Postgame Quotes - Illinois 23, Western Michigan 20

Sept. 24, 2011

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#24/RV Illinois 23, Western Michigan 20
Memorial Stadium // Sept. 24, 2011 // 43,684

Illinois Head Coach Ron Zook Quotes

Opening statement:
"I walked in the locker room and it was very somber. A lot of people may not agree with this, but sometimes you have to go through games like that. There are a lot of times that teams would have lost that game. I think if you go back and look at the 2007 year (when) we went to the Rose Bowl, you remember that Ohio State did exactly the same thing to us. We learn from it. We told them all week long that this is a good football team, and it is a good football team. Everyone saw that it is a good football team. Offensively, even though we did not score a lot of points, we took care of the football and kept the defense off the field (in the second half). It was hard for them to score when they did not have the football."

On the thought process of not going for the field goal on the last possession:
"A field goal really would not have done us any good. It puts you up six, but then they have to score a touchdown and they can still go down there and beat you. If you take time off the clock and if you punt the football, it maybe gives you 10 yards. It depends on where the punt goes. First of all, I felt like we had a pretty good chance of getting the first down and then the game would have been over. We made a decision and it worked out."

On the running backs:
"You've heard me say this a thousand times. You can't have too many running backs. (Entering this week), I was excited for Josh Ferguson. He tweaked his hamstring a little bit. It probably is not bad, but we did not want to take a chance (by playing him today). You need them all. I can't say enough about Troy Pollard. There is a guy who has just done a great job. He keeps his mouth shut. He does what he is supposed to do. Of course, Donovonn (Young) comes in and gets his first 100-yard game as an Illinois football player. We need them all. We have to get better, obviously. We are going to get better. Once again, we learned a lot. As I told them at halftime, we were going to find out if we were contenders or pretenders. It was going to be important that we go out there and battle. A lot of times, people think that it's just the MAC, but there is a lot of priority in this game and it is a good football team. They will do a good job."

Illinois Player Quotes

QB Nathan Scheelhaase
On trap games:
"Coach (Paul) Petrino and Coach (Ron) Zook said at halftime, you're going to have one of those every year. Some things didn't go your way in the first half and you have to find a way to scrap out a win, and that's kind of what it felt like. Obviously, in the first half we would have liked to change, to play a whole let better. Then it happened and we had to scrap out a win in the second half. They say every great team who has a great season, at the end you look back at a game where they had one of those and they found a way to win. It was good to do that."

On sharing time with freshman Riley O'Toole:
"It was part of the gameplan this week. Obviously, Riley got a few more reps when my shoulder was sore this week. He went in there and executed, and when I was in there, I did my best to execute as well. It's not a threatening thing at all, just a change-of-pace thing. There's just some things he does really well and it helps our offense out."

RB Troy Pollard
On preparation for this game:
"We don't take anybody lightly and Western Michigan was a great opponent. They came out and did some great things; they played hard and played well. It was pretty tough."

On the running game:
"I think I was just at the right place at the right time. Coach (Petrino) had a great feeling about who was running and what was going on. He felt like I could make the best contribution to the team, so I just did my job."

DE Whitney Mercilus
On the team's confidence level heading into Big Ten play:
"We have a lot more improvement to do. Confidence-wise, it's up a little bit. We can't get big-headed about anything. All we have to do is buckle down and play week after week."

On the quickness of Western Michigan's passing game:
"They were coming off a little quick. Coach (Vic Koenning) told us to just keep going and he'll be there, he'll have the one too many times and eventually we got there."

On the first quarter:
"There were some mistakes here and there that we shouldn't have made. The thing is, it doesn't matter, there's going to be mistakes made. We just have to learn to face adversity from time to time."

Western Michigan Head Coach Bill Cubit Quotes

Opening statement:
"We're all disappointed because as much talk as they had about Illinois coming into this game, we stayed toe-to-toe the whole time and we left ten points out there. We had a guy open in the end zone and unfortunately we over shot him, and we missed two field goals and maybe that made the difference there at the end. You never know. You can talk all you want, but our kids fought, played hard. Did they out-physical us at the end? Probably. But during the game I thought our kids did a pretty good job. I thought our defense really played well and held up. On offense, we made a couple mistakes, but we hung in there at the same time. It goes down to the wire, 23-20. If we had one more time out left, we get a chance to kick another field goal, we get another play, which probably would have happened. But it didn't. We have to regroup. We've got some banged up guys. We lost our right guard on a line that's really beat up. Another guy, Jon Hoffing, we got him back Tuesday and he played today and played all the snaps after Deon got hurt in the first quarter. Watching those kids play hard like that -- I'll take that team."

On the defense carrying the team at times:
"We really thought that was going to happen. Illinois has a lot of good players running around there. I thought that was probably how it was going to play out. The goal line stand was really huge down there. Our kids had good stops. When you look at it, they had two scoring drives in the second half that we had them stopped. We wound up offsides and they called a late hit penalty. So you take those two away, that's two scoring drives right there. Sometime we're our own worst enemy on defense, but they played well and there are a lot of young kids running around out there. I thought we did some really nice things, and that goal line stand was nice to see. You're matching up against one of the most physical teams in the Big Ten and we stayed toe-to-toe with them."

On the play of the offense:
"I saw their coordinator afterwards and he said he was running out of coverages. We saw more coverages today than we've seen in the past three weeks combined. For the most part, I thought (quarterback) Alex (Carder) really did a heck of a job. I think the receivers, we have our menus and we know how to attack it, and a lot of it has to do with Jordan. But when you look there, Ravenell had a nice game, Robert had a nice game, I thought Eric Monette got involved with four catches, he gave us some nice reps there too. We couldn't run the ball. You try to give things breathers. With John in there, the guy hasn't even practiced. Last week, I think he probably had 18 total reps in practice and now he's out there facing a defense who's probably one of the top defenses in the country. It probably was good what we were doing with our passing to give us a chance to be successful."

Western Michigan Player Quotes

QB Alex Carder
On the Loss:
"It's gut-wrenching. Everybody is just sitting in disbelief that it happened the way it did. We just have to go back to the drawing board and go back to work next week."

On the offensive struggles:
"In the first half, we were clicking, but after that we had turnovers, miscues and penalties and it kind of threw us out of our rhythm and we weren't able to find it like we normally are able to."

On anything they didn't expect:
"We were pretty much prepared for anything they were bringing. They have a solid d-line and I'll tip my hat off to that, but other than that there was nothing we hadn't faced before."

WR Jordan White
On the last play of the game:
"When I caught the ball at the end I thought I might be able to get out of bounds. I didn't know the down, I thought it might've been third down, but I caught the ball and I could see the clock in the background. It said one second when I caught it so I knew there wasn't any chance of getting out of bounds with the ball. So I tried to turn up-field and if someone is there get rid of the ball and by the time I turned up field there was a man right there."

On Illinois' coverage:
"It was just man, we knew going into the game they play a lot of defensive backs and they have a talented front four. They played a lot of man coverage with safeties back there. It was pretty consistent from the first quarter to the last so we were ready for it."

DT Drew Nowak
On the Western Michigan defensive effort:
"I think our effort was amazing out there, but we missed a couple of assignments and that's what eventually hurt us in the end."