Zook, Illini not thinking about postseason… yet

Sunday, children and parents across the country dressed up to go Trick-or-Treating for Halloween. Tuesday, millions of voters hit the polls to elect new representatives in the midterm elections. But Illinois head coach Ron Zook was one of the few people who didn’t participate in either.

In fact, Zook hardly even knew about them.

“No, sir, (I didn’t vote). To be honest with you, I just realized (Election Day) was (Tuesday),” Zook said. “I just found out it was Halloween (on) Sunday.”

Why was Zook so distracted? For the same reasons he won’t talk about his Illini football team being one win away from bowl eligibility — he is focused on the next game and the next game only.

“There’s no use talking about it until we’re eligible and right now we’re not eligible,” Zook said. “I think the most important thing is we can talk about this next game, and nothing else matters. Until you get to that proper number of games, there’s no use talking about it.”

Zook has instilled that same mentality in his players, as well.

“We’re really not focused on (a bowl game),” kicker Derek Dimke said. “It may be a cliché, but that’s really what we believe … That’s our team philosophy, to take one game at a time and really stick to that.”

“We try not to think of it like that, as being bowl eligible or trying to get a win just to be bowl eligible,” linebacker Nate Bussey said. “We look at it as, ‘This is the next game in our season,’ and we have to prepare for it just like we’ve prepared for each week previously.”

Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase said, while he doesn’t think about the postseason, he does remember what it was like to miss the postseason during Illinois’ most recent campaign.

“We all remember last year, sitting at home and watching the whole bowl season and having almost four weeks off,” Scheelhaase said. “It wasn’t something that you were excited about, when you’re sitting at home and watching teams play in bowls that you maybe wish you could have been in. This is the time when you can change that.”

Though many of the players admitted they weren’t even sure what bowls were affiliated with the Big Ten — other than the Rose Bowl — one player on the team already has a certain bowl picked out.

“Honestly, if I had to choose, I’d have to pick the Gator Bowl,” receiver AJ Jenkins said. “That’s where I’m from, Jacksonville, Fla., so playing in front of my friends and family again would be a big dream.”