Tuesday, November 13, 2007

What has the Zooker Done?

First, a little love for my basketball squad who boasts the nation's best winning percentage over the past four years. Nobody has more wins than us (113). How 'bout them ILLINI hoopers? Not that we don't have our challenges in 2007/8 (we return only three starters from last year), but that is quite a feat topping Duke, Florida, Memphis, Gonzaga, and North Carolina. Thanks Coach Bruce. Now, go get 'em this year! Bring another BIG-10 Title back to Champaign for the winter. Oskee Wa WA ....

OK, now back to the Zooker. In only his 3rd year as head coach, we're now bowl eligible - big deal you say. Well, it's the best turnaround in CFB this year and one of the best all time (+6 over 2006). With 8 wins and soon to be nine, Ronnie has led our team to as many wins as the past four years combined. You don't get named the Tostito's Team of the Week for nothing. For the first time since 1965 we've beaten two top-5 clubs in the same year (anybody else done that yet this year?). And the list of great accomplishments rolls on:
  • The 'O' - line is on pace to set a record for fewest sacks in a season, by a long shot. The big boys in the trenches are only giving up 1 sack / game for tops in the BIG-10 and 5th in the country.
  • We lead the BIG-10 in rushing and rank sixth in the nation at 261 yards / game or 5.8 yards / carry behind Arkansas and WV.
  • And we're doing this with the 9th toughtest schedule in the nation.
  • And when we take a lead in the locker room at the break we're a perfect 8 for 8.

Not bad - you say. Well, our last win just happened to end a 29-game regular season streak, including 21 consecutive BUCKEYE wins in conference. And coming into the horseshoe last Saturday, Ohio State gave up just 5 passing TDs all season (now make that nine 9). The Buckeyes owned the 3rd best rushing defense in the land (and really the best for big-time programs) at 65 yards / game. We lit them up for 260 (right on average); the first time since 2001 they gave up more than 200. Vote for ILLINOIS as the PONTIAC GAME-CHANGING PERFORMANCE for this week. And tune into the Oregon game Thursday night on ESPN to see if we win.

As for this weekend and the Battle for the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk (what a great name for a trophy), we take a 51-44-5 record into Memorial Stadium against Northwestern. I expect big things from Leman, Mitchell, and Miller this weekend. The last time out against the WILDCATS, the Bednarik Finalist (#47 J Leman) recorded 22 tackles - to lead the nation in a single - game performance. Oooooooh - raaaaaaah! With 36 sacks for the season (#10 in the country), look for my defense to go 'off' on Saturday in front of our 5th sell-out crowd.

I expect Rashard to come out on fire for his 7th 100-yard effort of the year (which has never been done at ILLINOIS). He is a great one. As a Doak finalist this year, consider these numbers:

  • He's 3rd in the nation at 6.4 YPC, ahead of McFadden, Hart, Slaton, Rice, and Hill.
  • He's 8th in the nation at 128 YPG on the ground behind Rice, Hart, and McFadden.
  • Among active rushers in the conference, he ranks #8 as a junior and could finish his career in the stratosphere with a big season next year. We'll see if he comes back to join Juice in teh backfield next season.

That's progress...so what about the season finale against NW? In Ron's own words:

What about the Students - "I'll do whatever I have to do. I've said it many times. Anything that's legal and any amount of money that my wife will let me spend."

About the seniors - "Not only great guys, but great people and ambassadors to this University. Great team guys. For the first time, I've never done this, but I am actually going to go out there for senior day. I think that it's important that I show my appreciation."

On recruiting after the Ohio-State victory for the ages - "It's always ringing off the wall. I don't think that there's any question when you're able to have a win of that magnitude, of course on national television and the way it's talked about. The players are going to take notice of that. I've said this many times. Recruiting is still about people. Everyone understands that it's going to be hard to go somewhere and win every single game. There's going to be tough times wherever you go. And that's why I think that it's important that it comes down to people and feelings."

Nice Blog :)
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