CHAMPAIGN – Of course, he would do it differently if he had another chance. Ron Zook now knows the results.
But at the time, his team leading by seven and Michigan using a reserve quarterback, Zook thought "punt" on fourth and 1 from his 42. With the clock winding under six minutes.
The backup quarterback, Tate Forcier, took the ball at his 20 and led Michigan on a tying touchdown drive. The Wolverines won the game in triple overtime.
"Unfortunately, I'm not given that opportunity to run through it and see what's going to happen," Zook said Sunday. "I would have done it.
"That still doesn't guarantee you're going to make it. You take the information that you have and you make the decision."
Zook was talking to defensive coordinator Vic Koenning on third down and turned to Paul Petrino on fourth down. He sought input.
"Ultimately, the decision's mine," Zook said. "I made the decision that I thought gave us the best opportunity to win."
Once in overtime, Zook said he considered going for a two-point conversion and the win after the first session.
"Particularly being at their place," Zook said. "Once again though, I don't have those decisions to do over again."
After the worst day of defense this season, Illinois tumbled in the national rankings. Michigan's 676-yard game dropped the Illini from 15th to 43rd in total defense. Michigan's 67 points pushed Illinois from 12th to 47th in scoring defense.
"The defense has proven that it can play good defense," Zook said. "Obviously, we didn't play very good (Saturday). Sometimes, it's hard to play at the level you need to play at. We might have been thinking a little bit too much. We had a lot of respect for their offense."
The Wolverines opened the game with a 75-yard touchdown pass from Denard Robinson to Roy Roundtree. Zook said he hoped that play would work to his team's advantage.
"I'll be honest with you, when that happened I thought we were going to win the game," Zook said. "I've had it happen to me on more than one occasion. Usually when that happens, the other side relaxes a little bit and they think, 'Oh, this is going to be easy.' "
Zook said his players are "embarrassed a little bit, they're hurt."
Petrino made sure the offensive players knew that the blame didn't fall solely on the defense.
Zook's second full recruiting class will play its final home game Saturday.
"It's a sad thing," Zook said. "It goes so fast. I feel pretty confident these guys will be revved up and ready to go. They know the importance of this game and they know it's a game we've got to go and play the way we're capable of playing."
Zook congratulated Penn State's Joe Paterno, who won his 400th game Saturday against Northwestern.
"I'm happy for Coach Paterno," Zook said. "I'm glad we weren't one of them this year."