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Illinois pays first visit to Rose Bowl since 1984
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) -- When Illinois faces UCLA on Saturday, the Fighting Illini will be playing their first game at the Rose Bowl since Jan. 2, 1984.
In coach Ron Turner's view, it comes nearly two years too late.
The Illini won the Big Ten championship in 2001, but because the Rose Bowl was designated as the national championship game by the BCS, they wound up in the Sugar Bowl, losing to LSU 47-34 in New Orleans.
"It hurt us, obviously," Turner said. "When you're in the Big Ten or the Pac-10, you want to go to the Rose Bowl. When it doesn't happen, there's something wrong with that.
"We won the Big Ten championship in 2001 -- we should have been in the Rose Bowl."
Illinois certainly hopes for a better result than its last visit to Pasadena, when it lost to Pacific-10 Conference champion UCLA 45-9.
The Bruins, who opened their season by losing at No. 17 Colorado 16-14 last weekend, will be playing their first home game under Karl Dorrell. A crowd of 50,000 is expected for the game, which begins at 5 p.m. PDT.
"It'll be exciting to have the crowd behind you -- that's the good thing," Dorrell said. "Hopefully we'll show progress from Week 1 to Week 2."
That might not be easy. The Bruins are so thin at quarterback, their backup is walk-on freshman Brian Callahan, who never started a game in high school. He is the son of Oakland Raiders coach Bill Callahan.
Matt Moore started the Colorado game, but lasted less than a quarter, leaving with a severe bruise of the upper left tibia that will keep him on the sidelines for four to six weeks.
Drew Olson took over and played reasonably well, completing 13-of-23 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns without being intercepted.
With the injury to Moore, John Sciarra moved up to second string, but Sciarra was suspended for the Illinois game after it was learned he had been arrested last month on misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct-public intoxication and giving false information to a police officer.
"Hopefully we'll get through this game without anything major happening," Dorrell said. "I feel very confident Drew can get the job done."
Olson said he would play his game despite the circumstances.
"I can't worry about getting hurt," he said. "I'll try to avoid taking anyone on. I'll try to run out of bounds when I can, but I can't not scramble for fear of getting hurt. I have to play my game."
It would behoove the Bruins to run the ball better than they did against Colorado to take pressure off Olson. Tailback Tyler Ebell gained only 47 yards on 18 carries, and UCLA netted 38 yards on 26 attempts against the Buffaloes.
Fullback Manuel White, who averaged 4.5 yards on 148 carries the last two years, didn't touch the ball once, but Dorrell promised that would change.
White will also serve as Ebell's backup, enabling him to get some carries from the tailback spot.
Illinois (1-1) gained an average of 436 yards while allowing an average of 367 in a 22-15 loss to Missouri and a 49-21 win over Illinois State.
But Illinois State, a Division I-AA school, gained 511 yards against the Illini.
"I think we've got to play a lot better if we're even going to have a chance to stay in the game at UCLA," Turner said. "I see a very athletic, outstanding football team -- as good a team as we'll face all year, I think."
Illinois quarterback Jon Beutjer has reached 3,000 passing yards in only nine games and ranks ninth on the school's career list. He is 47-of-67 for 491 yards and five touchdowns with one interception this year.
"I'm real pleased with Jon, he's one of the positives we have right now," Turner said. "He has a good understanding of our offense."