Ron Zook Explains It All


By Paul Schmidt

Most of the time, after a tough loss, I take a lot of what coaches say for granted.  Typically you get a bunch of coach-speak anyway, cliches abounding, and most of it is useless quote fodder.

Not Ron Zook tonight.

He made a bunch of interesting comments in the presser, and once again gave very little insight into what is actually happening with an Illinois team that is underacheiving more than the 2000 Illini post-MicronPC Bowl.

Here are some of Zook’s thoughts, with what was going through my head as he said them.

His overall thoughts of the game:
“There’s not an awful lot that I can say, but again we didn’t play like I thought we were capable of. Heading into halftime, I thought we were making a game of it, We should have got some points there on the last series of the first half, but we get down there and shoot ourselves in the foot again. But we were able to get the ball back on the first series of the second half there, recovering a fumble, and we just didn’t get back on track offensively. A little bit of that had to do with what they were doing and their defense, but still, for us to win games and for us to be successful, we’re gonna have to play.”

(PS) Look, Ron, at some point you have to stop saying that the team didn’t play like you thought they were capable of, because at some point you have to realize that your expectations were too high.  Also, WHY didn’t you get back on track offensively??  Why is this team so fragile, that one bad play on one series derailed this team for the rest of the game?

Relating this season’s struggles to something the team can understand:
“It’s like I told them, and they don’t want to hear this and I don’t want to say it, but there’s still a lot of football to be played.  We lost two games in the Big Ten two years ago the year we went to the Rose Bowl, but we got a monumental task ahead of us. It starts next week, so we got to get back to work and get it figured out.”

(PS) Wait…we’re comparing this season to the Rose Bowl season?  Really?  It should be mentioned that though that team had two losses in 2007 in the Big Ten, they weren’t losses to the two top teams in the conference.  There’s no conceivable tiebreaker the Illini could win to win the Big Ten this year.  There just isn’t.

On being in field goal range and then having Juice Williams get sacked and take the intentional grounding penalty:
“That’s the frustrating thing. It’s like I told them at half time, Guys, we took the ball from inside our own five yard line and drove down there.  We’re in position to get some points, and then we go and do the same thing we did last week. We gotta get it fixed, there’s just no question. I think if it was just one person, you could fix it.  Or if it was two people.  But it’s a number of things and that’s our job as coaches to get it fixed.”

(PS)Coach…seriously…if it’s a number of things that are wrong, how can you have the expectation that your team should be playing better??? You’re contradicting everything that you’re saying.

On the conservative play-calling to start the second half, despite the fact that the two-minute, hurry up offense was working so well:
“Well, at that point in time of the game, we weren’t in a two minute mode.  The last series of the last drive of the first half, we were in a more two minute mode, let’s move the ball.  I think that first play, everyone was expecting a run and we came out and ran a play-action pass for a nice gain, and we just kind of got going. In the second half, after the fumble, it’s like I said over the headphones, there’s a lot of game to be played.  Let’s mix it up and run the football and get back into our game plan.”

(PS) Coach, the running game was NOT working. Daniel Dufresne was having the most success in the ground game and was averaging just a shade over three yards per carry in the first half. The only time you moved the ball consistently in the first half was when you went in the hurry-up.  WHY NOT STAY WITH IT?  Why the insistance upon a ball-control offense?  Your “mix it up, run the football” offense ran SIX PLAYS in the third quarter and netted eight total yards.  Looks like it worked really well.

On the demeanor in the locker room:
“When I walked out of there, they were saying all of the right things. They’re good kids, and like I said, there could be some splintering.  You know, you guys (the reporters, I presume) are going to try to splinter them. There’s gonna be a lot of things.  I told those kids you’re finding out all about life now. Because now you’re down, you’re getting beat up, people are attacking you, and you’re going to find out what kind of person you are. Some of you MAY fall by the wayside. I don’t think they will, but they could. This is the ideal time for those kinds of things to happen. I really believe it’ll be a test of the kind of team and the type of people that we really are.”

(PS) Wow.  So now, the reporters are trying to splinter the locker room?  I think, for the most part, our questions of disbelief are directed at the coaching staff as opposed to anyone else.  At the same time, I could see why you’re saying that to the kids — it certainly would keep them spewing the company line that there’s a lot of time left. At the same time, the one thing that you did say, Coach, that has a ring of truth to it is that some players may fall by the wayside.  I suppose that that is probably true.

However…after being beaten down in the manner that they have the last two weeks, is now REALLY the time to remind them of that?  That they’re just a hair’s breadth from being left behind by the team?  That’s cold, Coach, VERY cold. At least you said that you didn’t think they would, that you thought they were stronger than that.

But, if it really was the case that you think they were stronger than that, why would you even bring it up?

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  1. paulmbanks says

    Yes, yes it’s all the media’s fault. How convenient. Yes, this was really telling. and I can see this being a possibly new innovative and regualar feature…”there’s still a lot of football left to played” that’s perhaps one of the coachspeak phrases I haete the most

  2. paulmbanks says

    That 2000 team was really garbage. I remember coming home from that bowl game in 99, and my Dad said to me that’s not football scoring at will. now the team will get a big head about themselves and they’ll go back to being bad next year. Look how he right he was.

    But seriously, there’s so many bad decisions made and ideas that don’t work by out by Zook here. I think a lot of this mess this year in his squarely on his shoulders

  3. Paul Schmidt says

    Agreed Paul, I just don’t think that you can keep saying that there is a lot of football left to be played at this point. There’s some…but not a lot.

  4. paulmbanks says

    epseically when you’re 1-3, 0-2 on conf. and the only time your team has shown any life, it was against a FCS opp

  5. Paul Schmidt says

    I know. I keep hoping they’ll show up against some FBS competition, and they finally did in the fourth quarter on Saturday. Of course…it was against a Penn State team that was largely playing a prevent defense…but still. You take your wins where you can get them…

  6. Spot on with this write-up, I absolutely believe that this website needs far more attention. I’ll probably be returning to read more, thanks for the advice!|

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