Juice Williams develops into savvy QB for Illinois - KMOV.com

Juice Williams develops into savvy QB for Illinois

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) -- Juice Williams pulled off an array of dazzling plays at Michigan, making it tough for TV producers to squeeze his performance into a highlight reel.

Illinois' quarterback faked out everybody -- including ABC's camera and his offensive coordinator in the press box -- on a touchdown run. He sprinted for 50 yards on a draw and threw accurate passes on in the flats and down the field.

Williams, though, knows some of his incomplete passes pleased coach Ron Zook and offensive coordinator Mike Locksley during the Fighting Illini's 45-20 win over the Wolverines on Saturday.

He eluded defenders on several occasions when he dropped back and often threw the ball out of bounds instead of taking a sack or throwing a risky pass.

"If I could only tell you how many times coach Zook gets on me about scrambling and getting tackled in the backfield," Williams said. "Coach Locksley always says don't take sacks, so I've really been working on that.

"If I didn't see any guys open, I just threw it over their heads because it's better to be first-and-10 than second-and-18."

Williams, though, did more than just avoid mistakes.

He had for 431 yards of total offense, breaking a Michigan Stadium record. He accounted for four scores to turn an 11-point deficit into a 25-point win, helping the Illini score more against the Wolverines on their home field in a Big Ten game since Ohio State had 50 points in 1961.

It was the type of performance Zook wanted to get from Williams eventually when he started him as a freshman two years ago as Illinois went 2-10.

"Maybe it accelerated his growth," Williams said.

First-year Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez can only hope the growing pains he's enduring with an inexperienced quarterback pays off in the future.

Steven Threet was 18-of-35 for 250 yards and two TDs but missed many passes that might've made a difference when the game slipped away. He also lacks the speed to consistently be a threat as a runner.

"Their quarterback is in his third year of starting. Ours is in his third game," Rodriguez said. "Their quarterback is playing at a higher level of ability than he was as a freshman.

"He's obviously the perfect quarterback for the spread."

The Illini (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten) fell out of The Associated Press poll for the first time this season following last week's loss at Penn State, and their first win at Michigan since 1999 wasn't enough to put them back in the rankings.

Illinois hosts Minnesota this week.

"This team feeds off its momentum and we'll have a lot going into our next game," Williams said.

The Wolverines, meanwhile, had an emotional setback after they rallied from a 19-point deficit to beat Wisconsin for their biggest comeback ever at Michigan Stadium.

They'll get a chance to gain confidence this week at home against Toledo of the Mid-American Conference before getting back to Big Ten play with a game at Penn State and a home matchup with Michigan State.

Michigan (2-3, 1-1) has its worst record after five games since starting 1-4 in 1967, two years before Bo Schembechler arrived, and is danger of snapping its streak of 33 straight bowl appearances.

"If it was a lack of effort, I'd be really mad," Rodriguez said. "But I assure you, I will NEVER stand in front of you after a loss and not be mad.

"I'm very disappointed in how we played. It starts with the coaching. I'm sure when we watch the films, we'll be sick to our stomachs."

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Powered by Frankly