Zook and Bustle go head-to-head

By Laura Hettiger

Illinois’ and Louisiana-Lafayette’s head coaches, Ron Zook and Rickey Bustle, have more in common than a love for football – the two used to coach together at Virginia Tech in 1987.

Zook was in charge of the Hokies’ defense while Bustle was the offensive coordinator.

“He was just like anyone else I coached against, he was a great football coach,” Zook said. “He’s on the offensive side of the football and he’s very, very knowledgeable. We used to laugh a lot because he would always tell Cajun jokes, and I didn’t understand what it was all about until I lived in New Orleans. But he’s a good football coach.”

Bustle has similar feelings about Zook and his success at Illinois.

“He is a very motivated coach, and he has made some great moves in his career,” Bustle said. “Ron goes 100 miles per hour, and I am sure that affects his football team.”

Bye, bye, bye … week

After the final whistle is blown on Saturday, the Fighting Illini will have a 14-day hiatus. With week No. 4 as the team’s scheduled bye week. Head coach Ron Zook hopes the vacation will re-energize his team for Big Ten play.

“We’re going to practice next week as well, but it gives them an opportunity, hey, they can relax over the following weekend,” Zook said. “It’s a positive thing, it’s a mental thing, you like to have it maybe a week or two later, but it is what it is, and we’ll take it and as I said, I think it’s good for them and when they come back, of course we get into the Big Ten schedule and it’s lock and load.”

An away game at Penn State will be Illinois’ next challenge.

“Especially going into the Big Ten (season), going into a physical conference, I mean that’s only going to help us get our bodies back and our legs back and get ready for the Big Ten opener week,” said junior defensive back Vontae Davis.

They just keep running

Both Illinois and Louisiana-Lafayette have found success in their running games. The Illini ran for 399 yards against Eastern Illinois, and UL has the running machine, Tyrell Fenroy, who will most likely become the Cajuns’ all-time rushing leader during Saturday’s game – he only needs nine yards to set the school record.

At the same time, both teams have also had problems avoiding turnovers. Against EIU, quarterback Juice Williams had two interceptions and fumbled on the one-yard line. The Ragin’ Cajuns had problems holding onto the ball against Southern Mississippi in their season opener.

“It is hard to get going somewhere when you turn the ball over four times,” head coach Rickey Bustle said. “We can play better offensively; there is no question about that, and that means not turning the ball over.”

That will be Illinois’ goal, too.

“That’s one of the things we set out to do for the week, to be able to run the ball effectively and efficiently,” senior offensive lineman Ryan McDonald said. “I didn’t even realize we had that many yards rushing. I guess it helps when you don’t give up any sacks cause those are negative rush yards.”

Athleticism and ACL’s

With talent from different parts of the country, Saturday’s match-up will showcase a lot of athleticism.

“Most of their athletes are from Louisiana, and if you know anything about Louisiana athletes or athletics, those guys can all run and they love to play the game,” Zook said.

UL’s defensive coordinator Kevin Fouquier thought the same thing about Illinois, suggesting the Illini will be the most athletic team the Ragin’ Cajuns face this season.

At the same time, both teams are hurting after key players tore their ACL’s.

During the Eastern Illinois game, sophomore defensive back Marcus “Miami” Thomas went down with an ACL tear. UL sophomore offensive lineman Nasser Jamal had surgery on Monday to fix his torn ACL. Both will miss the entire 2008 season.