If you don't remember how it feels to celebrate a win like Saturday's at Memorial Stadium, you're not alone. It's been that long.
The last effort that resembles what happened against Rutgers occurred in the Sugar Bowl season of 2001, Kurt Kittner rallying Illinois past Penn State 33-28. The crowd (70,904) and the stakes (first place in the Big Ten) were considerably bigger, but the reaction of fans and players was the same.
CHAMPAIGN – When it came time to passing out postgame tributes, Ron Zook started with his assistants.
"The coaches did a great job," Zook said. "I can't say enough about the adjustments, getting us in the right situations, making sure the players knew what was going on. That's so critical. Those guys, they did it."
It's all quiet on the recruiting front for now as Illinois awaits the latest word on Sherron Collins.
DeKALB – Don Hardin has been looking for a killer instinct from his Illinois volleyball team.
On Saturday, he saw it.
CHAMPAIGN – The crowd chanted its new hero's name, "Zook. Zook. Zook." And the first-year coach sprinted over like a high schooler, pumping his fists in the air and shouting, "Thank you. Thank you."
"I wanted them to understand that we appreciate them, that we need them," Ron Zook said.
CHAMPAIGN – Pass defense is not an Illini strength.
How's that for an understatement?
CHAMPAIGN – Roy Block was down in the front row of seats, giving players high-fives and celebrating with fellow Illinois fans.
For a little while, the Illini's 33-30 overtime win gave him an escape from the harsh reality back home. Block, whose son Eric is a freshman on the team, was in the stands Saturday along with son Joel but will head back soon to New Orleans.
CHAMPAIGN – Brit Miller always had the mind-set that he would not redshirt his freshman season. On Saturday afternoon, all the preseason work paid off.
"Just being out there in front of the orange and blue and in front of these great fans, it was definitely an experience," said Miller, a Decatur Eisenhower product. "My personality and everything, I really didn't want to get redshirted since I thought I could contribute. There's going to be times this season when I think I will be able to contribute. Today was not one of those days. It was a real tight ballgame, and you had to be involved in that game to contribute. There wasn't room for me today."