Career ended early by academic ineligibility.
The season and career ended one game early for Illinois senior running back Jason Ford.
The team's leading rusher, Ford is academically ineligible to play in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, the school announced Friday, after he failed to pass 6 hours of course work this semester. Ford had been practicing with the team and attempting to catch up on the class work, but grades were finalized Thursday.
Freshman wide receiver Jake Kumerow was also declared ineligible when Illinois (6-6) plays UCLA (6-7) in San Francisco on Dec. 31 (2:30 p.m., ESPN).
With Ford's career done, the Illini will rely freshman Donovonn Young and senior Troy Pollard at running back. Illini sophomore fullback Jay Prosch is also out after he was hospitalized with a staph infection in his knee.
The latest episode ended a career marked with unfinished business.
Ford rushed for 600 yards to lead the Illini, but he couldn't match the record-setting performance by Mikel Leshoure the previous season. Without a similar burst, the burly Ford was never a breakaway threat. Ford scored seven touchdowns but lost playing time with a string of fumbles.
Coaches implored him to stick with a straight-ahead, power running style, but Ford showed he was more interested in trying to break the big one. He didn't have that kind of ability.
Ford rushed for 172 yards and two touchdowns against Indiana as a freshman but never put up those kind of numbers again. He battled with weight for most of his career, then saw it come to an end because of grades.
Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase rushed for 514 yards while Pollard had 462 yards on the ground and Young 406.
John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @JohnSupinie.