Bowl Season



Big Ten vs. Big 12 Houston
Reliant Stadium
Dec. 29
6 p.m.

Bob Asmussen, of the News Gazette, of Champaign, Illinois, was nice enough to answer some questions about the Illini.

BS: Illinois is back in a bowl game after two consecutive losing seasons.
What can you say about Ron Zook's job status?

Bob Asmussen: Ron Zook will be back in 2011 and likely beyond that. When the team won
its fifth game this season, Zook was safe for next year. Getting to a bowl
sealed the deal. Is there disappointment in the close losses at the end?
Absolutely. But the team bumped its win total from three to six and was in
all six losses. That will keep Ron Zook around.

BS: The passing game was non-existent, but the running game was great.
Please comment on the offense including RB Mikel LeShoure.

Bob Asmussen: I don't agree that the passing game was nonexistent. Nathan Scheelhaase
had the best season as a freshman passer of anyone in school history. Kurt
and Juice Williams, who are second and third on the school's
career passing list, hit 44 and 39 percent, respectively, of their passes
as freshman starters. Kittner had seven interceptions and one touchdown
pass. Williams had nine and nine. Nathan Scheelhaase has completed 57
percent of his passes and has a respectable 17:8 touchdown to interception
ratio. Of course, the offense is centered on the run, which Scheelhaase is
a big part of. I think Paul Petrino did a smart thing knowing he was going
to have to start a redshirt freshman at quarterback: he found the plays
that provided the combination of comfort and chance for success. That
means he fired Mikel Leshoure, and Scheelhaase and Jason Ford, as often as
possible. A.J. Jenkins had a very good season at receiver and there are a
bunch of young guys at the position who showed promise.

BS: The defense was strong for the first half of the season, but was
horrible in the second half. What changed for the Illini defense? Also,
who are the key players?

Bob Asmussen: I'm not sure "horrible" is the right word. The defense improved overall
during the season, giving up a touchdown less a game than in 2009 and 60
fewer yards per game. You have to give the offense at Michigan some credit
for a big game. In the final three games, the defense was hurt as much by
field position issues and a couple key injuries. The team missed a healthy
Terry Hawthorne, who played hurt the entire season. With him out, Justin
Green was forced to move from running back to cornerback. He had some good
moments and he is still learning, but opposing offenses found him at
times. The secondary struggled in the final few games with blown
assignments. Frankly, I think the success in the first eight games of the
season was done somewhat by scheme and that opponents started to figure it
out a bit. I thought the defense had a decent game against Fresno State,
except for a couple of glaring mistakes and a bad penalty in the final
Fresno State drive. The key players are linebacker Martez Wilson,
defensive tackle Corey Liuget and safety Tavon Wilson. If they have good
games, Illinois can play with anybody.

BS: If you could choose one player to have a breakout performance in the
bowl game, who would it be?

Bob Asmussen: One guy I've been waiting on all year to have a special performance is
Eddie McGee. The converted quarterback got slowed by an injury, but with
all the attention Baylor will pay to the Illinois running game, the
receivers should find themselves open often. McGee is one of the fastest
players on the team, so if he gets the ball he can have a big day. And I
think he will contribute as a passer and runner in the game, too.

Thanks a lot to Bob Asmussen. Check him out at

Thee Jack, of answered some questions about Baylor.

BS:The Bears are in the postseason for the first time in 16 years. How big is that for the program?  

Thee Jack: Obviously, this is HUGE for the program, recruiting and the fan base.  Baylor made significant missteps in management of the program and several busts as coashing hires when the Big 12 started.  This led to the demise of the program through 2007.  However, 3 years ago, Baylor made a significant financial commitment to quality coaches and some of the best facilities in the nation.  We are now seeing the results of those efforts.

Top to bottom, Baylor has one of the best athletic programs in the country and now the crown jewel of any collegiate program, football, is starting to step up and pull its weight.

For those that like to talk down Baylor's attendance as a medium-sized private university in a BCS conference, wait till you see what is likely to be yet another record setting post-season crowd in Houston on 12/29.

BS: Robert Griffin III passed for over 300 yards. How important is he to the offense and please comment on the offense in general including some personnel.

Thee Jack: Clearly RGIII (SO) is the straw that stirs the drink offensively.  Expect to hear him consistently in the Heisman conversation the next two years.  It is a huge mistake for other teams to think we are a one man team though.  Baylor is absolutely stacked and youthful at WR.  Clearly everyone has seen and heard of Kendall Wright, one of the Big 12's best.  Josh Gordon is a sophomore and one of the biggest, most powerful receivers in the conference.  Then you have Terrance Williams (SO), Tevin Reese (FR) and Lanear Sampson (SO), all with speed to burn and excellent hands.

At RB, we have Jay Finley (SR).  Jay rushed for almost 1,200 yards this season and averaves an anemic 6.31 yards per carry.

Of course, it all starts up front with the OLine.  Baylor is huge and athletic on the OLine and will only lose one member of that core next year.  They were 2nd in the conference in fewest sacks allowed and 30th in the nation.  Don't expect to get much pressure on RGIII and if you do, he will make you pay first with his arm and second with his world class running speed.

BS: The defense has had troubles this year. Who are the key players and what do they have to do to keep the offense in the game?

Thee Jack: Unfortunately, the defense kept us from easily finishing 9-3 this year, possibly 10-2 or beyond and a shot at the Big 12 title.  The general consensus is this is largely due to scheme and not lack of talent.  The star power comes from Byron Landon at Safety and big Cousin Phil Taylor at DT. 

As weak as the defense is, the rush defense is our strength.  If we play a mobile QB with good passing ability, we're sure to give up 500 yards and it becomes a shootout.  We typically get little to no pass rush on the QB.  Admittedly, the DLine has been knicked up all year, so I'll be interested to see if the month of recuperation and practice changes this any in the game against Illinois. 

If Baylor can make improvements across the defense in the bowl game and next season,  Baylor has a shot to be a top 25 team all season long.

BS: If you had to choose one player to have a breakout game in the bowl game, who would it be?

Thee Jack: Everyone wants to hear RGIII here, but I'm going to go with Jay Finley.  He is deceptively fast and very tough to bring down.  He has the added incentive of possibly setting the Baylor single season rushing record with a solid game against Illinois.  He's had a great career at Baylor and I expect he'll be highly motivated to go out in style.


Sic 'em Bears!!!

Thanks a lot to Thee Jack. Check the site out at

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