Zook Feels Good About Illini Chances

Friday marks the eleventh game of the 2009 season for Brian Kelly and his 10-0 Bearcats football team. While many programs have ended their season, Kelly knows his next opponent Illinois will be bringing their best to Nippert Stadium. Illinois head coach Ron Zook expects nothing less.

With their Big Ten season behind them, Ron Zook and his Fighting Illini will come into Nippert Stadium on Friday at 12:00 p.m. (EST) in front of a national television audience looking to knock off the Cincinnati Bearcats and end the team's perfect season.

Brian Kelly fully expects as much from Illinois and feels his team understands the job at hand and has so since early in the season (Fresno State). Each new game week has brought a new challenge from teams looking to make their mark against the Bearcats.

While Cincinnati will enter the game with a perfect 10-0 mark the Illini enter the game with a 3-7 record (2-6 Big Ten) with thoughts of being "the" team to knock off the Bearcats. Coach Zook felt his team used their off week to get back to basics and find a new attitude heading into their battle with the Bearcats.

"Last week was a very good week of practice. I came back and didn't spend a lot of time on Cincinnati but just had good practice. I was really impressed with the attitude they came back with. We came back and just made it like a game week. We started on Sunday and made it like a Monday. I've been very, very impressed, which tells us that these guys are excited to play this football team."

While many would look at Illinois as a spoiler, Coach Zook doesn't feel the same way.

"I don't know if we have taken the position that we want to be the spoiler. We understand that it is an opportunity to play a great football team. It's going to be on national television, and I imagine a lot of people will be watching. They understand that it is an opportunity to play an awfully good football team and maybe redeem ourselves a little bit. We have the opportunity to show people that we are much better than what we've played and what our record is. Our guys are excited about it. How many times do you get to play a top-five team? That is what I have been telling the guys."

While Coach Zook may have a sense of confidence, Brian Kelly stressed the Illini are a team to take serious with the many athletes they'll place on the field.

While lots of attention will be given to quarterback Juice Williams, the Illini could play as many as three quarterbacks as back-up Jacob Charest and Eddie McGee could also see playing time.

"Jacob is going to be ready to go as is Eddie. We will see how it plays out. We aren't going in with a plan to play all three of them, but I'm not opposed to playing all three of them. Whatever we have to do to have an opportunity to win the game is what we will do."

Williams is returning from injury and would like nothing more than to show the form that helped him lead the Illini to the Rose Bowl just a couple of seasons ago.

"Juice is fine. He practiced last week and practiced all this week. We haven't hit him or anything like that, but he hasn't shown any signs. I think not playing him in the last game turned out to be the right thing to do."

On the season Williams has passed for over 1,100 yards while also rushing for 384 yards.

While Coach Zook likes the fact he'll have almost a fully healthy team for the Bearcats he also understands the challenge ahead for his team.

"Obviously, this is a great challenge. We are facing a great football team and a well-coached football team. A team that is playing together, playing hard and making a lot of things happen. Our players have showed us in the last two weeks that they are excited about this opportunity. It's a game that everyone is going to be watching with the implications for the BCS, so it draws a lot of attention in that regard. "

Attention Ron Zook and his staff hopes gives Illini fans something to cheer about after a very hard season.

***Quotes From Ron Zook Press Conference***

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