TAMPA (WCIA) — CU in Tampa. Illinois football head coach Bret Bielema has touched down in Tampa, Florida for a ReliaQuest Bowl signing contract event, all for the January bowl game of Illinois versus Mississippi State.

Bielema and Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman got photos with the helmets along with Mississippi State defensive coordinator Zach Arnett and Bulldogs interim athletic director Bracky Brett. Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach was not available to attend. Both Bielema and Arnett spoke to the press as well about the upcoming bowl game on Monday, January 2nd.

Bielema said the bowl game gives them an opportunity to practice more, allowing younger guys or guys with less playing time this season to get more reps on the field.

“The Bowl game is an opportunity to celebrate the season you had, it’s also an opportunity to catapult you into next year’s season,” Bielema said. “I think the biggest thing we’ve tried to preach to our guys, is that we’re going to get about 15 extra practices and allow us to get better as a football team. It’s really I think a good indicator of things that could come, more importantly about the things we’ve accomplished and reward those guys. This will be the last game we have with some of our guys. We got a lot of good players that will be moving on, but we have a lot of good players coming back and hopefully it can catapult us going into 2023.”