Illinois Fighting Illini Update With Writing Illini


The Wisconsin Badgers travel to Illinois this weekend to take on the Illinois Fighting Illini, and to prepare for the game we’ve enlisted the help of those who know the Illini the best.

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We hit up Rees Woodcock, the editor over at Writing Illini, Fansided’s Illinois website, for some insight on the Fighting Illini’s season to far. Be sure to check out Writing Illini and follow them on Twitter to keep tabs on the Illini heading into Saturday’s game.

Here’s what Wisconsin Badgers fans need to know about the Illini heading into Saturday’s game.

BOH: What did the Illinois fan base think was possible for the 2015 Illini? Has Illinois lived up to the expectations?

WI: The departure of former Illinois head coach Tim Beckman really would have hurt the team more if they weren’t such a veteran bunch.  With an experienced group it helped keep the Illini on track with what their goals were to start the season.  My expectations, along with many Illinois fans, were for Illinois to make a bowl game again and this time win it.

Interim head coach Bill Cubit has done a phenomenal job keeping this ship afloat as well.  He is my leader for the next full-time head coach of the Illinois football team.  I think most of us Illinois fans thought 7 wins was probably the expectation for this bunch with the hope of them winning more of course.

Wisconsin Badgers
Wisconsin Badgers /

Wisconsin Badgers

BOH: At this point in the season, who would you choose as the Illinois offensive and defensive MVP?

WI: The Illinois offensive MVP is an easy one.  I would have to give that to wide receiver Geronimo Allison.  He has stepped up to be our No. 1 wide receiver this season and has already eclipsed his yardage total from last season.  Allison is on pace to exceed 1,200 yards receiving this season.

The defensive MVP this season goes to Taylor Barton thus far.  Barton has been an amazing stabilizing force in on the defense.  With his help Illinois has shot up the defensive statistical rankings.  They are 24th in the nation in passing yards allowed per game with 180.2.

Barton ranks 5th on the team in tackles, 2nd on the team in pass deflections, and leads in the team in interceptions with three.  He is the defensive MVP thus far and it doesn’t really look like there is much debate.

BOH: What phase of the game — offense, defense, special teams — does Illinois hang its hat on?

WI: For much of the last half decade Illinois has hung their hat on the offensive side of the ball.  Their defense has been pretty bad lately, but that is now changing.

While Illinois’ offense is pretty good this season, they really have been dependent on their defense to come through.  They have given up an average of 19 points per game, but that stat is skewed by a turnover happy loss to North Carolina in which Illinois gave up 48 points.

I would say Illinois hangs their hat on their defense.  They are the driving force behind a solid 4-2 start.

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  • BOH: What injuries, if any, could affect the Illinois game plan on Saturday?

    WI: Ohhhhhh injuries, you are like that Aunt that you don’t like but you can’t get rid of because she is always there.  This season has been plagued with injuries and they just aren’t going away.

    The upcoming game against Wisconsin is going to be affected by a few injuries.

    Starting running back Josh Ferguson missed last week with a shoulder injury and is iffy to play against the Badgers.  He is an important piece to Illinois’ success.  Without him we aren’t as productive on the ground and we tend to fumble the ball on the last drive of the game.

    More injury news that might affect the game is from the wide receiver position.  I was hoping that Mike Dudek would be back this season but it looks like he is now out for the rest of the year.  I had my eye on this game that he would return but it looks like it is a no-go.

    BOH: Who has been a breakout player for the Illini?

    WI: The breakout player for the Illini this season has to be true-freshman running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn.

    Vaughn stepped into the backup role to start the season and spelled minutes for Ferguson on a regular basis.  He was getting between 11 and 15 carries a game.  He is being called upon to do more now though.

    Since Ferguson got injured a few weeks back, Vaughn has stepped up into the starting role.  He has had success besides for a few blunders that he probably wishes he had back.

    Vaughn has rushed for 392 yards on 95 carries this season.  That is an average of 4.1 yards per carry.  He is a legit threat to break off a big run at any moment.  He is the breakout player through six games this season.


    Stay tuned for more collaboration between Badger of Honor and Writing Illini as the week continues.

    Next: Corey Clement Nearing A Return

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