CHAMPAIGN – Vontae Davis wasn't surprised Ar-relious Benn asked back in Saturday's game despite a shoulder injury.
High school teammates at Washington Dunbar, Davis had seen Benn's act before.
Armed with a new three-year deal with ESPN, the sideline star continues to ride a wave of popularity. A telecommunications major and dance team member at Florida, the 29-year-old has developed into a go-to reporter for ESPN, covering everything from Big Ten basketball to the Great Outdoor Games. Familiar with the Assembly Hall, she'll work her first game at Memorial Stadium on Saturday. Sports editor Jim Rossow caught up with Andrews as she was prepping for Thursday's Kentucky-South Carolina game to talk about Ron Zook, the Orange Krush and diamond rings.
Want to know which of Saturday's games are worth your time? Here's the scoop from sports editor Jim Rossow, who is 29-16 after a 4-2 week in which he was named BIg Ten Prognosticator of the Week:
– The crowd was fantastic. And I'm talking about outside Memorial Stadium hours after Saturday's game, tailgaters happily recapping the upset of Penn State. Nothing brings a college town to life like a successful football program, something Illinois now can claim. Odds are the first person you meet today – at church, at the store, at the gym – brings the Illini into the conversation.
CHAMPAIGN – To test J Leman's hands and reflexes, Brit Miller constantly is tossing things his way.
Pads, footballs, textbooks. Anything within arm's reach.
Fired by Minnesota after 10 successful seasons, the 57-year-old former Illini assistant still gets his football fix as an analyst for the Big Ten Network. He hasn't ruled out a return to coaching but for now is tackling a career in television head-on. Sports editor Jim Rossow caught up to Mason as he was preparing to work Saturday's Indiana-Iowa game to get his thoughts on Joe Paterno, the Big Ten race and his feelings about Minnesota.
Want to know which of Saturday's games are worth your time? Here's the scoop from sports editor Jim Rossow, who is 25-14 after a 4-2 week and a candidate for Comeback Forecaster of the Year:
– As RON ZOOK trudged off the field, he raised both arms to the Illinois fans gathered in the southwest corner of Memorial Stadium. He then shrugged and gave a look that I took to mean "We finally turned the corner." That might be too strong of a description, but what Zook has done is give us a meaningful game in Champaign when Penn State visits next Saturday. That alone is worth celebrating. According to my records, the last game that meant so much to Illinois was against Northwestern on Thanksgiving in 2001.
– At 3-1 with Ball State, Minnesota and Northwestern on the schedule, why not start thinking about a bowl game? With the Big Ten's best rushing game and a defense that hits harder each week, Illinois appears to be an up-and-comer. What Syracuse did Saturday – and what Missouri continues to do – only strengthens the argument.
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – As he talked on the cell phone during an interview with Fox Radio, Rashard Mendenhall leaned heavily on a gate outside the Illinois locker room.
His radio audience couldn't tell what anyone in the vicinity surely knew.