Monday, November 12, 2007

Surprises From Illinois-Ohio State

Saturday in Columbus, visiting Illinois ended Ohio State’s dreams of a national championship with an upset over the top-ranked Buckeyes. Beyond the result itself, there were numerous surprises coming out of the Horseshoe. Here’s a look at a few of those.

Surprise: Head coach Ron Zook notched his most significant victory since taking over at Illinois.
Why That’s Surprising: We all knew that players recruited by Zook could beat the Buckeyes. We just assumed they had to be coached by Urban Meyer.

Surprise: Illinois improved to 5-2 in Big Ten play.
Why That’s Surprising: The Fighting Illini were 2-30 in conference games the previous four years. And you thought the Cubs had a tough time in the fall.

Surprise: Illinois reclaimed the Illibuck trophy with the victory.
Why That’s Surprising: Is possession of a wooden turtle really much of a motivation? Illibuck joins the Old Oaken Bucket, the Little Brown Jug, and countless other quirky trophies at stake in Big Ten contests. By conference rule, the winner of each game gets something that was picked up at a yard sale.

Surprise: With four touchdown passes, Juice Williams was instrumental in bringing Illibuck back to Illinois.
Why That’s Surprising: Athletes called Juice usually reclaim trophies by barging into a Vegas hotel room with weapons.

Surprise: Normally steady OSU quarterback Todd Boeckman threw three interceptions.
Why That’s Surprising: Today he’s thinking, “Well, at least I’m not Peyton Manning!”

Surprise: The key to staying undefeated was not to be OSU, but to BEAT OSU.
Why That’s Surprising: Among BCS conference teams, Kansas, improbably, is the lone unbeaten after a 40-28 victory at Oklahoma State. Asked why the Jayhawks prevailed, Cowboys coach Mike Gundy screamed, “They came after US! They are MEN! They got FORTY!”

Surprise: The Illini used a total team effort to take down the Buckeyes.
Why That’s Surprising: It has to be hard building teamwork in Champaign. There’s no sensible way to say, “There’s no “I” in “Illini.”

Surprise: Before next week’s Big Ten showdown, neither participant was caught looking ahead.
Why That’s Surprising: I’m talking about Northwestern-Illinois.

Surprise: Matt Sylvester was not involved.
Why That’s Surprising: He was responsible the last time an unbeaten run ended in an Illinois-Ohio State matchup in Columbus, nailing the winning three-pointer for OSU in March 2005. Unlike these Buckeyes, those Illini still got to advance to the national championship game. Because college basketball has this weird, crazy thing called a playoff.

Surprise: The #1 team in the nation lost at home to an unranked team.
Why That’s Surprising: It’s not – have you SEEN college football this year?