CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — When it comes to a road trip for a football game, this is as rare as one gets for the Illinois football program.
You have to go back well over a century to find the last time the Illini took the field against Kansas on their home field.
But Illinois will make its return to Lawrence to face the Jayhawks on Friday, doing so for the first time since October 27, 1892. That was the third year that the Illini were playing football, doing so under the direction of E.K. Hall, losing to Kansas that day 26-4.
It’s a rare match-up between the schools as they will meet for just the sixth time on Friday, with their last meeting coming in 1968, a 47-7 Jayhawks win. Illinois won match-ups in 1916 (30-0), 1917 (22-0), and 1929 (25-0) in Champaign.
The 2023 game is a match-up between programs looking for a major breakthrough after making progress last season.
In the second year under Bret Bielema, Illinois went 8-5 in 2022 and earned a berth to the ReliaQuest Bowl, their first postseason game since 2019. Under first year head coach Lance Leipold, Kansas finished the regular season 6-6, qualifying for their first bowl game since 2008.
The Illini used some late heroics to beat Toledo in their opening game last Saturday 30-28, winning their season opener for the third-straight year. Kansas had an easier time with Missouri State, winning it 48-17 and are expected to get a boost this week with the return of quarterback Jalon Daniels.
A second-team All-Big 12 selection in 2022, the signal caller missed the opener due to back tightness.