Illini Beaten in Rose Bowl
By Chuck Sudo in News on Jan 2, 2008 7:23PM
Only the biggest of dreamers gave Illinois a chance of beating the semi-professional USC Trojans in yesterday's 94th annual Rose Bowl. Unfortunately, USC beat the Illini like the proverbial red-headed stepchild 49-17. The academic conclusion to the game also led to some wonderful entendre-laden headlines in the dailies: "Case of California Creamin'", "Too Much Booty Puts Illini on the Defensive", and "Trojans Pull Out All the Stops" are some of our favorites. The loss also provided Jay "the Joke" Mariotti with another opportunity to pen his now-patented "sports in this state really suck" columns, complete with desperate stabs at modern cultural relevance and creating lame-ass nicknames, this time referencing "Knocked Up" and calling Illini head coach Ron Zook "Zooker."
The Illini kept the score close for two-and-a-half quarters, pulling to within 21-10 and threatening after a 53-yard run by tailback Rashard Mendenhall (17 carries, 155 yards) put the Illini in striking range at the USC 23. That's when the wheels fell off, as three straight third-quarter turnovers led to a 42-10 USC advantage.
Even with their showing, the Illini have a bright future, especially if Mendenhall returns. Quarterback Juice Williams grew by leaps and bounds toward the end of the season, and that experience could be a foundation for better play as a junior. Freshman wide receiver Aurelius Benn is a star in the making, and a highly touted freshman class recruited by Zook should step up to make the Illini a Big Ten power, if not a BCS contender.
Image by Kirby Lee, Image of Sport/US Presswire.