Jay Taft: Focus turns from ‘Juice’ to Rashard
Illinois coach Ron Zook has said all along that this year’s offense would not go through quarterback Isiah “Juice” Williams.
Running back Rashard Mendenhall is proving him right.
Mendenhall rushed for 214 yards and had a touchdown run and a TD catch in last week’s 27-14 win over Indiana. Led by Mendenhall, Illinois (3-1, 1-0) leads the Big Ten in rushing by 36 yards, with 265 per game. Mendenhall is second individually in the Big Ten, and fourth in the nation, with 134 yards per game.
“There’s no question that Rashard is just as important as Juice. The success of our offense depends on him,” Zook said in a teleconference Tuesday. “I told Rashard at the beginning of the season ‘As you go, we’ll go.’ He just said ‘Let’s do it.’”
Mendenhall, last week’s Big Ten offensive player of the week, and the Illini have yet to face a truly stingy defense, however.
They will see one this weekend at home against Penn State. That will be a true test as to where the Illini stand.
Kniss, Cards suffer first loss
Kyle Kniss (Eastland/Pearl City) and the 14th-ranked North Central College Cardinals were shocked 16-13 by Washington (Mo.) University on Saturday, suffering their first loss of the season.
Kniss threw two late interceptions — including a drive-stopper with under two minutes remaining — and was 16-of-30 for 150 yards and a touchdown. He had been splitting time with QB Aaron Fanthorpe, who did not play because of illness.
Linebacker Matt Wenger (Dakota) led the North Central defense with 11 tackles.
Golden Eagles take 2nd title
The Rock Valley College women’s volleyball team went 4-1 and claimed the title in last weekend’s Kankakee Tournament, raising its season record to 18-5-2. The Golden Eagles are ranked No. 3 in NJCAA Division III. Amy Rupprecht (Boylan), Kaitlin Slocum and Noelle Bennett all were named all-tournament for RVC.
Rockford College cross country runner Chad Zeman (Marengo) broke his own 8K school record by 38 seconds with a time of 26:28 to finish third in Saturday’s Lake Forest College Invitational.
North Central’s Anna Wirtz (Harlem) totaled 11 digs and four aces as the Cardinals (13-3) went 4-0 at the Wheaton Volleyball Invitational.
Eric Bolin (Harlem) starts at middle linebacker as a true freshman at Briar Cliff University in Sioux City, Iowa. He tallied 11 tackles two weekends ago and had five tackles Saturday. The Chargers are 0-4.
Alli Bernardi (Rockford Lutheran) teamed up with Audrey Yenchek to post an 8-2 doubles win in an Augustana women’s tennis team victory on Saturday. Augustana (6-4) has won four consecutive matches.
Jay Taft’s Quick Shots on college sports appear Thursdays. He can be reached at 815-987-1384 or firstname.lastname@example.org.