NCAA FB

Illini under pressure after 2 losses

Share This Story

   
 

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP)

Illinois rolled through its first six games with big plays, comebacks and happy endings, landing a spot in the Top 25 with a perfect start.

Two straight losses have pushed the Illini (6-2, 2-2 Big Ten) back outside that list of college football's elite and led coach Ron Zook to lower his players' horizons a bit - from talk about bowl games and what might happen if they keep winning to a more fundamental football focus.

One play at a time.

''We're going to go out there and play the best we can play on that first play and then we're going to play the second play,'' he said.

The Illini will start their work this Saturday against Penn State (7-1, 4-0). The No. 21 Nittany Lions have won six straight.

After averaging 34.7 points in its 6-0 start, the Illinois had 21 total the past two weeks, and failed to score a point in either of those two losses before the fourth quarter.

Zook said that, aside from facing stiff defenses, he isn't sure just what changed.

''If I had an answer we wouldn't be shut out,'' he said, adding that he doesn't feel the need to make major changes in Illinois' approach. ''You just don't get bad, you just don't become a bad coach. It doesn't happen. You work through those things and you keep going.''

Nathan Scheelhaase, who was 22 of 35 for 217 yards at Purdue, said the offense has suffered through a string of small mistakes - one here, one there - rather than any larger problems in need of serious changes.

''In the first half, really, it was almost like people just took turns not executing your assignment,'' the quarterback said.

One thing Illinois might do differently Saturday is give senior tailback Jason Ford a shot at a big game. Ford had 87 yards and a touchdown at Purdue but, with the Illini down 21-0 at halftime, had just 10 carries.

Against the Nittany Lions, offensive coordinator Paul Petrino expects a game of short bursts rather than big plays

''The focus this week is to be an old fashioned, tough grind-it-out win,'' he said. ''We've got to have 10- and 12-play drives.''

Zook said he told Ford to expect to see a lot of the ball.

''We're going to put the saddle on him and ride him and see what we get out of him,'' Zook said.

The Illini, he said, have played tight the past two weeks, starting with the Ohio State game. This game Saturday would seem to be just the opposite of what a team under pressure, one that's pressing, needs - a streaking opponent in Penn State, a big, loud stadium and a national TV audience in a prime, mid-afternoon slot.

But Zook said sometimes that kind of game produces less pressure than the sort of game you're supposed to win. The game at Penn State, he argued, might be just what his team needs.

''We are going to go out and play loose,'' he said, as if ordering his team to relax. ''These guys are looking forward to it.''

---

Follow David Mercer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DavidMercerAP

Tagged: Illinois, Jason Ford

Related Stories

Member Comments

Please note by clicking on "Post comment" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Use and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Be Polite. Inappropriate posts may be removed by the moderator.

powered by

College Football Pick'em on FOX


Get Inside the Locker Room with Scout.com

More Than Sports on MSN

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    Nike Florida Gators Gridiron 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - Royal Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Florida_Gators/browse/featuredproduct/759777/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_759000/ff_759777_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Florida Gators Gridiron 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - Royal Blue
    Nike Michigan State Spartans Football 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - White http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Michigan_State_Spartans/browse/featuredproduct/760171/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_760000/ff_760171_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Michigan State Spartans Football 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - White
    Nike USC Trojans Fight On My School T-Shirt - Cardinal http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_USC_Trojans/browse/featuredproduct/761373/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_761000/ff_761373_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike USC Trojans Fight On My School T-Shirt - Cardinal
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Crimson http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/829709/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_829000/ff_829709_xl.jpg&w=100 64.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Crimso..
    Nike LSU Tigers Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Purple http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_LSU_Tigers/browse/featuredproduct/829740/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_829000/ff_829740_xl.jpg&w=100 49.99 Nike LSU Tigers Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Purple
    Nike Oklahoma Sooners Legacy 91 Dri-FIT Adjustable Coaches Cap - Crimson http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Oklahoma_Sooners/browse/featuredproduct/830935/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_830000/ff_830935_xl.jpg&w=100 21.95 Nike Oklahoma Sooners Legacy 91 Dri-FIT Adjustable Coaches Cap - Crimson
    adidas Notre Dame Fighting Irish Hot Sideline Jacket - Navy Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Notre_Dame_Fighting_Irish/browse/featuredproduct/861243/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_861000/ff_861243_xl.jpg&w=100 69.95 adidas Notre Dame Fighting Irish Hot Sideline Jacket - Navy Blue
    adidas Nebraska Cornhuskers Sideline Hot Quarter Zip Jacket - Scarlet http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Nebraska_Cornhuskers/browse/featuredproduct/861247/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_861000/ff_861247_xl.jpg&w=100 69.95 adidas Nebraska Cornhuskers Sideline Hot Quarter Zip Jacket - Scarlet
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Players Locker Room Snapback Hat - Charcoal/Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/1087345/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1087000/ff_1087345_xl.jpg&w=100 29.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Players Locker Room Snapba..
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - Ash http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/1093431/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1093000/ff_1093431_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - Ash