Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Illinois Seeks Redemption vs. Arizona

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Illinois Seeks Redemption vs. Arizona

Article excerpt

It's sort of a strange battle cry, but the words heard most often this week from the Illinois football team were we're not that bad.

Coach Lou Tepper certainly hopes the Illini team that lost 31-3 last week to Missouri isn't the real Illini team. Sluggish on defense and ineffective on offense, Illinois played its worst game since a 31-0 loss to Clemson in the Hall of Fame Bowl on Jan. 1, 1991.

Even worse, the Illini almost were nonplussed about what had happened. Linebacker John Holocek said the team was in shock.

It was as if they were in a trance after the game. As they trudged into the locker room at Faurot Field, the only player who showed any emotion was nose guard Mikki Johnson, who bellowed some unintelligible remark and slammed his helmet against the side of the door.

Tepper caught their drift, and he held one of those shape-up-or-ship-out meetings Monday.

The coach wants better pursuit by his defense. He also wants some leadership.

"I've always thought of myself as being a leader by example," Holocek said. "Dana Howard is more of a vocal leader."

Howard and Holocek are junior linebackers around which the Illinois defense is built. Usually, they supply the crunching hits that force fumbles and fire up the entire Illini team.

"We're not as bad as we looked against Missouri, and you're going to see a 100 percent improvement in our defense this week," Holocek said. "We're back home in Memorial Stadium, and we know we're going against a tough team."

That would be No. 13 Arizona in today's 1:05 p.m. game, the home opener for Illinois. Side activities today are billed as "The Great Illini BBQ," a contest sponsored by Illinois Pork Producers.

Putting Arizona on the skewer won't be easy, however. The Wildcats are favored in the Pacific 10 Conference, and they're already 2-0. They have one of the top defensive players in the country in nose tackle Rob Waldrop. The Wildcats have allowed only one touchdown this season, and they had seven sacks in their last game, a 16-13 win over Pacific. …

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