Zook Still Looking For Answers After Loss

Ron Zook was still looking for answers after suffering a 27-20 Homecoming defeat at the hands of the Minnesota Gophers. The Fighting Illini may now need to reevaluate their goals for the season after the heartbreaking loss. Zook's Sunday press conference follows.

Q: At this point, is it more about playing well than thinking about specific goals?

Zook: We've got to play well, and we have to readjust our goals. Anytime you set your goals, you set them high. If you're not gonna get exactly where you want to be, then you adjust. We're not completely done with them, but a couple we need to do some work on.

Q: Are the guys today in shock?

Zook: There's a feeling of hurt. The guys I've seen are upset. I've said this from day one fellas, we're not where we need to be yet. When you are, you win the games you're supposed to win. You have to give Minnesota credit, they did a great job. Anytime you have 550 yards of offense and you hold a pretty good offense to 300 yards, you really should win. They have to understand why they didn't.

Q: Was it your older guys yesterday or your younger guys who were complacent?

Zook: Football is a team game. You know what, if you don't win the game, nobody plays a good game. What happened yesterday was that Minnesota played with a little bit, not much, more energy. There's a fine line, and they played higher than we did yesterday.

I looked at the tape and everything, and I'm not gonna say we didn't play with effort because we did. We didn't quit, we kept playing and coming back. Obviously, we did some things we can't do. We turned the ball over. When you get the ball down in the red zone, you've got to score. Those are some of the things we didn't do that we have to do to be considered a good football team.

Q: Indiana game?

Zook: It's gonna be a game just like yesterday. Whatever you've seen in the past ain't gonna be what you see Saturday. This is gonna be a football team that's gonna come in here and play like the frickin Indianapolis Colts. Our guys have to understand that somehow, someway.

Jeff Allen, poor guy. I don't want to single Jeff Allen out at all, but he played against two awfully good teams the last two games, and all of a sudden he ran into probably a freshman game at the wrong time. You go through a growing stage, and he'll be a lot better for it.

Q: Do you work with your kickoff guy, or do you look to make a change?

Zook: I don't know. You tell me. I'm open to any ideas. He's the same guy that did it last year. I talked to him last Sunday afternoon, and I said, "Mike, you're the guy. You have to give me three different kicks, and that's it." I made a decision to leave him in there. Of course, in the second half he kicked pretty well. Obviously, the ones in the first half weren't very good. It's not very good to let their offense start on the 40 yard line.

Q: What's the deal on Benn's fair catches?

Zook: I thought the one he was shielding the sun. The other one, it's gotta be swung above his head. The one they blew dead, I did not think it was. On the fumble, I thought it was a fair catch. He was sideways, and it should have been above his head.

Q: Where do you stand on Rejus as a return guy? There hasn't been much production, and he muffed the one kickoff yesterday. Are you still confident in him?

Zook: He's not producing the way he would like to do, and it's not entirely his fault. He's been told numerous times that if you muff the kickoff you leave it in there. Those are mistakes you can't have. We're still evaulating this week.

Q: Is it Jeff Allen's job until Ryan Palmer comes back, or is it Jeff's now?

Zook: It's been four or five weeks on Ryan, so it'll be probably another couple weeks before we have a chance to have him back. He's still in the boot. He's doing conditioning, but it will take awhile to get him back into football shape. Jeff's gonna get better. We're not the only ones playing freshmen.

Q: You have only one interception in BCS games. Is there something there where we lack a nose for the ball on defense?

Zook: I saw the same thing. We haven't had the number of interceptions we'd like to have. That's something we've got to continue to stress. It does kind of run in cycles though. Last year was really the first year we had the interceptions that you want to have. Maybe it's the type of passing game we're getting, more of a controlled type passing game where it's hard to get interceptions.

Q: Is Martez playing closer to the way you expected.

Zook: I thought he played much better yesterday. He's still not 100%.

Q: Anyone banged up yesterday?

Zook: Jeff is fine. Bo Flowers has a strained hamstring and may not go full speed tomorrow, but he's probably gonna be ok. We should have Ian Thomas back for practice tomorrow.

Q: Garrett Edwards had his most action of the year. How did he fare yesterday?

Zook: Yes, he was in 50-54 plays. I thought he played pretty well. He missed a tackle on the fumble, the one Donsay caused that you can't do. Brit made a great effort to grab hold of the guy, and Donsay caused the fumble.

Q: Can you talk about the pressure they got on Juice? He got alot of yards, but he took alot of hits.

Zook: Some of it is Juice's fault, and obviously some of it is the offensive line's fault. You have to give Minnesota credit. We've got some mature guys up there, so it's not just the maturity. They played against two awfully good defenses and played well at the level they had to play at. Why didn't they play at that level yesterday, as much as we've talked about it and stressed it? We just didn't get it done.

Q: Was it just a lack of energy?

Zook: I don't say it was a lack of energy. We played hard in all three phases. I started watching the tape very, very early this morning. It was almost like we weren't supposed to win. We obviously can't turn the ball over like that, which led to two touchdowns. Defensively, with the exception of that one run, we played well.

Vontae, on that one touchdown, you put him in that situation ten times, and ten out of ten he'll turn the right way. For whatever reason, he turned the wrong way. I don't understand. I've never seen him turn that way.

Q: Was Juice banged up after being sacked 5 times?

Zook: He's sore, but I don't think he is as sore as he was after the Michigan game.

Q: When you say it was the most important game, what do you mean?

Zook: It's the next game. We were coming back home after a big win, a big Homecoming crowd, getting momentum going into the last half of the season. If you look at the schedule and where we are after six games, realistically what we said was that we had to be at least 3-3 at the end of six games.

Obviously, we wanted to be 6-0 or 5-1, but we had to be at least 3-3. That's what we are. The football season is like a game. The score doesn't matter until it's over. We're going to evaluate the season at the end of twelve games.

Q: Are you at the point where you understand which team will show up each week and what kind of effort they give? Are you comfortable at all?

Zook: Since January, I've said I thought we'd be a better team, but I didn't know what that meant. At times, we are a better football team than last year. I also said we're not there yet. One of the things you've got to do before you can consider yourself an elite program is you have to win the games you're supposed to win.

In the Big Ten, you better have the experience to know you'd better be strapped up and ready to go every single game. I can't fault the effort. I thought we played hard. There's so many good things out there. We won the time of possession, we had 550 yards of offense, we held them to 300. But, we turned the ball over, and we didn't win the game.

Q: Has the players' confidence been a roller coaster week to week?

Zook: I don't think so. Maybe a little bit after the Missouri game, I don't know if it was confidence or backed into the corner a little bit. They wanted that game so bad, but it didn't happen. But I don't think it's confidence. We went into Penn State. We went into Michigan. I still believe they think we have a good football team, but I think they also understand they have to do the things we coach them to do.


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