CHAMPAIGN — Upon further review, Ron Zook has an explanation as to why he went for a two-point conversion in the first half of Saturday’s game.
“I screwed up,” Zook said during his Sunday teleconference. “We’ll leave it at that. I got going too fast. That won’t happen again.”
Illinois led 20-13 after a 3-yard touchdown pass from Nathan Scheelhaase to Jon Davis. If you follow the “When to go for two” card that most coaches carry, you would normally kick the extra point.
Zook said he carries two copies of the card on the sidelines. And there are others in the coaching box.
“I looked at the wrong thing,” Zook said. “That’s on me.”
CHECKING IT OUT
Zook got home in time Saturday to watch part of the second half of the Ohio State-Nebraska game. The Buckeyes led by 21 in the third quarter, but got outscored 28-0 to lose 34-27.
Starting quarterback Braxton Miller suffered a sprained ankle in the third quarter. His status is uncertain for Illinois. Backup Joe Bauserman struggled against Nebraska, hitting 1 of 10 passes.
“Right now, you’ve got to expect them both to play,” Zook said. “At first, when I saw it on TV, I thought it might have been a knee.”
Zook’s team is approaching its highest ranking during his tenure. The Illini moved to No. 15 in the coaches’ poll and No. 16 in The Associated Press version.
Illinois reached No. 13 going into the 2008 Rose Bowl against Southern Cal. That team finished at No. 20.
The last time Illinois hit the Top 10 was in 2001, when Ron Turner’s team moved to as high as No. 7.
“I’m happy for the Illini Nation,” Zook said. “I’m happy for our players. But once again, as our players understand, right now the most important game is Ohio State. On any given day, anybody can beat anybody.
“At the end of the year, you look and see where you’re at.”
In the first year of Big Ten divisional play, the Illini are tied with Penn State for first place in the Leaders at 2-0. Wisconsin, which was off Saturday, is 1/2 game back.
Zook has been part of a divisional format before at Florida.
“Everybody’s goal, if you feel like you can do it, is to win the Big Ten,” Zook said. “Well, the only way you can win the Big Ten is to go Indianapolis and win that game. Before you do that, you have to win your division.”
BACK TO WORK
Jonathan Brown will return to the field against Ohio State after sitting out the Indiana game because of a suspension. Brown traveled to Bloomington and cheered on his teammates from the sidelines.
Houston Bates replaced Brown in the starting lineup and finished third on the team with seven tackles.
Arizona State improved to 5-1 Saturday with a win at Utah. The three FBS schools on Illinois’ nonconference schedule are a combined 13-5. The Sun Devils lead the Pac-12 South, Western Michigan is tied for first in the MAC West and Arkansas State is 1/2 game behind in the Sun Belt.
“We felt going into the season that those teams were pretty good,” Zook said.