Victory is tweet for Illinois’ Ford in aftermath of Penn State game
CHAMPAIGN — Illinois junior running back Jason Ford said he was just playing around with his Twitter account, but it sure read like he was serious.
Ford, the second-string running back behind emerging star Mikel Leshoure, rushed for 47 yards on nine carries in last Saturday’s 33-13 victory at Penn State. Leshoure logged 119 yards on 27 carries against the Nittany Lions, and third-stringer Troy Pollard finished with 55 yards on eight carries.
Then Ford, in tweet-speak, sounded unhappy: “Givin up on everything. Jus want to go home to my daughter.’’ And, “Tired of workin hard and not gettin nothin out of it! Bout to say (heck with) it!’’
After practice Monday, Ford said he was having some fun rather than venting disgust with his playing time.
“I was just trying to fool around with people,’’ Ford said. “People try to get us against each other. I don’t have any problems. I’m cool with my role. I don’t have any problems with my role.’’
Illinois (3-2 overall, 1-1 in the Big Ten Conference) likely will need all hands on deck against No. 13 Michigan State (6-0, 2-0) Saturday at Spartan Stadium (11 a.m., Big Ten Network).
Illini coaches suggested Leshoure and Ford were 1A and 1B on the depth chart before the season, but Leshoure took the lead back role and ran with it. He has four games of 100 yards rushing or more in the first five contests. Ranking second in the Big Ten in rushing, Leshoure has 597 yards and three touchdowns on 104 carries, averaging 5.7 yards per carry.
Ford has 38 carries for 138 yards and two touchdowns with a 3.6-yard average. Pollard has gained 88 yards on 16 carries, averaging 5.5 yards.
Meanwhile, cornerback Terry Hawthorne said he would “play it by ear’’ concerning his status for the game against Michigan State, but the pain is gone from the stress fracture in his foot that kept him out of the first four games. He played roughly a dozen snaps against Penn State.
“I just have to get myself back into the game basically,’’ he said.
Illinois placekicker Derek Dimke earned co-special teams player of the week in the Big Ten on Monday after a 4 for 4 day at Penn State, and Illini quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase received the league award as the top freshman.
Dimke, a junior from Rockford Boylan, made field goals of 31, 37, 41 and 50 yards to become the first Illini placekicker to convert four in a game since 2006. The 50-yarder was his second field goal of 50 yards or more this season. Dimke also earned the award last season.
Scheelhaase completed 15 for 19 passing for 151 yards with one touchdown and also rushed for 61 yards to receive the award for the second time this season.
With the Huff Hall doors opening to Illini Madness at 10 p.m. Friday (no admission charge, no reserved seats), there likely will be a rush to get in line. But Rock Island senior guard Chasson Randle was in no rush to make a decision. A recruiting priority, Randle made an official visit to Stanford over the weekend and apparently liked the scenery, indicating distance might not be a problem.
Randle met former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, who now works as a Stanford professor. He also bumped into professional golfer Michelle Wie and Mark Madsen, who led the Cardinals to the 1998 Final Four.
Otherwise, he also enjoyed the weather in suburban San Francisco.
“It’s a lot different from the Midwest, but at the same time, it’s soothing,’’ Randle told the Rock Island Argus. “To be out there in sunshine, it gives you a different mood. I enjoyed it. I have nothing bad to say about the visit.’’
The visit to Illinois this weekend is Randle’s last official trip. He also visited Purdue and will choose from the three finalists.
The madness event will begin after the seats fill about 30 minutes after the doors open. The gym will be cleared following the Illini volleyball game that night. The event will be streamed live on Bigtennetwork.com (a subscription service). Highlights from the Illini Madness will appear on Big Ten Hoops Hysteria, an hour-long BTN show at 10 p.m. Saturday. The show will showcase Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern and Wisconsin.
The Illini mourn the death of Jeremy Izzo, a former student manager, graduate assistant and video coordinator. Izzo, 29, died suddenly Friday as he was preparing for his second season as Joliet Central coach. According to a published report, he suffered from a heart condition diagnosed in the eighth grade.
Illinois’ dream season may have suffered a big blow after All-America outside hitter Laura DeBruler left the match last Saturday at Michigan with a knee injury. DeBruler, who became the school’s all-time leader in kills earlier this season, underwent an MRI on Monday.
The results won’t be released until today, but the Illini coaching staff was extremely concerned with the severity of the injury. DeBruler, a senior from Downers Grove North, hurt the knee during the third set in a 3-1 loss to No. 18 Michigan. The defeat dropped Illinois (13-3, 5-1) two spots to No. 8 in the national coaches poll. The Illini are tied with Michigan for the Big Ten lead.
John Supinie can be reached at 217-377-1977 or email@example.com.