Blog Entry

Ron Zook didn't know score when he went for two

Posted on: October 10, 2011 5:30 pm
Edited on: October 10, 2011 5:41 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi

Illinois scored six touchdowns in its 41-20 victory over Indiana last week, and the math majors among us know that typically, six TDs is 42 points. But Illinois didn't biff an extra point; it went for two with a 20-13 lead, and the attempt failed. We predicted at the time that Ron Zook's decision to go for two would be "scrutinized," which is really just code for "elicit swear-word filled Tweets from bewildered Illini fans," and that's what happened.

Zook was asked about the conversion attempt, and his response was certainly honest, because it's never the type of response you'd want to make up: according to the Chicago Sun-Times, Zook plain lost track of the score.

"We were down five, right? Up five, I mean," Zook said. "It was 20-13? Up seven? Maybe I didn’t know what the score was. That’s happened to me before. It’s usually when we’re behind. [This will] give you something to pound us about.’’ 

First of all: WHAT.

Second of all: Okay, the score was 14-13 before Illinois scored its touchdown, so perhaps Zook had a momentary fit of senility and thought his team had been the one with 13 points. That happens, even to very smart people. Except, here's the thing: Zook also has an entire staff of assistant coaches, and unless they were all mistaken about the score, those guys missed two opportunities to tell him the Illini were up by seven, not five.

After Illinois scored its touchdown, Indiana coach Kevin Wilson sent out his kick block team, because, well, duh. So when Zook trotted out his offense, Wilson was forced to call his last timeout of the half. It seemed like a brilliant ploy by Zook to get Indiana out of timeouts before the end of the half even came into play. And yet, on went that two-point team again, after the timeout when everybody on the Illinois sideline could reevaluate the situation -- or, at the very least, glance at the scoreboard.

Anyway, the conversion attempt obviously failed* and Illinois  had only a seven-point lead. That didn't end up affecting the endgame, but if it did, hoo boy; mental errors are a great way for a coach to get right back on the hot seat.

*I'd love to see data on how often two-point conversions succeed in the first three quarters as opposed to the fourth. My hypothesis is that they're wildly unsuccessful early in the game, but that's just a guess. Get on that data right away, SCIENCE.
Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: December 16, 2011 11:47 pm
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Since: Feb 16, 2011
Posted on: October 12, 2011 1:37 am

Ron Zook didn't know score when he went for two

Yes, one would think that there'd be at least a couple of coaches on Zook's staff that could subtract 13 from 20 and arrive at 7.  In any event, it doesn't appear that Illinois' intent was to run up the score against Indiana.  For an egregious example of THAT tactic, refer to the 1989 game between Houston and SMU (the Mustangs' being led by NFL Hall of Famer Forrest Gregg, coaching his alma mater's team during the first season after their two-year "death penalty" hiatus).  Immediately upon scoring its 11th touchdown of the game, in addition to a field goal earlier in the game, Houston led 79-21.  The Cougars opted for the two-point try; the attempt was good, making the score 81-21.  Oh, and for good measure, Houston then tacked on two more touchdowns (with the standard PAT following), resulting in a final of 95-21.  Remember that this game was played before there were BCS standings, and computer crunching stats to help determine bowl matchups . . . not to mention the fact that Houston was already on NCAA probation, and banned from postseason play that year.

As for Zook and his team, they certainly must be doing something right:  I doubt few experts, if any, envisioned Illinois starting the season 6-0.  Even having the tough stretch of its schedule ahead (with games versus Penn State, Michigan, and Wisconsin), a record of 9-3 or 10-2 would be a considerable improvement over the 3-9 season they had in 2009.  Perhaps with a pay raise or a bonus, its coaching staff could buy a pocket calculator or two for game day. 

Since: Apr 9, 2010
Posted on: October 12, 2011 12:00 am

Ron Zook didn't know score when he went for two

First of all, Paul Petrino and Vic Koenning are doing well, not Zook. Zook was asked to take a less hands on approach when they were hired and just allow the coaches to do their thing. Yes, Zook has brought in some good recruits in the past and he certainly does have alot of energy, but at some point, one of these two assisstants will leave unless we give them more money. If I had it my way, we would demote Zook and make Petrino or Koenning head coach. The day one of them leaves and Zook trys to do more, our team will get worse.

Since: Sep 11, 2006
Posted on: October 11, 2011 10:28 pm

"Because I Couldn't Go for Three!"

LOL!  I do remember that, I do.  They don't make them like Woody anymore. 

Since: Mar 27, 2010
Posted on: October 11, 2011 6:54 pm

Ron Zook didn't know score when he went for two

Zook has OSU at home this week. He can go for 2 every time, it will still be a bad day for OSU.

Since: Mar 12, 2010
Posted on: October 11, 2011 6:08 pm

Ron Zook didn't know score when he went for two

Chip Kelly and the Ducks go for two all the time. The score doesn't matter when or when not they do it. For Chip, its a mental advantage over the other team.

As for Zook: they won, so who cares.

Since: Mar 7, 2008
Posted on: October 11, 2011 4:35 pm

Ron Zook didn't know score when he went for two

And if you asked Fickel why he went for 2, he'd probably say, "beacuse we're down by 15."  Times change.

Since: Dec 2, 2007
Posted on: October 11, 2011 4:20 pm

Ron Zook didn't know score when he went for two

This reminds me of a Woody Hayes story from "Back in the day". Woody went for two when I believe they already had a comfortable lead. When asked, "Why did you go for two Woody", he responded with, "Because I couldn't go for THREE". LOL!  Classic Woody Hayes there!

Since: Aug 20, 2006
Posted on: October 11, 2011 1:06 pm

Ron Zook didn't know score when he went for two

Exactly, strouleyk.  The difference between a 7-pointslead and an 8-point lead is much less important than the difference between an 8-point lead and a 9-point lead.  Going for 2 is actually the better option there if you think you can make it about 50% of the time.

Since: Jun 25, 2010
Posted on: October 11, 2011 10:25 am

Ron Zook didn't know score when he went for two

I love Zook. As an alum, I love the energy he is bringing to the Illini, I love the recruits he is getting, I love the coordinators he has brought in, and I love the integrity he is trying to bring to a college football program - clearly not easily done these days. This is what I want from my head coach, plus good judgment in gameday strategy. So, he missed on this one. He fessed up to it, which I admire, and the Illini have their best record in half a century... and yes, some of those games were against crappy teams, but they've played plenty of crappy teams in the last fifty years and not had this success. Plus Arizona State and Northwestern are solid wins - not top tier, but solid. Besides, he is head and shoulders ahead of the goofball coach of the Bears, who needs to use all of his timeouts and challenges just to get his plays called without penalty. Oh, and the defensive-minded Coach Smith decides to cover Calvin freakin Johnson with safeties - brilliant! THIS is the Illinois knuckleheaded football coach that should be "scrutinized" - not Ron Zook. 

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