Illini Prep For Bowl Appearance In Dallas

 
Illini players and Coach Tim Beckman in Tuesday press conference.

Linebacker Mason Monheim, quarterback Reilly O'Toole, running back Donovonn Young and head coach Tim Beckman answer questions during a Dec. 23 press conference at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

(Illinois Athletics)

The Illini will need a little more late-season magic to close out 2014 with a victory. Illinois won the last two games of the regular season to secure Friday's bowl apperance in Dallas.

They'll face Louisiana Tech in the Heart of Dallas Bowl at noon.

The Illini are six-point underdogs to Louisiana Tech, which enters the game with an 8-5 mark.

The Bulldogs’ offense features running back Kenneth Dixon, who ranks sixth in the country with 21 touchdowns and has rushed for 1,236 yards this season.

Defensively, Louisiana Tech leads the nation with 40 takeaways (3.1 per game).

“(They’re) very athletic, in my opinion,” Illinois head coach Tim Beckman said. “Very active, I guess, defensively would be a great word to announce what they do because they make a lot of plays happen.  They've created a lot of turnovers and done some very, very good things throughout the season.”

Beckman plans to start senior Reilly O’Toole at quarterback for the Illini. O’Toole won the starting job from sophomore Wes Lunt, who suffered a knee injury and then struggled after returning to action.

O'Toole (6-4, 220) had been a backup during his years at Illinois, but the alumnus of Wheaton Warrenville South High School has been a late-season hero for the Illini.

O'Toole's play in victories over Minnesota, Penn State and Northwestern helped Illinois secure its first bowl game appearance in three years. The Illini defeated UCLA 20-14 in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on Dec. 31, 2011.

Story source: NPR