The question we've been discussing with fellow Illini fans over the last 12 hours or so; was it really worth it? Was it worth watching our Illini be absolutely destroyed in the Rose Bowl yesterday? Wouldn't we all have been better off if Illinois had a more competitive, fun, matchup against Florida in that Capital One Bowl? It took us most of the night, but we think we have our answer.
The last time Illinois made the Rose Bowl, in 1984, they were destroyed by UCLA. (They should have made the Rose Bowl in 2002, actually, but they were using Pasadena to host the national title game that year. Instead, they were destroyed by LSU in the Sugar Bowl.) We will always remember that game. We remember that game, and that achievement, far more vividly than Jeff George's vivisection of Virginia in the 1990 Citrus Bowl. The Rose Bowl does mean something more, even if it's just, for the layperson, a prime-time beating of your team on national television.
There was a brief second, right before wide receiver Jacob Willis fumbled deep in USC's zone, that the Illini looked like they were going to make a game of it. After that play, it was over. But that was a moment of genuine excitement, in the Rose Bowl. When it got out of hand after that, it was easy to turn it off; that "Twilight Zone" marathon was still on.
The power of Zook, nevertheless, continues to compel us. So, for the last time until September ...