"The atmosphere will be exactly what we want. It’s everything we’ve hoped it was when we planned it, and a lot of it from this point on will lean on our fans. If there are things they want changed or altered ... the goal is that it rocks."
Illini fans will have good reason to tune in early to BTN tonight. After this past offseason's construction of new Memorial Stadium landmark Grange Grove, it's finally time to kick off the football season -- and in style. Before taking the field against Kent State, the team will hop off the bus on First Street and walk down the red brick path into the stadium, surrounded by cheering fans in a Clemson-esque dramatic entrance.
If the Grove becomes all it's hyped-up to be, it should be a fantastic addition to the football fan experience. Illinois, which had one of the worst student attendance rates in the nation for football games last season, is looking to boost the atmosphere in a big way. The hope is that a new tailgating area will draw more fans to the game, subsequently boosting the sound level and home field advantage at Memorial.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Plaques up around Grange Grove celebrating <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Illini?src=hash">#Illini</a> consensus All-Americans, 20 in all, including Grange himself. <a href="http://t.co/aBIzF978W3">pic.twitter.com/aBIzF978W3</a></p>— Illini Football (@IlliniFootball) <a href="https://twitter.com/IlliniFootball/status/639210039413211136">September 2, 2015</a></blockquote>
<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
"Any time you can get your classmates out there with you it’s a huge boost of confidence," quarterback Wes Lunt said. "It’s a great home-field advantage. The more students we can get out there the better. We know they’re busy but we’d love them to be out there every day."
Much agreed, Wes. Let's pack it.
"I am encouraged by the feedback, both with the players rallying around and the reaction I’ve received from the community and the country. It’s pretty neat for a guy my age to be able to do something like this, and I’m going to enjoy every minute of it."
Needless to say, its been quite the week for Bill Cubit. Amidst the chaos of taking over for Tim Beckman this past Friday, Cubit was given just six days to prepare for his Illini head coaching debut. While the offense is expected to be the same, if not identical to what we've seen the past few years (heavy pass attack, Josh Ferguson, etc.), there are still two other phases that Cubit needs to account for. Luckily, it looks as if co-defensive coordinators Tim Banks and Mike Phair will take full control of their side of the ball while first-year special teams coordinator Alex Golesh will run his own schemes.
"I sat in on special teams meetings because I want to know as much about our team as possible," said Cubit. "Personnel-wise, I want to understand everybody’s role, and I’d like to see everybody on our travel squad engaged in some way. There are opportunities on special teams."
It'll be interesting to gauge Illinois' aggression early Friday night against Kent State. Don't be surprised to see Cubit give Lunt a couple shots on the first drive downfield to Geronimo Allison and the likes. After the hell he's been through, Cubit deserves to have a little fun.
Small-er is better: Illini coach notches top ten finish at Illinois PGA
In this week's 93rd annual Illinois PGA Championship, last year's winner and current Illini men's golf head coach Mike Small placed seventh, finishing two strokes over par for the four-day tourney. It was a solid finish for the coach, who shot a two-under 70 on the final day. He leads an Illinois team this year that expects to make major noise in the NCAA.
"They’re a really positive team, when things are going well, they feed off of that positive energy, and that’s where we are right now."
Illinois women's soccer is off to a strong start this season after going 4-0 in in their first slate of games. Standout senior Janelle Flaws recently garnered attention for setting the school record for career goals scored with number 50. The team heads out west to Washington Friday night, then Portland on Sunday.
This is the best that this group has been in my three years here," said junior Allison Stucky. "Janet (Rayfield) can always pick us up and always knows what to say at halftime, but we have to feed off of each other. Forwards need to keep communicating and making runs. We want to stay undefeated."
Best of luck, ladies!