Illini Post-Game Quotes

Illinois played today without Derek Walker, Michael Hoomanawanui and Kyle Hudson.

Walker was bothered all week with his sprained ankle and was held out as a precaution. Hoomanawanui was on the sideline in civilian clothes. His back is improved, but doctors still aren't sure what is causing his problem. Hudson was not being punished. Rather, he has had a foot problem all year, and it seemed to bother him more this week.

Recruits Supo Sanni, Russell Ellington, Mikel Leshoure and Maurice Mears were seen at the game, among others.

Postgame interviews: Coach Zook: "Until you've been there, it's hard to understand how hard you have to play every single week. Last year and the year before, we would not have won that game. It wasn't pretty, but we did what we had to do to get the win.

"Like we said at halftime, sometime we're going to have to stand up and make it happen, and we did that. This is a continuing education, a continuing learning process. There was never a time where you could relax. It was a hard game.

"It is a perk that we have won six games, but there's a long way to go here. We're back in the Big Ten now, there's three games left. We have an opportunity now to have a really special year. Let's don't stop here.

"I told Rashard sometime in the third quarter, you need to put this team on your back. He had 189 yards and went over 1000 for the season, but there's no question he left some yards out there as well. He could have been over 200 and probably had another touchdown. We all know he has that kind of ability. Reggie has done a great job with him.

"Consistency, consistency, consistency. Consistency is the last thing to come with a young group of guys. When they've done it so many times it's just like clockwork. It's close to where we need to be, the light is flickering, but it needs to stay on all the time.

"I always like to go, go, go (offensively) to put pressure on the defense. But I told Coach Locksley I didn't think that was the way to go in this game to prevent them from (Ball State) having the football more often. We're more consistent and execute better when we are at a high tempo. We talked about the quarterbacks yesterday, and we decided to go with Juice the way they practiced and what was best for us.

"We didn't set six games as a goal. When you set that as a goal, when you get there you think you've made it. But we're not there, by any stretch of the imagination. We've got to continue to press and push. We're excited where we are and what we've done to get to this point, but our football team has to understand we still can be better."

DaJuan Warren: "Coach asked me if I wanted to catch some punts, and I said whatever I could do to help the team. I've done it the last four years. E. B. Halsey did it and now Kyle Hudson, but I've been doing it in practice and I was ready when coach called my name."

Coach Dan Disch: "(great passers) They're going to get their yards, there's nothing you can do about that. That's an offense that's been getting 30 points a game, and we gave up ten (plus the one tip). But I was proud of the guys. Obviously, we didn't have the energy we had the week before, but how could you. So to come in and do the things we did and hold them to ten points is good. But it wasn't pretty."

Doug Pilcher: "The Michigan game was a big game, on national TV. But you still have to come out and play, and I thought we did that, especially late in the game. Nate Davis is a good quarterback. We had to contain him, and for the most part we stopped him when we had to."

Kevin Mitchell: "We have a tough road ahead, but we can get more than six. It feels great (to be bowl eligible). I honestly don't know how to react because we've never been there. But I do know we need to put this one aside and worry about Minnesota. It's good to see the program going the way it should be. The seniors are going to contribute what we can and go from there."

Rashard Mendenhall: "We haven't been going bowling for a long time, so it feels great. You know, Coach Zook is a fiery guy, and I try to react to his challenges by doing the best I can. With our offense, we do so many things. To have a balanced attack makes us awfully hard for other teams to stop. So when the passing is going a little bit, it definitely helps the offensive line, it helps out the backs, and it helps out the team as a whole. When we can keep them off balance, it's great.

"Being a competitor, and with the interception being my fault, I wanted to go back out there and make up for that. I should have caught the ball, but I tried to make a cut before I caught it. People were in my face, but whatever happens you have to catch the ball.

"I understand what he's (Coach Zook) is saying (about leaving some yards on the field). I didn't have the greatest game. A lot of times, I was trying to force some things to make bigger plays instead of running upfield."

J. Leman: "We've taken a step, and now we have to take the next one. It's a goal of ours to get to a bowl, but it's not an end all, be all. We want to be competitive and upset some Big Ten teams. Our goal is really to win the Big Ten still. If we win out, anything can happen and we can go to a big-time bowl game. The Big Ten is the toughest conference in the country to win on the road. So we have our hands full.

"I felt really good today. It's hard to keep the high energy up the whole time. I want to do it, but sometimes I'm a little low. As a senior, it's your job to get the team ready to play. You can't let one loss affect the next game. (senior leadership) We've been through a whole lot, and we've got some great leaders on this team."

Juice Williams: "It means a lot to me, and it means even more to the seniors to get to a bowl game. Every game is tough to play for. Every team wants to make a name for themselves. Ball State is a great team with a lot of firepower, and they showed that today.

"(confidence in fourth quarter) It was just a matter of me relaxing. One of my roommates took me aside in the first half and said 'You're not bouncing around smiling and being yourself." Even after the first touchdown in the second half, I didn't really celebrate. He told me I needed to find a way to pick it up. I made a promise to myself to pick it up, and that's what I did and things started going different. (Confidence in the pocket) comes from knowing what's going on and not really guessing. You can relax and make more accurate throws."

Arrelious Benn: "I was determined to get into the end zone. I thought I scored, but they said I stepped out. It is what it is. A lot of people thought we weren't going win as many games as we did, but from a 2-10 record last season we took a big step."

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