SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 31: Terry Hawthorne #1 of the Illinois Fighting Illini returns an interception for a touchdown against the UCLA Bruins during the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T Park on December 31, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
The stats that mattered in Illinois' 20-14 win over UCLA in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, from A.J. Jenkins' receptions, to merciless Mercilus, to the DERP scale.
4.0: Average gain on 17 carries by Derrick Coleman and Johnathan Franklin. I said in the preview that UCLA gives themselves a chance to win when Coleman and Franklin run well -- "the two averaged a full yard higher per carry (6.1) in wins than in losses (5.1)" -- and with Illinois' tremendous pass rush, a good run game was a necessity. Mission: failed. Coleman rushed nine times for 39 yards, Franklin eight for 29, and the result of that was predictable: Illinois teed off on quarterback Kevin Prince on frequent passing downs. Prince was sacked five times in just 34 pass attempts, and led by Whitney Mercilus (1.5 sacks), five different Illini had a hand in bringing Prince down at some point.
5: Total fumbles in the game.
Let's just say that when the Derived Expected Rank Performance (hat tip to Spencer Hall for that one) is created, fumbles (five), penalties (nine) and some variation of yards per play (4.0 combined) and/or completion percentage (53.2) will be involved. While this game was probably more well-played than some anticipated (to say the least, the bar was low) -- Illinois' defense was as good as advertised (Terry Hawthorne and Whitney Mercilus in particular), Nathan Scheelhaase ran well (see below), and for (mostly) better or (sometimes) worse, Nelson Rosario is typically enjoyable to watch -- it certainly had its moments. And it probably goes without saying that failed Gatorade baths are a bonus on the DERP scale.
Nice agility from Vic Koenning there.
36.5: Percent of UCLA's total yardage that came on their final drive. When the Bruins took possession with 2:24 remaining, they had gained just 139 yards in 50 plays (2.8 per play). Their lone touchdown drive had come on a short field (44 yards). The running game had failed, and Prince was just 8-for-21 for 115 yards (and four sacks). Rosario had caught one of three passes for nine yards. With a pick six, a pass broken up and 1.5 tackles for loss, Terry Hawthorne definitely won the Hawthorne-versus-Rosario battle, to the extent that it was indeed a one-on-one battle. Prince padded the stats a bit by completing six of eight passes for 86 yards (and one more sack) on the final drive, and Rosario got on the board with a 38-yard touchdown, but it was, to say the least, too little, too late.
54: Percent of Illinois' passing yardage accounted for by A.J. Jenkins, almost exactly the season average. Illinois certainly tried to spread the love; nine different receivers caught passes, and Jenkins' 12 targets were only 36 percent of Illinois' 33 passes. But 21 passes not directed at Jenkins only resulted in 68 yards (3.2 per target). Jenkins caught six of 12 passes for 80 yards and a breakaway touchdown. Illinois may have attempted to spread the ball around, but Jenkins was still the only target that mattered.
125: Nathan Scheelhaase's pre-sack rushing yards. With the passing game still one-dimensional and running backs Donovonn Young and Troy Pollard (19 touches, 53 yards) failing to advance the ball, Scheelhaase took matters upon himself. And it worked for the most part; his legs accounted for 38 percent of Illinois' total yardage. Tim Beckman has to enjoy the run-pass possibilities of young Mister Scheelhaase next year, though the departure of Jenkins more or less neuters the passing game. Can Terry Hawthorne play both ways?