcats. And Spencer Harris caught six balls for 63 yards.
Illinois will also go without starting linebacker Jonathan Brown, who will be suspended for kneeing a Northwestern player between plays Saturday. Brown is the team’s No. 2 tackler with 30 and two weeks ago was Big Ten defensive player of the week.
Freshman Houston Bates, who has played in all five games this season, will start for Brown, Zook said.
By Andrew P. Napolitano
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