Big Ten

Big Ten

Illinois will be without its starting running back for the third straight game Saturday.

The Illini announced Thursday night that Josh Ferguson is out for this weekend's matchup against Penn State.

Ferguson injured his shoulder during Illinois' win over Nebraska on Oct. 3. He sat out much of that game and has been in recovery mode ever since. That included a bye week.

Without Ferguson, the Illini's running game has been almost non-existent in losses to Iowa and Wisconsin, going for a combined 101 yards in those two games.

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“He’s a great player," quarterback Wes Lunt said of Ferguson after last weekend's loss to Wisconsin. "I think we miss him, not only in the run game, but he’s huge in the passing game out of the backfield. Those are things that we’re probably lacking (without) him just because he’s not out there. Just got to keep fighting. Next guy up, that’s the mentality of the team.”

Backup Ke'Shawn Vaughn had a good game against Nebraska, rushing 24 times for 98 yards. Against Iowa, Vaughn gained 67 yards on 19 carries, and against Wisconsin, he rushed 13 times for 55 yards. He scored a touchdown in each of those losses.

“We’re missing Josh," offensive lineman Teddy Karras said. "Ke’Shawn’s doing a great job, and he’s shown he can be a Big Ten back. But your senior captain running back is an important piece to any Big Ten offense. ... It’s just one of the things you have to deal with in a physical, run-oriented league. We’re definitely going to welcome him back with open arms.”

When Ferguson returns, though, remains unknown.