Illinois football to reset, recover after blowout against Virginia


Sydney Laput

Illinois football head coach Bret Bielema celebrates the teams victory against Wyoming with freshman offensive lineman Hunter Whitenack on Aug. 27.

By Ben Fader, Staff Writer

After a big home win over Virginia, the Illini had a Week 3 bye to improve their 2-1 on the season.

Revenge over the Cavaliers gave the Illini much to look forward to, but they are using the bye week to hone in on mistakes from the first three games that could prove more costly later in the season.

The most emphasized issue is turnovers. The Illini have turned the ball over eight times in their last two games, more than their opponents in each affair, a trend which offensive coordinator Barry Lunney Jr. would like to see end.

“They are all the same,” Lunney Jr. said. “One, we just can’t have it. Number two, just how detrimental it is to being productive on offense.”

The turnovers have come in different ways and not one position group is entirely responsible. Interceptions, forced fumbles and failed backward passes have all contributed to the lack of ball security.

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    “Whatever the scenario is and has been, that’s obviously something that we’re going to work tirelessly on to address and fix because that’s something that we just can’t have (moving) forward,” Lunney Jr. said.

    One thing the Illini would like to maintain moving forward is the pressure their defensive line has reigned on opposing offenses. Defensive coordinator Ryan Walters is impressed with what he has seen and knows how important it is, especially against Big Ten teams.

    “It’s about having your best eleven out there,” Walters said. “Having players capable of running set schemes, that’s just what we do.”

    With the pressure, the defensive backs are more isolated with their matchups. Still, for the Illini, that hasn’t been a big problem with junior Devon Witherspoon, senior Quan Martin and senior Kendall Smith.

    “Their attention to detail and consistency with which they play, their techniques allow them to have success snap-in (and) snap out from a man coverage standpoint,” Walters said.

    Head coach Bret Bielema has liked much of what he has seen from both units and wants to see more of it in their final nonconference game of the regular season. The bye week was used to tune up some areas that were rough around the edges.

    “Very impressed with our players coming out of the Virginia game, obviously some areas need to be shined up,” Bielema said.

    Despite most of the Big Ten West struggling so far, Bielema’s stance hasn’t wavered and continues to take the season one game at a time.

    “That really doesn’t change anything I do on a daily basis,” Bielema said. “We have a 12-game schedule in front of us.”

    Next up on that schedule for the Illini are the Chattanooga Mocs, who will travel to Champaign on Sept. 22. A win here will be paramount in continuing Illinois’ momentum before heading to Madison to take on Wisconsin.



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