Fans go easier on Zook after win

Watch the highlights of Saturday's victory here.

CHAMPAIGN – The e-mails were easier to open for Ron Zook on Sunday. Much less likely they would start with some kind of nasty remark. More like "Congratulations."

"There have been a lot of e-mails," the Illinois coach said during his Sunday teleconference. "I've been getting a lot of e-mails regardless, both win and lose. They've just been a little bit nicer now."

Saturday's win against Michigan was a relief for Zook, who has been the subject of rumors about his Illinois future. Zook became the first Illinois coach to beat the Wolverines in consecutive seasons since Ray Eliot in 1957 and '58.

"It's a little bit different," Zook said. "But as I said (Saturday), it's one game. I feel really, really happy for our players. Everybody feels better about everything."

Big play aftermath. Illinois cornerback Terry Hawthorne made the play of the day Saturday against Michigan, dragging down receiver Roy Roundtree on a play that helped Illinois rally for the win.

Where does the play rank among the many Zook has seen in his career?

"Obviously, it's a big play," Zook said. "We talk to them all the time about, 'Plays are going to come to you. Be ready when they do.' We'll have to wait to see what the meaning of the play is. There's no question that play turned the game around. As the season goes along, it may be a major, major play in the turning of our season."

Hawthorne started at cornerback against Michigan and has seen his playing time increase in recent weeks.

"I think Terry's gotten better and better the last few weeks," Zook said.

While Hawthorne has a starting spot in the secondary, you won't likely see him at receiver this season.

"Not right now," Zook said. "Maybe down the road."

The decision about potentially moving Hawthorne back to receiver won't be made now, Zook said.

"As good of an athlete and good of a player as Terry is, it's awfully hard to play both ways," Zook said.

Northwestern time set. The Illinois game against Northwestern will be played at 11 a.m. Nov. 14. The television network will be either ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPN Classic.

The rest of the Big Ten games on Nov. 14 are Michigan State-Purdue (11 a.m., ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPN Classic), Indiana-Penn State (11 a.m., Big Ten Network), South Dakota State-Minnesota (11 a.m., BTN), Michigan-Wisconsin (11 a.m., BTN) and Iowa-Ohio State (2:30 p.m., ABC).

Aches, pains. Zook said Sunday he expects injured tight ends Michael Hoomanawanui (ankle) and Hubie Graham (back) to return for Minnesota. Both missed Saturday's game against Michigan.

"The thing with (Hoomanawanui) is he keeps tweaking it and keeps tweaking it," Zook said. "I just kind of felt like maybe we need to give this thing a chance to get better."

Zook said receiver Arrelious Benn was feeling better Sunday. Benn reinjured an ankle that he sprained earlier in the season.

Categories (3):Illini Sports, Football, Sports

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koakley wrote on November 02, 2009 at 8:11 am

Crap, I knew it would be a Noon start but I never thought it could possibly be on ESPN Classic. From a viewing perspective, I would rather it be shown on BTN for the HD quality.

illiniart wrote on November 02, 2009 at 9:11 am

"We talk to them all the time about, 'Plays are going to come to you. Be ready when they do.'

WRONG! Good players create good plays they don't wait for them to come. THIS IS A TERRIBLE PHILOSOPHY!

mlm is really reaching a long way for something negative to say today.

illinicalvin wrote on November 02, 2009 at 11:11 am

How does winning at home against a lousy team ease any pressure on Zook?

This is Zook's forte: win a good game here and there and woefully underperform in a slew of others. Illinois has played maybe 120 minutes of good football all season. Unless the team plays outstanding football against Minnesota, Fresno, and Northwestern, it's entirely unacceptible and Zook and company should still be sent packing.

And yeah, that's a terrible philosophy. Real players go and make plays; they don't wait for them to come to them.