Saturday, September 30, 2006

We Did It! We Did It! The Fighting Zookers Win...

Down goes SPARTY. Down goes SPARTY. Down goes SPARTY. And, for the first time as a BIG-10 coach, Zook gets the win in the final seconds of the game on the leg of Jason Reda (23-20 ILLINI over SPARTY). Yes. Bring on Ohio State. Bring on USC. We'll play anybody anywhere including the Euro Ryder - Cup team. What a victory for my young program. And, it came on Homecoming for SPARTY in front of an alumni-packed crowd who came to see another gladiator massacre like in the days of Rome under Caesar. Not today my Greco-Roman toga-wearing warriors. The Chief has returned, if for just a fleeting moment this year. I'm hoping this is a sign of things to come for the rest of this year and into the longer term under Zook.

This was a great game for us with an unbelieveable outcome. It was our first win in East Lansing in 17 years and first BIG-10 victory since 2004. Oh my! Remember last year SPARTY put up 60+ points against our pathetic defense? Not today my downtrodden hellenistic comrads. We got up early and led 10-3 at the half only to give it back early in the 3rd on a SPARTY pick-six.

But the young ILLINI under the leadership of the JUICE didn't give up. We clawed and scratched all game. Sure, there had to be some letdown on the part of SPARTY after losing last weekend in the fashion that they did to Notre Dame. And, I know we were 26-point underdogs. But, this was much more about how much better the Illini are getting each and every week. We were the better team today as well in terms of execution, hustle, determination, and performance. If you don't come to play the ILLINI be prepared to get what you deserve. I first saw some signs of life last weekend at home in our 24-7 loss to a very very good Iowa squad. The team played well on both sides of the ball except for a bad 4-minute stretch late in the 2nd period that gave the HAWKEYES a quick 21 points. We actually played an upcoming Syracuse squad pretty close in the 2nd half the week before. It takes time when you're trying to turn a program around. Results sometimes are measured in nano-steps and not yards.

But today with 6 seconds on the clock Jaso Reda split the uprights allowing the ILLINI to plant their flag in East Lansing as a fight broke out at midfield. Yes. Hail to the Chief. Oskee Wa Wa ILLINOIS! In the win, we broke a 9 - game losing streak against the big green men of Spartica.

The Juice had 17 carries for 103 yards and threw for another 122 yards on 9/16. But when it mattered Juice Williams engineering the game-winning drive which set-up the field goal. Pierre finally had a breakout game on 18 carries rushing for 118 yards. We just ate-up the Spartans in the trenches today - controlling both sides of the line of schrimmage.

Give credit to Ron Zook. I've been riding his butt all season. And while I'm still not sure he's the greatest coach on the planet, this had to be a very satisfying victory for him and his staff. He's been saying all season that we're getting better each week and on the verge of a big-win. It wasn't always obvious, especially at Rutgers going down 33-0. You wouldn't believe that this was the same ILLINI team. Honestly, it's not. We're a lot better and getting better with more confidence each week. Wow, what was the spread in Vegas on the this game? Had to be close to 30 points or so after what they did to us last year in Champaign. Oh what a difference a year makes. I called five wins this year for our young squad. And with the play starting to come around on both sides of the ball that might just be within reach after all. We have two winnable games at home starting with Indiana for our homecoming next weekend, and then Ohio University before travelling to Happy Valley to face Penn State.

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