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Ohio Prepping for Illini

Ohio Prepping for Illini

Oct. 9, 2006

Frank Solich Press Conference Transcript

Ohio Football Gameday

ATHENS, Ohio - The Bobcat football team (3-3, 2-1 MAC) will try to build off its win versus Western Michigan when it steps out of MAC play for the final time to take on Illinois on Saturday, Oct. 14. Kickoff at Memorial Stadium is slated for 7 p.m. ET.

The Bobcats snapped a three-game losing streak with their 27-20 victory against the Broncos. Ohio ran for a season-best 257 yards against the MAC's top-ranked rushing defense. Kalvin McRae led the Bobcats with 120 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. The defense forced three turnovers, including two interceptions. Tyler Russ led the unit with 12 tackles and one of the picks. Chris Garrett scored his first collegiate touchdown, breaking off an 88-yard punt return in the first quarter. All three players earned MAC player of the week honors on offense, defense and special teams, respectively.

McRae leads the Bobcat ground game with 60.3 yards per game and five scores. He is also the tied for the team lead with 15 receptions. Quarterback Austen Everson is completing 58.6 percent of his passes (82-of-140) for 802 yards and a career-best five scores. Everson is also the team's second-leading rusher with 137 yards and a touchdown. Aside from McRae, Scott Mayle and Rudy Sylvan have each hauled in 15 receptions. Sylvan is tied for the team lead with fellow tight end Thomas Christy with two touchdown catches.

Russ leads the Bobcat defense that is ranked in the top half of the MAC in nearly every statistical category with 51 tackles. He has recorded double-digit stops in each of the last two games. Matt Muncy is the team leader with 7.0 tackles for loss. Jameson Hartke picked up a sack against Western Michigan to up his team-leading total to 2.5.

Garrett is the nation's top-ranked punt returner with a 25.9 yards-per-return average. He is just five yards shy of cracking the Bobcats' single-season top 10 in punt return yards. His 233 yards is already more than Ohio posted all of last season.

The Bobcats' kickoff and punt coverage units are both ranked in the nation's top 20. Ohio is tied for ninth in the NCAA in punt return yardage defense. Opposing punt returners are averaging only 2.71 yards per return (7 returns for 19 yards). Opposing kick returners are averaging 17.18 yards per return, 19th best in the nation.

Illinois is also wrapping up its non-league schedule this week against the Bobcats. The Fighting Illini complete their 2006 slate with five straight Big Ten games. Illinois is 1-2 in its three non-conference games to date. The Illini defeated Eastern Illinois in the opener before losing at Rutgers and a home game with Syracuse.

The Fighting Illini are 2-4 overall and 1-2 in the Big Ten after suffering a last-second loss to Indiana last week. The Hoosiers kicked a 33-yard field goal with no time remaining to take a 34-32 win in Champaign. The field goal capped an 18-point comeback by Indiana. The Fighting Illini led 25-7 with 10:03 left in the second quarter. Illinois outgained the Hoosiers, 426-389. The Illini ran for 209 yards in the game led by Pierre Thomas' 126-yard effort. True freshman quarterback Isiah Williams accounted for 243 yards of total offense, running for 53 yards on 10 carries and throwing for 190 and two scores. Kyle Hudson had three catches for 92 yards and two touchdowns. J Leman led the defense with 10 tackles, including half a sack.

Offensively, Illinois enters Saturday's game as the nation's 22nd-ranked rushing unit with an average of 183.83 yards per game on the ground. Thomas is averaging 79.2 yards per game on the ground and leads the team wtih three rushing scores. Williams has posted 210 rushing yards. The rookie signal caller has completed 41-of-99 (41.4 percent) of his throws for 739 yards, six touchdowns and four interceptions. Tim Brasic began the year as the starter. He has played in four games, completing 29-of-51 throws (56.9 percent) for 289 yards, no touchdowns and four interceptions. Hudson has been the Illini's top receiver with 16 catches for 276 yards and three touchdowns. Jacob Willis has been Illinois' big-play receiver with 10 catches for three touchdowns and a team-high 24.2 yards-per-catch average.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Illini are 327.5 yards and 26.50 points per game. Leman not only paces Illinois with 65 tackles, but his 10.83 stops per contest is ninth-best in the nation. The junior linebacker is third on the team with 4.0 tackles for loss. Defensive lineman Derek Walker has a team-high 6.5 stops behind the line, including 5.5 sacks. The Illini have recorded five interceptions, one each by five different players.

On special teams, junior Jason Reda is 5-for-7 on field goal tries with a season-long kick of 41 yards. Reda also averaged 62.8 yards per kickoff with 13 touchbacks on 25 kicks. Kyle Yelton is averaging 38.6 yards on 27 punts with a long of 57. In the return game, E.B. Halsey has accounted for all 10 of the Illini's punt returns (4.9/return). He is also the squad's top kick returner with a 19.3 average. Illinois has allowed a punt return and a kickoff return for a touchdown this season.

The all-time series between the Bobcats and Fighting Illini is tied at two games each. The two teams have not met since the 1950 season when Illinois earned a 28-2 win in Champaign.All four previous meetings have been played on Illinois' home field. Both of the Bobcats' victories in the series have been by 6-0 scores (1935, 1938).

Aside from the four previous meetings, the Bobcats and Illini share a significant historical link. The Bobcats' all-time winningest coach, and the namesake of its home facility, Don Peden lettered at Illinois in 1920 and 1921 while playing for College Football Hall of Fame inductee Bob Zuppke. Peden, a halfback from Kewanee, Ill., was a first-team All-Big Ten selection in 1921. Peden took over the reins of the Bobcats' football program in 1924. He went 121-46-11 in his 21 seasons. He holds the Bobcat coaching records for longest tenure, most victories and best winning percentage (.711). Peden's squads won six Buckeye Athletic Association championships. He coached the Bobcats to a 2-1 record against the Fighting Illini.

The game will not be televised, but will be shown live on the internet via ESPN360. Internet service providers that currently offer the service include Frontier, US Cable, Verizon, BELD, Charter LA, Charter St. Louis, Grande, Mediacom, MidHudson, SMU, StarStream, MTC, Iowa Network Services, Conway and Liberty PR. For more information, visit www.espn360.com.

The Bobcats return home for their annual homecoming game on Saturday, Oct. 21 against Buffalo. Kickoff at Peden Stadium is set for 2 p.m. For ticket information, call the Ohio Athletics Ticket Office at 1-800-575-CATS.

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