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Ethos October 16, 2011

I get to my seat close to game time.  I had hoped to get in there early today so I could pace off some nerves in the aisle, but it just didn’t work out that way.  3 minutes after I arrived at my seat, we were kicking off.  3 minutes after that, my section was complaining.

The defense wasn’t tackling correctly.  We should have known what play they’d run there.  “Tackle somebody!”  We finally force an Ohio State third down, and the only noise, at least from my section, is more complaining.

This was nothing new, of course.  I think anyone who has attended an Illinois game in the last few years, especially visiting fans who are accustomed to their home crowd, are taken aback by the negativity in Memorial Stadium.  My buddy from Arkansas is accustomed to a festive atmosphere in Reynolds Stadium, with every fan “calling the hogs” and a raucous crowd from start to finish.  As I said a few weeks ago, he leaned over at our first opponents third down and asked why no one was yelling.

I saw a great phrase on one of our message boards that I think fits what I’m trying to say: “there’s something uniquely negative about Illinois fans”.  That’s what is bothering me.  It’s not booing – all fans boo when displeased, from college football to tennis (OK, in tennis I think they whistle, but you get the point). It’s not the complaints about coaching decisions – all fans in all college stadiums do that at some point during the game.  It’s not even the failure to stand and cheer – let’s be honest, there wasn’t much to cheer about yesterday.  I think I’ve put my finger on what has been bothering me.  It’s the ethos.

e-thos – (noun): 1. The characteristic spirit of a culture, era, or community as seen in its beliefs and aspirations.

You attend a game at Indiana, and you get this sense of, I don’t know, sarcasm. They’ve been terrible for 20 years and everyone is in on the joke. Let’s go tailgate so more.

You attend a game at Iowa, and there’s this unbridled overconfidence (some might say cocky – I am one of those people). The crowd certainly voices displeasure, but it’s because they’re all in on it – they’ll will this team to victory if they have to.

You attend a game at Wisconsin, and there’s almost a creepy devotion, like everyone got up in the morning and recited their oath to Barry Alvarez.  But it’s a good kind of creepy – some of the loudest cheers I’ve ever been around are when Wisconsin tackles a tailback for a 3 yard gain early in the first quarter.  That crowd would cheer for the trainers.

Attend a game at Illinois, and I think the description these days would have to be “uniquely negative”.  We’re 6-0, ranked 15th, and the crowd is angry at the tackling on the third play from scrimmage.  It’s almost as if the crowd gets excited for an opportunity to get angry, if that makes any sense.

I struggled with this on the drive home, and then a commenter in the From The Stands post helped me figure it out (thanks, Hoppy): ethos is part of Zook’s job.

At first, I didn’t think that was the case.  Fans at Arkansas and Iowa and Indiana aren’t exactly coach-dependent.  These fanbases have developed their ethos over generations, with many different coaches on the sidelines. How could you simply point at a coach?  Wouldn’t a long-term AD be the better target?

But the more I thought about our specific situation, the more it seemed that Hoppy was right.  Why do our fans look so negatively at every game situation?  Because they don’t have much confidence in our head coach to make the right decision.  There’s a reason “Zook” was trending on Twitter last evening, and it’s not because barefoot waterskiing pictures are suddenly all the rage.  College football fans and media-types can’t wait to get their hands on the latest “Zooking”, be it not knowing the score or not kicking an obvious field goal.

Part of the job of a head coach is ethos.  Part of the job is becoming a figurehead to rally around.  You don’t have to be perfect – Les Miles might be insane and Mike Gundy is a man who is 40 – but you have to be solid.  You have to be the immovable center of the ethos.  And right now, with multiple questionable decisions in the last two weeks 7 years, Ron Zook isn’t providing that.

I’ve said many times that I wish fans could see Ron Zook in other situations – chatting with a recruit, speaking to grandparents at a football family BBQ (he knows every name).  There’s a reason he’s able to close on so many recruits just before signing day – he’s an infectious personality.  Adding Paul Petrino and Vic Koenning appears to have shored up other weaknesses during his tenure, and I continue to think he does a good job with the pregame speeches and such.

But he’s not helping the ethos.  With each poor sideline decision, he continues to lose the home fans a little more.  And after 20 years of “we’ve arrived! *pulls rug*”, Illinois fans are edgy to begin with.

I still wish it wasn’t about the success of individual plays on the field during the game – I wish our fans simply wanted to support our team because those are our guys; if they need us to stand and yell, we’ll stand and yell, regardless of how we feel about the coaching decisions – but I think I might understand it a little more today.  To build that kind of fanbase, you need a strong leader on the sideline that everyone can rally around. And we just don’t have that right now.

To the game (and this should be short, because our faults were pretty simple):

+ Maybe I’ll watch the game on tape and see that many of these balls couldn’t have been caught.  But if there’s one thing I take from today, it’s that drops by wide receivers absolutely killed us.

For starters, Spencer Harris has to come up with that ball in the endzone.  I’m sure there’s been much talk about the Zook decision to go for it instead of kick the field goal, but all of that is moot if Harris hauls in that TD.  It would be 17-14 with 1:25 to go and two timeouts – even if the onsides kick is unsuccessful, we could still stop the clock a few times and theoretically get the ball back with time to get into field goal range.

But there were other drops, too. Ryan Lankford on third down.  Harris again on third down.  Again, maybe I’ll see on tape that these were not good throws.  But if we can haul in most of these passes (and if AJ doesn’t fumble after one of his catches), that’s a different game.

+ It’s crazy how Tressel’d were were without Tressel on the sidelines.  Their formula is so simple:  Don’t turn the ball over (which is why they didn’t throw).  Punts aren’t a bad thing.  Win the field position battle.  Force turnovers, and take advantage of those turnovers.

Done, done, done, done, and done.  We made two huge mistakes, they capitalized (immediately) on both, and ballgame.  Biggest play of the game, to me, was their one completion (the Stoneburner touchdown).  Hold them to a field goal there, and we’re driving for the winning score with 2 minutes left.

But of course that didn’t happen.  Because Ohio State did what Ohio State has been doing for years – play smart, efficient football and walk away with a victory.

+ I was very surprised to see that Ohio State only ran for 221 yards – I would have guessed 300+.  I guess my initial feelings were incorrect – the defense really didn’t do anything poorly today besides not force any turnovers.  If we hold teams to 228 yards and 17 points at home, we should win.

The offense, on the other hand, in their first test against a top defense, performed poorly.  Costly turnovers, drops, and only 7 points.  I’m hoping it was a good reality check for us – Purdue’s defense isn’t bad and Penn State’s defense is outstanding – this offense will be severely tested in the next few weeks.

Paul Petrino has shown that he can gameplan accordingly when we’re struggling – I’m expecting a much better effort next week.

+ The good: we’re 6-1, headed to a bowl game, and our defense has shown that they will get to the quarterback against every offensive line they face.  That will keep us in a lot of games.

The bad: we’ve turned the ball over 8 times in three Big Ten games.  Keep that up, and we might struggle to only 1 or 2 more wins.

The ugly: me choosing a game like that to bring up the subject of negative fans.

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31 Comments
chief23 October 16th, 2011

“Because Ohio State did what Ohio State has been doing for years – play smart, efficient football and walk away with a victory.”

That is exactly right. Illinois does not do this, we make costly mistakes and play inefficient football. I’m not sure that will ever change under Ron Zook, even with good coordinators, and the thought of that is very frustrating.

chief23 October 16th, 2011

Stripe out, 6-0, Ohio State has completely one dimensional offense, freshman QB, they have a rookie head coach, and Illinois still could not beat them at home. That is why this loss hurts so much. Another squandered opportunity.

GrogsBBQPepperoni October 16th, 2011

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Am I the only one who doesn’t feel that bad after yesterday’s outcome? I mean, look – we’re not the #15 team in the country. Our body of work is pretty soft up till kickoff yesterday (other than a nice victory over ASU that was just that – “nice”, not dominating). Our 2 B1G wins were over Indiana and Northwestern (and we trailed by double digits in both). OSU had 2 B1G losses to MSU and Nebraska. We had played one end of the spectrum, they had played the other (well, Wisky is the top program, but still). We held a rather recent National Champ to 220 yards total offense, got our comeuppance in unlucky breaks, suffered through migraine-inducing coaching gaffes, and were still not out of it (with what I’d call ‘real’ hope)near the end of the 4th quarter.

If OSU had come in and put up 500 yards and beaten us by 21 or 24 then, yeah, I’d be really nervous. We lost our first game of the year in our 7th attempt to a team that is a BCS bowl game ‘regular’. If this loss had come at the hands of Minnesota again or Purdue at home then it’s a totally different story.

This is still a great year. That was just a standard loss. We as fans should still be really grateful for the year we’re having. And maybe the team can adjust accordingly and get up to a ranking of #15 that we really deserve. I didn’t think we had earned it after our first 6 games, we just kind of got it by default because we hadn’t lost. Now let’s go earn it for real! Bad fans or not, Illini football still has great momentum. Let’s go get a 17-point win at Purdue.

Chitownillini October 16th, 2011

I think your comments about Ethos are valid but I think there is more at play here. The fans’ attitudes are a natural by-product of RG’s Experiment and a strong reason why programs don’t replace staffs while keeping an underperforming head coach. Regardless of whether one considers the Experiment a success or not, the traditional wholesale change (firing the entire staff) allows the fans to turn the page. That didn’t happen here.

illinibacker October 16th, 2011

Chitown makes an excellent point. The “experiment” leaves the program in a weird spot. If it fails, then you only delayed the inevitable. If it works (and so far it has in my opinion) then you still have that underperforming head coach doing the same things that made him unsuccessful to begin with. But now with more competence around him the record is good enough not to get fired.
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Yeah, the drops just killed us yesterday. Jenkins had a great catch on the sideline, but outside of that the receivers really struggled. Nate’s throws were wobbling yesterday, but they need to pull in more of those. And Lankford failed to play defense on the last pick – he needed to come back and bring the hammer.

mattcoldagelli October 16th, 2011

I was as bummed as anybody at the end of the game, but I realized I need to be honest with myself as a fan. EVERY year all I ask is that we’re competitive, fun to watch and bowl-eligible. That’s all. And while we lost a winnable game….that happens. It will almost always happen when you’re playing in the Big Ten – if we want a chance to sprint through the conference schedule, I think there are some open spots in the Big East.

But all three of my asks have been met. Doing anything but enjoying watching these guys compete the rest of the way feels like I’m moving the goalposts on them. That doesn’t mean not being critical when it’s warranted, but it also doesn’t mean throwing up my hands and just waiting for the house to cave in – I feel that’s become the norm just as much as the rug-pulling by the team. That’s a bad cycle to get into.

kevink October 16th, 2011

First of all….was that Corey Liuget on the sideline yesterday in street clothes? The Chargers have a bye, so it’s within the realm of possibility. If so, I love seeing stand-out graduates supporting the current team.

Great post regarding “ethos” Robert. This is a topic that has bothered me for two decades and my wife is thoroughly sick of hearing me talk about. I graduated just ahead of you in 1993 and enjoyed relatively competitive football and basketball teams during my four years in Champaign. The Makovic era yielded a Citrus Bowl victory, a top 10 finish and the number 1 overall pick in the 1990 NFL draft. We climbed to #4 in the polls in 1990 (before laying a prime time egg against Iowa) and continued to field ferocious defenses through the mid 90′s. Basketball? The Flying Illini…..enough said. This was arguably the golden era of Illini sports, at least in the past 50 years. Despite this, I recall to this day how apathetic the fan support was for the football program in particular. Even when we did put people in the stands, there was simply a lack of intensity. I had the good fortune of working at Assembly Hall for four years and the basketball fans were not much better. After a few years working in Chicago, I entered grad school at the University of Wisconsin in 1996. I was immediately blown away by the intensity of the fans. Wisconsin was a decent team in 1996, but not great. Didn’t matter. The in-game traditions and revelry were astoundingly different than the relatively somber/reserved Illini games I was accustomed to. I recall very little negativity from the Badger faithful……it was a raucous 80,000 person party that continues unabated to this day. Simply put, the University of Wisconsin represents a unified state and its associated cultural identify. Having traveled for games elsewhere in the Big 10, the same can be said for Nebraska, Iowa, Ohio State and Penn State. Unfortunately for us, as you’ve pointed out in prior posts the University of Illinois represents a tepidly loyal alumni base and a small contingent of loyal east-central Illinois locals. We suffer from a lack of unified state identity (downstaters vs Chicagoans, Chicagoans vs suburbanites etc.) and unfortunately these factious divisions manifest themselves on Saturday afternoons in Champaign.

Hoppy October 16th, 2011

Blocking out all of the Zook conversations, and Patrino this, or “the fans” that, I think we can all agree on something.

We are 6-1 right? Not bad. We have five games left to get two wins (Purdue and Minnesota hopefully). And maybe, just maybe we throw another one on there from Michigan or Penn State. But let’s say we go 8-4. I’d say that’s more success than last year. Way better than the year before that and the year before that. Shoot, even the 9-4 Rose Bowl season is almost the same in regards to our record.

So let’s be happy with what could be this year (in a positive way). Let’s go to a bowl and start forming consistent 8-4, 9-3 seasons. Let’s get good recruits and do this thing right.

Zook might just be the guy to take us to those 8-4 seasons. But I don’t think he can do much more. So, in a few years when we are all complaining about how our championship level team ONLY went 9-3 with Zook, (as opposed to our current status) we then get rid of him and upgrade for the all star coach.

Find the guy who will take our talent to the Nat. Championship. A guy that will come in and have winning records on talent alone just because our players are that good. Soon after they all buy into his system and just start winning. A guy that can be respected from the start and the fans can get behind him. Let’s bring someone in who has a clean slate but with the opportunity to start on a positive note, not a rebuilding note. Let’s earn that head coach by building a good (maybe not great) program.

If we build it, he will come. (haha)

thegoah October 16th, 2011

I have a question, and it is gonna sound like I’m trolling the upstaters…but I am not.

We are Illinois. People in Southern IL tend to be fans of the STL cardinals baseball team…a team that is (this afternoon) playing for its 8th (9th? 10th?) world series since 1945. People in Northern IL tend to be Chi Cubs baseball fans…a team that is (not) playing for its 1st world series since 1945.

IL athletics is the only thing in the universe that (some within) this disparate group has ever agreed on, and I wonder i that is part of the disconnect.

I wonder whether the Illini fans (North) and the Illini fans (South), due to their polar differences in experience w/ sports teams, might have a different temperament and therefore approach these IL football games differently.

STL Fan: “wow. we’re finally breaking through this year. let’s root ‘em on to victory!”

CHI Fan: “wow. how will we eff up THIS year?”

I am going way out on a limb here and predicting that STL-area Robert (see: every braggin-rights game discussion EVER…who hates mizzou THAT much w/o being around mizzou-ans all the time?) who HATES missouri, is also a big cards fan, and needs to have his illini fan thoughts interpreted through this lens.

Can the variant reactions of his “ethos” post be thus interpreted?

spotticus October 16th, 2011

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People with that attitude aren’t going to spend 5 hours driving back and forth from Chicago. The group I drive down with mostly enjoys a good day of hanging out and tailgating. We know by now what will happen on the field – mostly heartbreak – but it’s still makes for a fun Saturday experience at our alma mater.

For years the majority of our fans have been bitter, crotchety old folks who love to complain. You can blame Zook for that if you want but it seems the same way at Assembly Hall. It’s just the nature of our fans for whatever reason. A lot of them suck but it’s best to just not let them affect you.

Robert – your audio commentary after last game was spot on but it’s nothing new and it certainly didn’t affect the outcome of that game. The game was lost long before the booing or the 4th and 2 call. For whatever reason we just weren’t ready for OSU. I haven’t noticed booing in the past but think it’s completely moronic. You’re watching KIDS playing a GAME without pay. If your intent is to show displeasure with Zook then find another method.

GrogsBBQPepperoni October 16th, 2011

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People in Northern IL are not just Cub fans. Some are Sox fans (one recent title) and most are Bulls fans (6 recent titles) or Hawks fans (one recent title). Why would baseball be the only sport that affects fan attitudes? Northern IL sports fans have had a lot to be happy about and have seen their teams reach the pinnacle. How did this turn into Cubs screw up and Cards are awesome? Come on……

thegoah October 16th, 2011

Sorry Grogs…like I said, not trolling…and I suppose you make a good point about other Chi sports teams. Just that my (probably skewed) perception as a downstater myself is that a lot of the negativity comes down from the north, and that we in the south are a little more polyanna-ish (not a good thing itself, to be sure).

Operating under that perception, I was just trying to brainstorm explanations for it. It might not even be a correct perception & apologize if it came off as a cub-bashing (and it DID come off that way, I admit).

Am curious whether I am alone in my perceptions…whether there are any intrinsic differences between upstate/downstate fans…regardless of the source or nature of the differences.

GrogsBBQPepperoni October 16th, 2011

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Goah, here’s my take. My buddies and I who all went to Illinois are like a lot of the fans, Robert too (re: football at least). We wait for the other shoe to drop. Sure, it’s due to the bad years we’ve endured. But even the great years we had like 2001 and 2007 where we won the Big Ten really out of nowhere, we were left with a bad taste in our mouth. 2 BCS bowls in which we were matched up with a superior opponent in their back yard. I think if we would have capped off one of our fairy tale years with a nice bowl victory, we might all have a different perspective, no matter if were Northern IL grumps or Southern IL pollyannas.

What happened was that 2007 was just like 2001 which was just like 1983 (where we LITERALLY played an opponent in their back yard – shoot, their front yard, really). Those were great seasons where we were THE team in the Big Ten and we laid an egg in the bowl game that defined that season. Badly in all cases. I really think if one of those 3 big bowls had been an Illini victory, then we would have a different mindset. The bowl wins we do have over our viewing lifetime are really just so-so. Nothing that’s a real attention getter.

Having said all of that, I think we’re headed in the right direction. Last year we met a good Baylor team (again, in their backyard) and took care of business. Now we’re 6-1 (can we all just pause and take in how great that feels?) and have some real statement games coming up that really didn’t exist in our first 6 games save the ASU tilt (where we had the home field advantage). I’m excited (and from the North!)

I think our fans REALLY wanted to beat OSU and catch them when they were down and were a bit overhyped to do it so they spent the game frustrated which came across as hatred. They ‘striped’ the stadium as the team wanted. They showed up and it was or almost was a sellout. I think Robert might be underplaying how frustrated people are with Zook. I think there is an undercurrent that we all think he’ll screw up a good thing and good talent. He is an AWFUL coach. And maybe our fans aren’t “in the know” like Arkansas fans and don’t do the “proper” thing that good football fans do. But this fan base was almost wiped clean in terms of football. It was terrible other than “lightning in a bottle” 2007 for a long time. I think it takes time to get a football crowd that goes nuts on every 3rd down for your foe.

But I really don’t think it’s North v South. I think the average fan saw this game as our first potential nice big juicy win this year and we never had the upperhand. That was a really frustrating game. I was at the Michigan game in 2007 and that place was rocking. It wasn’t all Zook hate (and he had JUST screwed up the Iowa game the week before). But that was 4 years and a numerous Zook blunders ago. I think our fans are torn – we love the guys and can’t stand the coach. So when the game goes south, our frustrations come out. We’re all so done with Zook – even when we’re 6-1. His blunders embarrass us all. He has such a low football IQ, how can a fan not scream about it when 75% of the stadium knows what the right move is but he doesn’t?

GrogsBBQPepperoni October 16th, 2011

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One Last Thought (OLT)…….being a “fading away” Cub fan, anger is at least better than apathy. So many Cub games I’ve been at, nobody even cared enough to show their anger or displeasure. And that is the worst, my friends. At least our fans are angry about losing. Most of our recent crappy years we just took our medicine and said “thank you sir, may I have another”.

illiniranger October 16th, 2011

Robert, terrific post top to bottom. Glad we get PU next week. Should be an easy win. Give it to D. Young and lets see how it plays out. He represents our best chance for a competent running game.

thegoah October 16th, 2011

All the zooker frustration leads me back to a question I think I put either on a comment thread somewhere or mailbagged and Robert didn’t answer. I know we’re 6-1 and I AM excited about it and so is Grog and we can all ride the bandwagon–but 6-1, 3-4, 2-5, or 5-2, I think it’s still an interesting question (I think) and I’ll repeat.

The 19-pt plan, iirc, was at least in part a response to the power vacuum and long-term commitment to Zook. You (I thought) were saying “We cannot change coaches now because we owe Zook money and we don’t have anyone in power to make the change, and Guenther isn’t going to replace a coach as his last move.”

Now with a new chancellor, a new AD, and everything else, what does this do to the 19-pt plan? It seems that the 19-pt plan has been implemented, and is going extremely well. But is that still the optimal plan in this new environment? What would Zook have to do to get the plug pulled?

thegoah October 16th, 2011

*assumes Robert reads the comments to this blog

branthansen October 16th, 2011

Robert –

Don’t know you, don’t know your background.

But thank you.

Not for this entry, though it’s terrific. Thanks for all your efforts and your terrific writing. If you’ve read Seth Godin’s “Linchpin”, you’re aware of the value of a true “gift” — giving passion and effort to people, just because you can.

Your blog is terrific. I live in California, and now find myself reading your blog for analysis before I go to other sites. It’s much better than typical sportswriting, honestly: It’s commiseration. And for a far-flung fan, that’s dynamite.

So thanks. You’re a solid thinker, a lively writer, and what makes it even better — you’re prolific. There’s always lots to read. Gracias from an alum in NorCal.

schiavonir October 16th, 2011

Robert, O Great Statistician – when was the last time Illinois won back-to-back bowl games? Has it ever happened? Regardless of 8-4, 9-3, or however it ends up, let’s set our sights on that. Back-to-back bowl wins! Go Illini!

thegoah October 16th, 2011
thegoah October 16th, 2011

fun bit of trivia in the link I just posted but that is awaiting moderation. the wikipedia about our bowl history. no consecutive bowl victories…a 7-9 record in bowls, but we’ve outscored opponents by 44….which obviously suggests that we’re really 1-0.

Illinigrad October 17th, 2011

I can’t say that your blog is the ONLY intelligent writing on Illinois FB, but it surely is some of the most insightful and well written. Keep up the excellent work. Thank you.

GrogsBBQPepperoni October 17th, 2011

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Thanks for the bowl history, goah. It seems exhaustive (and correct). Wow – just 4 bowl wins since the mid 60s. Yeah, fans of a team like that just are not going to react like Arkansas fans. We’re not a “good” football program (in the modern era, let’s say). I think Robert is the very unusual super fan of Illinois football (and I think that’s great and it shows in his excellent blog). But overall, I think that’s quite rare that such a mediocre program creates such a diehard.

I believe he graduated the same year as me (95). Our attendance at school was actually a pretty good run. From right before we entered to when we left, 3 bowl games in 5 years. That’s not normal from this program. Because I know people who attended in the late 90s or early 2000s and are such tepid fans since the team was so bad when they attended. When Robert and I attended, we were doing well. Maybe the fans around him were there when the team struggled and negativity is all they know (like I said, you can’t consider this program a success in the last 50 years – it is a bit “Cub”-ish). Who knows.

GrogsBBQPepperoni October 17th, 2011

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clarification – assuming a standard 4-year attendance culminating in spring of 95, it would be bowl games attended Freshmen, Sophmore and Senior years. And, assuming you were interested in Illinois before you went and were a big fan, they were in even better bowls the few years right before you got there. An unusually good stretch of Illinois football if those are your ‘formative years” of fandom.

uofibonehead October 17th, 2011

Technically speaking, Illinois won the 1994 St Jude Liberty Bowl over East Carolina, then their next bowl was the 1999 MicronPC game against Virginia. They won both of those.

Have they won two bowls in back to back years? Absolutely not. But you’re looking at a sampling of about 3 situations like that, very small sampling.

TC80 October 17th, 2011

I think Hoppy pretty much nailed it above. We’re still on track for a very, very good year. 8-4 or 9-3 and a Jan. 2 bowl game is easily within reach, and maybe 10-2 if things break our way. All is not lost with one bad game.

Do I think Zook will ever lead Illinois to a national title? No, but the idea of us anticpating playing for a national title in the immediate future is about as ludicrous as someone like Penn St. anticipating making a run to the basketball final four. I would love it if we end up with a string of 7-5, 8-4, 9-3 years to the point where that’s no longer good enough and we have to think about firing Zook in order to get to that “National Championship” level, but that’s a long, long ways off. I know some people will think this is “accepting mediocrity”, but building a championship program takes a long time.

Am I disappointed we couldn’t beat a “down” Ohio St. team at home? Yes, but it’s not the end of the world by any means. I had a bad feeling about this game the entire week. As much as I wish it were true, I just don’t think it’s possible yet to live in a world where Illinois is 7-0 and Ohio State is 0-3 in the Big10.

This is turning out to be a great year, and let’s enjoy it and get fired up for the last 2 home games this year. It’s been a long time since we had such meaningful conference home games against top tier opponents in November. The atmosphere for those games should be spectacular.

ATOillini October 17th, 2011

Robert……you started this post talking about fans in your section. You finished the post with “the subject of negative fans”. But in between you said, “To build that kind of fanbase, you need a strong leader on the sideline that everyone can rally around. And we just don’t have that right now.”
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I’m just wondering where you ultimately shake out on that topic. When Pat Forde does his first half season summary on ESPN.com by rating other coaches on a “Zooker Goofball Scale”, what does that tell you?
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Finally, losing at home to a team that completes one pass for 17 yards is such a bizarre statistic that I’m still trying to digest what it all means.

illinitrueblue October 17th, 2011

Robert,

It’s a great blog, the best. Thanks. I never thought I would run across another Illini fan as desperately involved as I am, but there you are.

The media feed off the vibrations coming from the fandom. And Illini fans really do not trust Zook. And it has gotten worse every year. So, the Fordes and Davies and Smug Teddy Gs all jump on, be/se it’s acceptable. It’s easy.

We were not going to win that game, with or without a TD late. The decision to go for it wasn’t irrational but a Hobson’s choice at best.

The real issues were not the decisions of Zook, but what has happened to the OL, and why so many TOs and, this one I really hate, but where is the running game? I am not that sold on Young, sorry to say. I don’t see the burst, the missibility, the intangibles that I and everyone else saw in Rashard and Mikel, even as early as this.

(Boy, I hope I am wrong abt this last item.)

Anyway, thanks and keep up the good work.

GrogsBBQPepperoni October 17th, 2011

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OTL: Coaches we used to have and their records at U of I…..

Mike White (82-71-4) with a 1st, a 2nd, two 3rds, a 4th in conf (and then a lowly 8th at his end)
John Mackovic (30-17) only 4 years but we were never lower than 5th in conf once, 1st once, 2nd once

and then……

Lou Tepper (25-31-2) and we hit 4th twice but also 7th and 9th in the conf
Ron Turner (35-57) with a 1st in conf once to go along with TWO 11th places, a 9th, a 7th, a 6th…..
Ron Zook (34-46) and we got to 2nd in conf once along with 11th, 10th, 9th, 8th and a 4th.

I really think we hit an epic low under Ron Turner and we’re still recovering. But overall, those last 3 coaches do not make an impressive list. Very litte head coaching experience with them. And it showed (shows).

Steve October 17th, 2011

I’ve been very negative about Zook, but recently I’ve read a number of posts here and elsewhere that have me rethinking. Hoppy TC80 are two good examples. Roberts 19 point plan made the point,i just wasn’t ready for it then.
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I’m starting to think that Zook has a few years if work to do to get us to stability and momentum. I’m not completely sold, but now open to that view. Am I accepting mediocrity or getting real? I don’t know. Seems wrong at the core yet seems realistic by other measures.
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Wasn’t going to get there without g ood discussions like I get here and illinois loyalty, so this is therapeutic for me. Thanks all.
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Color me slightly less frustrated

Harry Lime October 18th, 2011

If having a coach who makes the right decisions, a “strong leader” if you will, inspires fans confidence and brings them to the games then where are the throngs of Nortwestern fans brimming with confidence?
Winning breeds confidence, and if we are consistent winners despite poor game decisions (a la Les Miles) that will come.
I think maybe there is a little Cub fan mentality when fans say they knew we couldn’t win when we got down 10-0.

Consecutive bowl appearances will be HUGE.