Loss motivates Illini to finish season with a win

 

 

By Daniel Johnson

Although the entire team was taken aback by the loss to Ohio State, wide receiver Arrelious Benn was especially confounded. Benn lamented the loss, speaking as much as he normally would but doing so much more solemnly.

“I hate losing,” Benn said. “I want to win everything, but you can’t … these are games we should be winning, but we’re not. I don’t know what’s going wrong.”

Benn thought it was obvious the Buckeyes would come in with extra motivation, for the Illibuck Trophy, to keep their Rose Bowl and Big Ten title hopes alive and exact revenge for last year’s loss.

“They came out with their chip on their shoulder,” Benn said. “We destroyed their dreams last year.”

If there is any uncertainty about whether Illinois will be able to finish the season with a win, Benn made his thoughts clear.

“There’s no doubt,” Benn said. “We’re going to beat Northwestern.”

Buckeyes running attack

baffles Illini defense

One of the first things Zook addressed in his press conference was the porous run defense, which allowed 305 yards and three touchdowns, and his team losing possession of the ball. The Illini fumbled the ball four times, losing possession once, and Williams threw one interception on the day.

“You can’t turn the ball over and have a chance to win. You can’t give up 300 yards rushing and have a chance to win,” Zook said. “Obviously, for us to be a successful team we can’t do those things. We’ve been talking about the turnovers and stopping the run, but they’re a good football team and they did a great job.”

Co-defensive coordinator Dan Disch explained after the game that the Buckeyes were not doing anything that Illinois didn’t expect.

“You just gotta come ready to play,” Disch said. “It wasn’t anything scheme-wise, they’ve been running the same stuff for a long time. It’s not like they’re trying to trick you. I don’t know if we didn’t tackle well, I’ll have to watch the film, but in a game like that, you’ve got to stop the run.”

The coaches also brought up one of their more emphasized points of interest – playing with the right mindset.

“It’s all attitude,” Disch said. “I don’t want to say anything negative, we just have to come out and have a better attitude.”

Zook uses McGee to ‘spark’ struggling Illini offense

After only seeing playing time in late-game situations and split as a wide receiver, Eddie McGee was used in his more traditional role of quarterback Saturday. Head coach Ron Zook said he was trying to spark the team after Williams’ efforts stalled some, and he was happy with the result.

“We’re just trying to do what we did last year, let Juice settle down,” Zook said. “As you saw he came back in and did settle down. It’s the same thing we did last year.”

McGee played the position earlier in the game when Williams played receiver, but the starting quarterback said the primary plan in those formations was to run with the ball.

“There wasn’t anything planned for me to catch a pass out there,” Williams said. “I was just meant to be a decoy out there to give Eddie some running room.”

McGee elaborated on why there were not any trick plays or reverses in which he or Williams would pass.

“We had the plays, we just didn’t call them,” McGee said. “It’s kind of obvious for a defense to sniff something like that out.”

McGee elaborated on how he provided some of the spark Zook desired but that ultimately it was not enough.

“We didn’t just execute, fully enough, to come back and win the game,” McGee said. “Just got the short end of the stick.”