Illini Postgame: Tate, Merrick

Iowa QB Drew Tate had a hand in all three of his team's touchdowns on Saturday, throwing for two and running for another. Miguel Merrick delivered the special teams' play of the day with a blocked punt that went for a safety. "Coach just called a great play. Everybody executed. I came in and was just able to take the ball off of his foot."


What happened on the punt block and how did you get through?

Coach just called a great play. Everybody executed. I came in and was just able to take the ball off of his foot.

Had you gotten close to any earlier punts and did you see something?

Yeah. We had gotten close. I knew that I was going to have a good chance to block it.

With the game that tight, did you think you needed a big special teams play?

Our special teams, we always try to go out there and make a play. Whether it be on punt defense, kickoff, kick return, all of them, we're trying to make a play. It's a critical phase.

What keeps you going? You had a taste of starting while Sean was out, now you're back to mainly playing special teams.

All I'm trying to do is to help this team win. We're a good team, but we need to keep getting better. I'm just trying to help us win by any means necessary, whether it be starting or producing on special teams.


How much did you have to adjust to the wind?

A couple of the balls I threw, it might have had a little something to do with it. But it really didn't have that much to do with it; maybe just one or two passes.

Ed Hinkel was your guy today.

He did a good job of getting open. The guys up front did a good job of giving him time to get open. I was able to get the ball in his hands so he could do what he can do with it.

Did you feel more confident throwing with the wind than against it?

I guess so. But the only time I was really thinking about the wind was when we were punting.

The 32-yard completion to Hinkel came right after you had missed it one to him.

Yeah. I knew the wind was at my back, so I didn't want to put the ball in the air with too much loft, but I think I did. The next time we ran it, I just told him that I was just going to throw it in there.

How did you play and how did the offense look in comparison to last week?

We did a better job of seeing things and identifying things than we did last week. Illinois, they were kind of like Penn State. Their record was down, but we knew that they were going to give us their best shot. I thought that we played real well as a team, and I thought that everyone was real positive.

It looked like you could have crawled in on the keeper for the touchdown. The defense wasn't anywhere near you.

Yeah. I guess that's just the way it happened. That wasn't supposed to work out that way, but it did.

How was it supposed to work out?

Ah, I don't know if I can say.

Did you guys feel the third quarter was key?

We left a lot of plays out there in the first half. We knew that if we could just capitalize on the plays that we barely missed in the first half, we'd be fine. We did that in the third quarter. The coaches were telling us that this was the last quarter that we were going to have the wind. We really tried to get out there and throw it around a little bit and move the ball and put points on the board. In the fourth quarter, we were just going to try to run the clock out.

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