Notes from today's postgame. Pictures, etc. coming tomorrow.
On the play where the ball hit the Illinois defender in the back of the head, it popped in the air, and Junior just stayed with the ball.
Everybody excited and smiling in the locker room. Players, coaches, staff, trainers, everybody was happy.
Sense of history with high score? "We really didn't realize it or pay attention. We were just out there playing." Never been part of a game with that level of excitement.
Couldn't really tell what happened to Denard when he went down. "We've got faith in our quarterbacks. Tate came in, he held his own, kept his poise, and drove us into the endzone."
The offense had tension in OT, knowing they didn't have any choice but to score.
Final 2-pointer: "Went inside, broke back out. Tate had me in sight, he threw the ball, and I just caught it." Juggled it a bit, but caught it. Falling down at the end was relief and happiness.
Bowl eligibility? "We didn't really discuss it because we know we've gotta keep going." Each additional win gets them into a better bowl.
On Rountree's day: "I was like 'damn, Roy can we get some?'" Told him to keep doing his thing. It's a team game, and they weren't concerned about him getting all the balls. The players knew from film study that the safeties and corners were going to play a certain way to leave that route open for the slots, and Roundtree took advantage.
When you woke up this morning what did you think? "I'm hungry." Didn't think he'd have a day like this, even though he's been working hard. When the ball comes his way, he has to make the most of his opportunities.
"[The offense] is wide receiver friendly. You know, we all gotta get open." They'll get the ball if they get open. QBs are making the right reads.
First big play: Denard read the safeties, and left him open. The Illini were scared of the run. "Last year, when I got hawked down, I just thought like man, I got the ball, I gotta score. When I saw it wide open like that, I said 'ain't nobody catching me today.'"
On setting a single-game receiving record: "Wow, that's crazy. Just gotta keep working, man. Today was a great day." Not worried about stats. "If we score, we've gotta score again. That's our motto on the offense."
Really not sure how Illinois was playing their D a lot of the time. His covered man was blitzing a lot, giving him 1-on-1s with the safeties.
Was the Illinois defense talking between plays or getting chippy? "We don't really get to hear what they're talking about." The fast tempo offense means no time to listen to the D.
"We can move on anybody. Any quarterback that gets in, that's how it is in practice. We rotate quarterbacks so we get used to all of them. It really wasn't a big deal. Just, if we play like we play, I don't think nobody can stop us."
Proud of the way the guys played. They showed heart and fight with their backs against the wall. "When your back's against the wall, you can go two ways. You can go forward or slump down. I didn't want anybody to slump down, and I don't think anybody did."
Experienced vet of triple OT games. "That's not easy on the heart." Feels good to be up by 8 at the end, but it's hard to make plays on D the longer the game goes. "I've been in triple overtime before. I think it was in the 40s, it wasn't in the 60s." Knew that the team's conditioning and the student section would make the difference at the end.
"We're still growing offensively. Again, we had five turnovers, which usually would kill us." Illinois does a lot of different things defensively, so the O got some new stuff this week. "Sometimes it was a grind, because we didn't get a lot of big runs." The runs helped set up play-action.
Denard was probably hurt on the helmet-to-helmet hit. "Certainly for his safety, you're not gonna put him out there." He had a smile on his face after, but you're going to be careful with a kid going forward. "We'll see where he's at tomorrow and go from there."
WRs made a lot of big plays.
Courtney Avery - "He battled." 3 true freshmen in the secondary, with a redshirt frosh underneath. "That's why I'm so excited about the future. They're playing, the guys that are injured will be back, we're gonna be a whole lot deeper." Glad to see how the young guys played today.
Bowl eligibility - "We talked about it last night." Every win after that elevates bowl status. "Our guys realize that, partilcularly our seniors." Each win going forward is even more important, but "It's been a month or more since we had that good feeling in the locker room."
GERG and Gibby both told him they were bringing the house on the last play. The pressure left a man open for Scheelhasse, but it got to him before he could make a throw. "On that one we sold out. It was a complete sellout and we're fortunate we got some pressure." The defense making a play "that's a perfect ending, in my opinion." Defense won the game for the team at the end.
"It's been a good week. Mr. Brandon and I both talked about that on the way over here. It's been a good week."
When Hemingway caught the tipped pass, Rich thought "we got our lucky break." When Gallon's big gain near the end of regulation was called back, he knew they'd need to catch a break in order to win.
Nothing particular on film they saw that would lead to Roy being open all day. "Last year he caught a long one and got caught." Didn't get caught on the first one today.
"I'm really proud of the way the players have handled everything." They've been ignoring the outside crap, staying focused. Even when they aren't playing the best, they hang together. "That's one of the main reasons we won today, because we talk about being all-in, and our guys are always all-in."
"We came up with some big stops when we had to." Young guys stepped up.
Knowing they had an all-out blitz on the last play, all he thought was "Let's stop 'em. I'll do my part, and I'll trust my teammates to do their part."
They were put in some tough situations defensively, and responded well. "Overall it was a great game on both sides, and we're just excited for the win."
Proud of bowl eligibiity, they were hungry after the past couple years.
On Vinopal's 3rd-and-1 tackle. "Ray. He played a great game. That was a huge stop for us. I was just proud of the way he payed, and same thing with Courtney and all those other young guys." There's still progression being made on D. "Ray's play. That was probably one of the best plays by a safety all year." Courtney had a similar one on the first half.
Huge win, finally bowl eligbilie, still some corrections to be made, but they're continuing to fight. "As long as we continue to fight, we'll be fine."
"The o-line played outstanding. That's one thing, I don't think they've been getting enough credit this year for the way we've been able to run the ball." Mike was just trying to run behind them and make the right reads.
In a game like this "I'm still feeling those hits, but it was well worth it."
Getting the sixth win under their belt allows them to focus on bigger things. It felt good to be able to sing the victors, and to give the home crowd something to cheer for.
At the end, everybody knew the defense was going to be able to get the final stop that they needed.
A triple overtime game is all about will and determination, and the result today just shows how hard they've been working.
When they were turning the ball over during the game, they knew they just had to count on the defense to make the stops (which they did) and be ready to score the next time out.
The team practiced short-yardage situations hard this week, so it was no surprise the defense was able to get the final stop they needed.
This was his first ever overtime game. "It wears on me. I'm a little tired right now."
"That was the craziest game I've ever witnessed, let alone be a part of it."
Being eligible to play in a bowl game: "Oh man. I'm so happy for myself, just to finally get that opportunity, but I've got two more years to still go to more bowl games. I'm more happy for our seniors, they've been fighting so hard."
On his first fumble: "I actually had a touchdown. That's what actually made me mad." His hands were a little sweaty from his handwarmer, and he lost the handle on the ball. He was able to move on though.
Being hit out of bounds in overtime "That hurt. I think I hurt the guy that I hit more than it hurt me though."
The pace of the game made it seem really frantic, even in the overtimes. "We won. You can't be mad about it." Going back and forth so much in overtime keeps you in a rhythm.
"I heard Roy Roundtree had a record day. That's one of my best friends, so I'm real happy for him." Glad that so many different guys got to score today, as well.
Illinois has a very diverse defense. Iowa and Indiana do fewer things, and focus on doing them well, but Illinois throws a lot more at you.
On Hemingway's off-the-helmet catch: "Junior saved me on that one."
Five turnovers are a sign that the team is young. When they start eliminating those mistakes, they'll be a better team for it.
Mike Barwis and his staff do a great job with conditioning. The team's ability to close out in a long game like this one is a credit to those guys.
At the end, "you're just thinking about getting a job done, and winning a football game."
The defensive performance: "We did a lot of different things today that we just put in this week. So the numbers may say otherwise, but guys came out and fought, and we got a win."
Defensive changes "Everybody seemed to take to it fine. You know, if we were playing what we've been playing I still think guys would have taken to it the same way. The coaches obviously felt like we needed to change some things up and they did it, and we got a win today... Just a few schematical changes and moving a couple guys around to different positions, and we had a chance to put a lot more different players in the game this week. Guys took to it."
On Vinopal and Avery: "They played with a lot of confidence, they know that everybody believes in them, and they made some great plays today."
It's great when the defense gets 3-and-outs, but in the end, the win is the most important part.
"This won't be my first bowl, but it's great for the younger guys to experience that, and for me to be here to experience it with them." Every win now is to get to a better bowl. "I felt for the guys the past couple years that couldn't make it."
On the final 2-point conversion, the defensive linemen did a good job flushing the QB out, and Jonas was just there to clean up at the end.
It's great to have Mike Martin contributing again, but Adam Patterson also does his job when he's in there. "Obviously when Mike came back out there he made some plays and he caused some ruckus."