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Illini Open Football Season With 33-15 Win Over Arkansas State

The Fighting Illini football team kicked off their 2011 campaign with a 33-15 win over Arkansas State Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium Champaign.

Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase threw for 267 yards, hitting on 16 of 23 attempts. A.J. Jenkins and Darius Millines each eclipsed a hundred yards in receiving, Jenkins with 148 and Millines with 119. Each caught a long touchdown pass from Scheelhaase.

Jenkins said he felt motivated to keep up with Millines in the stats column.

"It's kind of a competition, actually," said Jenkins. "Honestly, when he scored, I knew I had to get me at least one. I wasn't going to let him beat me. Darius is a great receiver, but we all know who's number one. Hopefully next week I have over 100 yards against, and we just keep rolling from there."

For his part, Millines says he enjoys the rivalry with Jenkins.

"We're a duo, but we're also pushing each other as a competition," said Millines, "to see who's going to get the most catches, who's going to get the most yards, who's going to make the better plays. So that will push us to play better and play harder."

Jason Ford rushed for 93 yards, and Trulon Henry sparked the defense with 8 tackles and an interception.

Illini players said they weren't affected by the hundred degree heat index, but a lot of fans succumbed to heat-related illness. Many more left early from a game that drew a sparse crowd, officially tallied at around 45,000 attendees.

Saturday marked the beginning of the Mike Thomas era. Reporters were eager to know what the new athletic director said to Coach Ron Zook as they walked off the field.

"Congratulations and he's excited to be here," said Zook. "Obviously we're excited to have him here. And I congratulated him because I got his first win as an athletic director."

The Illini return to action at home next week against the Jackrabbits of South Dakota State.

Categories: Education, Sports