The Fighting Illini are 6-0 thus far this year. It’s been partially the result of favorable scheduling, and partially the result of growth by the team. However, I would posit that we’re one of the least respected of the 13 remaining undefeated teams in the country. Some of this is justified-our schedule has been one of the weakest of the remaining unbeatens. However, it seems our widely
beloved tolerated head coach has come under increasing fire for some questionable decisions. Some of this criticism is justified. Zook’s clock management is terrible. A search for “Ron Zook” and “Clock Management” on Google turns up 15,200 results as compared to 2200 hits for a comparable search for Pat Fitzgerald of Northwestern. Our special teams are weak, weak sauce. The Zook-coached unit is 109th in punt return average and 117th in kickoff return average.
There’s been a commercial airing on ESPN which also implicitly mocks Zook. In it, two guys are sitting on the couch, bemused by the coach’s decision to go for two. I could be mistaken, but I think one of the guys even says “In the first half?” Given the amount of ink spilled on the Ron Zook’s 2-point conversion attempt in the first half against Indiana, I thought I’d mount a tongue-in-cheek defense of this decision. The score (which Zook apparently ) was 20-13. The conversion would have made it 22-13, a two possession game. Now, true, it was the first half and Zook thought they were up 5, which would have made the decision a little more defensible, but he was perhaps unknowingly “correct” in his decision. Maybe the Zooker is just a savant. I’m generally a fan of going for two at any given point in time, as long as you always go for two and are good at it. With a greater than 50% success rate, the expected return is higher. Of course, the stakes for my decisions are usually a five-spot or two on Madden, so I guess you could say I have less at risk. The argument against going for two all the time is one of variance, rather than expected outcome. Even with success rates at 60% the odds of missing more than one deuce in a row are considerably higher. The coaches are understandably risk averse. 77 teams haven’t missed an extra point this year. The worst team at one-point attempts (Miami, OH) has missed 3 of its 12 tries. Sometimes it’s easier (and better for job security) to just take the extra point.
EDIT: A failed two point conversion attempt led to an Illinois-OSU tie in one of the Five Most Important Ill-OSU matchups since WWII…more on that in the morning.
Shout out to Weasel88 on Illinois Loyalty who coined the “2ook” usage (as far as I know)