Illinois goes as quarterback Juice Williams goes, a point confirmed by a 27-17 loss to Wisconsin on Saturday when Williams threw three interceptions.
Illinois goes as quarterback Juice Williams goes, a point confirmed by a 27-17 loss to Wisconsin Saturday when Williams threw three interceptions.
Williams' bad game resulted in Illinois' season-low 309 total yards. If a bowl appearance is still a possibility, the Illini must find some stability from Williams. He leads the Big Ten in total offense, but his miscues against Minnesota and Wisconsin played a role in the disappointing losses.
"Juice is upset,'' coach Ron Zook said. "He should be upset. He's not the only one. Sometimes the quarterback gets more credit than he deserves and blame than he deserves.
"We know he's capable of being a pretty good quarterback. The big thing is he has to do it consistently.''
Illinois (4-4 overall, 2-3 in the Big Ten) hosts Iowa (5-3, 2-2) Saturday (2:30 p.m., ABC). The Hawkeyes, who were idle over the weekend, have a two-game winning streak.
Williams declined to meet with the media following the game, and he's regularly scheduled for a teleconference on Mondays. But Zook wanted his quarterback thinking about this week. Williams passed for 221 yards and two touchdowns, but two of his interceptions killed drives deep in Wisconsin territory.
"This is what Juice sometimes doesn't understand,'' Zook said. "One minute everybody tells him how good a player he is. Somebody brought up a thing (about) coming out (to the NFL) after three years.
"Let me tell you something. He better worry about next week and then the next week. He's a good quarterback, and he's going to be really good as he gains experience. We can't wait around. Everyobdy else has to rise up and make plays to help get Juice going.''
The criticism showered down on the Illini after the loss to the Badgers, who ended a four-game slide. Zook obviously heard some of it, and he evidently would remind the Illini following the team's day off on Sunday.
"I'm not very happy,'' Zook said. "Hopefully, they're not very happy. They're not going to be very happy this week. We're a better football team than we've played at times. Our fans deserve a better football team. They deserve to be upset.
"We're going to keep knocking on the door until we get it right. I don't want to make any changes today. If I make changes, you'll see them on Saturday.''
The Illini were also called for seven penalties on offense, although Zook thought more than one false start should have been flagged on Wisconsin for breaking the neutral zone first.
"Like I tell Dave Parry (the Big Ten's supervisor of officials) all the time, I get judged on the number of penalties called,'' Zook said. "People think we're an undisciplined football team. We're as disciplined as anybody. Sometimes things are called that are questionable.''
NOTE: Defensive tackle Corey Liuget suffered a sprained ankle, the only apparent injury at Wisconsin.
John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com.