Illinois kicks off the 2022 season at Memorial Stadium on Saturday
CHAMPAGNE, IL — The Illinois soccer team opens its 133rd soccer season Saturday at Memorial Stadium with a Week 0 game against Wyoming. Kickoff is scheduled for 3pm CT on Big Ten Network.
Brandon Gaudin (play-by-play), Joshua Perry (analyst) and Rick Pizzo (reporter) have the call at 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).
Illinois head coach Bret Bielema will hold its game week press conference on Monday at 1:00pm CT. Fans can watch the press conference at FightingIllini.com/watch.
ILLINOIS STATISTICS AND NOTES
ILLINOIS, WYOMING OPEN COLLEGE FOOTBALL SEASON
- Illinois and Wyoming meet in Week 0, Illini’s second straight season playing in the first week of the year. Last season, Illinois defeated Nebraska 30-22 in Week 0.
- Illinois and Wyoming meet on the soccer field for the first time in history.
- Illinois is one of 22 FBS teams playing Week 0 and one of six Power 5 teams. Nebraska and Northwestern meet in Dublin, Florida State hosts Duquesne, North Carolina hosts Florida A&M and Vanderbilt heads to Hawaii.
- Illinois unveil their new turf during the first game of the 2022 season. Some of the notable changes are “Zuppke Field” written in the sideline, “FamILLY” shown beyond the south endzone and sideline, and orange sidelines inside the 20-yard lines to mimic those of the Rose Bowl.
- Illinois is 276-247-14 all-time at Memorial Stadium.
- Illinois is 84-43-5 at home in season openers and 61-28-4 in season openers.
BIG WIN IN YEAR ONE FROM BIELEMA
- Bret Bielema was the first freshman head coach in Illinois history to win two top-25 games. The Illini had marquee wins at 7th-ranked (AP) Penn State, in the longest game in college football history, and at 20th-ranked (CFP) Minnesota, in Illinois’ first-ranked college football playoff win.
- The Illini were one of four teams, along with Boise State, Fresno State and Mississippi State, to win two AP/CFP league games away from home in 2021.
- Illinois had as many AP/CFP ranked wins in 2021 (2) as in the previous 12 years combined.
- Illinois has had the most Big Ten wins (4) since the team won 6-2 en route to the Rose Bowl in 2007 (level with 2010, 2013, 2019, which also had four Big Ten wins).
- Illinois dominated Northwestern, 47-14, in the season finale for the Illini’s first win 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 eighth-best season in the past 25 years.
- Illinois announced a contract extension for the defensive coordinator Ryan Walters on November 14, 2021 after Walters helped Illinois pull off one of the best defensive turnarounds in college football.
- Illinois’ defense is up 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-down defense (51st of 114th) have all climbed 50 or more spots in the national rankings.
- Illinois allowed just 18.9 points in Big Ten games, fourth-best in the conference. In 2020, Illinois allowed 34.9 points per Big Ten game, finishing bottom in the conference.
- Illinois Big Ten defensive ranks in conference play improved 7+ points in points per game (4th of 14th), touchdowns allowed (t-3rd of 14), yards per game (4th of 13), yards per game (5th of 14), rush yards per carry (7th of 14th), pass yards per throw (4th of 14th), and pass yards per game (1st of 10th).
- Illinois kept nine of their 12 opponents below their season-scoring average.
- Illinois total defense has improved 101.0 yards per game (467.3 to 366.3). The 101.0 YPG improvement is the program’s fourth-best improvement since 1950.
- The Illinois defense allowed just 48 points (12.0) in regulating its four Big Ten road games in 2021, including just four TDs from opposing offenses in Big Ten road games.
- Illinois allowed only one passing touchdown in the last six games of the season and none in the last 19 quarters (4 games + last 3 quarters at Penn State).
- Illinois 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 had a run of opponents holding 24 points or fewer in seven straight games.
- Brown was 21st in the nation and third in the Big Ten in rushing yards per game in 2021 (99.2).
- Brown has 1,451 career rushing yards in Illinois, No. 28 on the all-time Illinois career rushing list. Brown also tallied 352 yards as a freshman at Western Michigan for 1,806 for his career.
CHASE BROWN FOLLOWS HISTORY
- Chase Brown became the 14th 1,000-yard rusher in program history when he broke the 1,000-yard mark in the season finale against Northwestern. He finished the season with 1,005 rushing yards for 170 carries (5.9 per carry) and five touchdowns.
- Brown wants to join an elite group of running backs if he can hit 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 was Bielema’s 14th 1,000-yard rusher coach in his 13-year head coaching career.
- Brown’s 223-yard rushing game at Penn State was his second game of 2021 for 200+ yards (257 vs. Charlotte). He joined Howard Griffith (1990) and Rashard Mendenhall (2007) as the only player 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 the fourth-most ever rushed against Penn State.
- Brown’s 147 rushing yards in Minnesota was the most by a Minnesota opponent since 2017.
- Brown became the first Illini in history to rush for 220 yards twice in his career. He made it in three games during the 2021 season (versus Charlotte at Penn State).
- According to the PFF, Brown led the nation in yards with 145 at Penn State after the Week 8 contact in 2021. He led the nation in yards from contact twice in four weeks in October 2021, and he was the only running back to lead the nation in yards from contact twice in the 2021 season.
- Brown had 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 coming after contact.
- Brown was 23rd in the nation and third in the Big Ten in rushing yards per game (100.5).
- Brown has 1,563 career rushing yards in Illinois, No. 25 on the all-time Illinois career rushing list. Brown also rushed for 352 career yards for 1,915 as a freshman at Western Michigan.
- Like most teams in college football, Illinois relies on the help of transfers. Here’s a list of the 12 transfers joining the team for 2022, including the remaining years of eligibility.
» O.L Isaiah AdamsGarden City CC (2 years)
» WR Kody caseSouth Dakota (1 year)
» O.L Zy CrislerMississippi Gulf Coast CC (3 years)
» O.L Dylan DavisFurman (3 years)
»QB Tommy DeVitoSyracuse (1 year)
» DL TeRah EdwardsNorthwest (4 years)
» DB Terrell JenningsState of Minnesota (1 year)
»QB Kirkland MichauxBlinn JC (4 years)
» WR Jonah MorrisNorthern Colorado (1 year)
» K/P Fabrizio PintonAir Force (4 years)
» DB Solo gymnastHawaii (3 years)
» DL Raashaan Wilkins, Vanderbilt (2 years)
- Illinois has 20 college graduates on its 2022 roster, 16.9% of its overall roster.
» Chase Brown: Strategic Brand Communication (Master)
» Verdi’s brown: Communication (Second Bachelor)
» Kody case: Strategic Leadership & Management (Certificate Program)
» Tommy DeVito: Strategic brand communication (master’s degree)
» Preston Angel: Management (Master’s course)
» Caleb Griffin: Strategic brand communication (master’s degree)
» ChaseHayden Strategic Brand Communication (Master’s degree)
» Ezekiel Holmes: Communication (Second Bachelor)
» Terrell Jennings: Strategic brand communication (certificate program)
» Ryan Johnson: Strategic brand communication (master’s degree)
» Tailon Leitzsey: Management (Master’s course)
» Michael Marchese: Accounting (master’s degree)
» Jartavius Martin: Strategic Leadership & Management (Certificate Program)
» Jonah Morris: Strategic Leadership & Management (Certificate Program)
» Alex Palczewski: Organizational & Community Leadership (Second Bachelor)
» Alex Pihlstrom: Strategic brand communication (master’s degree)
» Jordan Slaughter: Communication (Second Bachelor)
» Kendall Smith: Strategic brand communication (certificate program)
» Peyton Vining: Food Science & Human Nutrition (master’s degree)
» Raashaan Wilkins: Strategic Brand Communication (Certificate Program)
PALCHO – CAREER BEGINS LEADER
- Captain of Illinois Alex Palczewski is the NCAA active leader in career starts at 52 and is 13 shy of tying the NCAA record set by App State WR Thomas Hennigan from 2017-21.
- Palczewski is the active leader in snapshots, according to PFF.
- Palczewski started every game for the Illini in 2018, 2019 and 2021. The only games he hasn’t started were one as a true freshman in 2017 and four from a knee injury in 2020.
ALL TIME SERIES
ILLINOIS vs. WYOMING
- Series: First meeting ever
- Last: –
- Strand: –
- at Champaign: –
- Bielema vs Wyoming: 0-0
- Illinois offensive line coach Bart Mueller was Wyoming’s offensive line coach in 2019 and 2020.