Illinois kicks off 2022 season Saturday at Memorial Stadium

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CHAMPAGNE, Ill. — The Illinois football team opens its 133rd football season Saturday at Memorial Stadium with a Week 0 game against Wyoming. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. CT on Big Ten Network.

Brandon Gaudin (play-by-play), Joshua Perry (analyst) and Rick Pizzo (reporter) have the call on BTN. The Busey Bank Illini Sports Network will have the radio call with Brian Barnhart (play-by-play), Martin O’Donnell (analyst) and Michael Martin (sideline).

PRESS CONFERENCE

Illinois Head Coach Bret Bielema will hold its game-week press conference Monday at 1 p.m. CT. Fans can watch the press conference at FightingIllini.com/watch.

ILLINOIS STATS AND SCORES

ILLINOIS AND WYOMING KICK OFF COLLEGE FOOTBALL SEASON

  • Illinois and Wyoming meet in Week 0, the Illini’s second straight season playing the first week of the year. Last season, Illinois beat Nebraska, 30-22, in Week 0.
  • Illinois and Wyoming meet on the football field for the first time in history.
  • Illinois is one of 22 FBS teams playing in Week 0 and one of six Power-5 teams. Nebraska and the Northwest meet in Dublin, Florida State hosts Duquesne, North Carolina hosts Florida A&M, and Vanderbilt heads to Hawaii.

HOME OPENING

  • Illinois debuts its new territory in Game 1 of the 2022 season. Some of the notable changes are “Zuppke Field” written on the sideline, “FamILLY” displayed beyond the south end zone and the sideline, and orange sidelines inside the 20-yard lines to mimic those at the Rose Bowl.
  • Illinois is 276-247-14 all-time at Memorial Stadium.
  • Illinois is 84-43-5 in season openers and 61-28-4 in season opener at home.

BIG VICTORIES IN BIELEMA’S FIRST YEAR

  • Bret Bielema became the first freshman head coach in Illinois history to win two top-25 games. The Illini had top-tier wins at No. 7 (AP) Penn State, in the game the longest in college football history, and at No. 20 (CFP) Minnesota, in Illinois’ first-ever ranked college football playoff victory.
  • The Illini were one of four teams to win two AP/CFP ranked games on the road in 2021, along with Boise State, Fresno State and Mississippi State.
  • Illinois has recorded as many AP/CFP ranked wins in 2021 (2) as the previous 12 years combined.
  • Illinois is tied for its most Big Ten wins (4) since the 2007 team went 6-2 en route to the Rose Bowl (tied with 2010, 2013, 2019, which also had four Big Ten wins).
  • Illinois outscored Northwestern, 47-14, in the season finale for the Illini’s first victory in the Land of Lincoln Trophy rivalry game since 2015, ending a six-game losing streak.
  • According to ESPN’s SP+ metric, Illinois had its best season since 2011 and the 8th best season in 25 years.

DEFENSIVE UPGRADE

  • Illinois announced a contract extension for the defensive coordinator Ryan Walters on Nov. 14, 2021, after Walters helped Illinois have one of the best defensive turnovers in college football.
  • Illinois’ defense improved 13.0 points from last season (34.9 ppg to 21.9 ppg). The 13.0 ppg improvement is the program’s third best improvement since 1950.
  • Illinois’ scoring defense (31st of 97th), total defense (32nd of 89th), and third defense (51st of 114th) all improved 50 or more places in the national rankings.
  • Illinois has allowed just 18.9 points in Big Ten games, fourth-best in the conference. In 2020, Illinois allowed 34.9 Big Ten points per game, ranking last in the conference.
  • Illinois Big Ten defensive rankings in conference games improved more than 7 spots in points per game (4th from 14th), touchdowns allowed (t-3rd from 14th), yards per play (4th from 13th), yards per game (5th from 14th), rushing yards per rush (7th from 14th), passing yards per throw (4th from 14th), and passing yards per game (1st from 10th).
  • Illinois held nine of its 12 opponents under its season scoring average.
  • Illinois’ total defense improved 101.0 yards per game (467.3 from 366.3). The 101.0 ypg improvement is the program’s fourth best improvement since 1950.
  • The Illinois defense has allowed just 48 points (12.0) in regulation in its four Big Ten road games in 2021, including just four touchdowns by opposing offenses in Big Ten road games.
  • Illinois has allowed just one passing touchdown in its last six games of the season and none in the last 19 quarters (4 games + last 3 quarters at Penn State).
  • Illinois has allowed just 2.5 yards per carry in Big Ten road games in 2021 (142 carries, 361 yards) and just 1.7 yards per carry in the fourth quarter of those games (31 carries, 52 yards).
  • Illinois has had a holding streak of 24 points or less in seven straight games.
  • Brown was 21st in the nation and third in the Big Ten in rushing yards per game (99.2) in 2021.
  • Brown has 1,451 career yards rushing at Illinois, No. 28 on Illinois’ all-time rushing list. Brown also rushed for 352 yards as a freshman at Western Michigan for 1,806 for his career.

CHASE BROWN HISTORY OF CHASES

  • Chase Brown became the 14th 1,000-yard rusher in program history when he cleared the 1,000-yard mark in the season finale against Northwestern. He finished the season with 1,005 rushing yards on 170 carries (5.9 per carry) and five touchdowns.
  • Brown is looking to join an elite group of running backs if he can reach 1,000 yards again in 2022. Only Jim Grabowski and Robert Holcombe have rushed for 1,000 yards in two seasons for the Fighting Illini.
  • Brown served as Bielema’s 14th 1,000-yard rush coach during his 13-year head coaching career.
  • Brown’s 223-yard rushing game at Penn State marked his second game of 2021 with 200+ yards (257 against Charlotte). He joined Howard Griffith (1990) and Rashard Mendenhall (2007) as the only players in Illinois history with multiple 200-yard rushing games in a single season.
  • Brown’s 223 rushing yards at Penn State was the most ever by an opponent at Beaver Stadium and fourth against Penn State.
  • Brown’s 147 rushing yards at Minnesota was the most by an opponent in Minnesota since 2017.
  • Brown was the first Illini in history to rush for 220+ yards twice in a career. He did it in the space of three games in the 2021 season (against Charlotte, at Penn State).
  • Brown led the nation in yards after contact in Week 8 of 2021 with 145 at Penn State, according to PFF. He led the nation in yards after two contacts in four weeks in October 2021 and he was the only running back to lead the nation in yards after two contacts in the 2021 season.
  • Brown made 71 carries last season while facing at least 8 defenders in the box, and averaged 5.96 yards per carry with 4.97 of those yards on contact.
  • Brown finished 23rd in the nation and third in the Big Ten in rushing yards per game (100.5).
  • Brown has 1,563 career yards rushing at Illinois, No. 25 on Illinois’ all-time rushing list. Brown also rushed for 352 yards as a freshman at Western Michigan for 1,915 for his career.

INCOMING TRANSFERS

  • Like most college football teams, Illinois will rely on transfer assistance. Here is a list of the 12 transfers to join the team for 2022, including their remaining years of eligibility.
    » OL Isaiah AdamsGarden City CC (2 years)
    » WR Kody caseSouth Dakota (1 year)
    » OL Zy CrislerMississippi Gulf Coast CC (3 years)
    » OL Dylan DavisFurman (3 years old)
    » Q.B. Tommy DeVitoSyracuse (1 year)
    » DL TeRah EdwardsNorth West (4 years)
    » comics Terrell JenningsMinnesota State (1 year)
    » Q.B. Kirkland MichauxBlinn JC (4 years old)
    » WR Jonas MorrisNorthern Colorado (1 year)
    » K/P Fabrice PintonAir Force (4 years)
    » comics Solo turnerHawaii (3 years)
    » DL Raashaan Wilkins, Vanderbilt (2 years)

GRADUATES

  • Illinois has 20 college graduates on its 2022 roster, or 16.9% of its total roster.
    » Chase Brown: Strategic Brand Communication (Master)
    » Verdis Brown: Communication (Licence 2)
    » Kody case: Strategic Leadership and Management (Certificate Program)
    » Tommy DeVito: Strategic Brand Communication (Master’s Program)
    » Preston Engel: Management (Masters Program)
    » Caleb Griffon: Strategic Brand Communication (Master’s Program)
    » Chase Hayden Strategic Brand Communication (Master’s Program)
    » Ezekiel Holmes: Communication (Licence 2)
    » Terrell Jennings: Strategic Brand Communication (Certificate Program)
    » ryan johnson: Strategic Brand Communication (Master’s Program)
    » Tailon Leitzsey: Management (Masters Program)
    » Michael Marchese: Accounting (Master’s Program)
    » Jartavius ​​Martin: Strategic Leadership and Management (Certificate Program)
    » Jonas Morris: Strategic Leadership and Management (Certificate Program)
    » Alex Palczewski: Organizational & Community Leadership (Second Baccalaureate)
    » Alex Pihlstrom: Strategic Brand Communication (Master’s Program)
    » Jordyn Slaughter: Communication (Licence 2)
    » Kendall Smith: Strategic Brand Communication (Certificate Program)
    » Peyton Vining: Food Science & Human Nutrition (Master’s Program)
    » Raashaan Wilkins: Strategic Brand Communication (Certificate Program)

PALCHO – LEADER AT THE START OF A CAREER

  • Illinois Senior Captain Alex Palczewski is the NCAA’s active leader in career starts with 52 and is 13 away from tying the NCAA record set by App State WR Thomas Hennigan from 2017-21.
  • Palczewski is the active snap leader, according to PFF.
  • Palczewski started every game for the Illini in 2018, 2019 and 2021. The only games he didn’t start were one as a true freshman in 2017 and four after a knee injury in 2020.

CAPTAINS

ALL TIME SERIES

ILLINOIS vs. WYOMING

  • Series: First meeting
  • Last: –
  • Streak: –
  • in Champagne: –
  • Bielema vs. Wyoming: 0-0
  • Illinois offensive line coach bart miller served as Wyoming’s offensive line coach in 2019 and 2020.
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