Illini players rally with Bielema out against Iowa: “This is definitely the time for us players to step up in that role”


CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Illinois football coach Bret Bielema won’t be on the plane to Iowa City Friday afternoon, he’s been stuck in isolation this week after a positive COVID-19 test on Monday night. His players are doing their best to make sure they bring a win back to Champaign for their first year Illini coach though.

“With coach B being out, this is definitely the time for us players to step up in that role,” Illinois senior offensive lineman Vederian Lowe said. “We need more players as leaders for us to get to a place we haven’t gone before.”

“We definitely feeling his presence but we just keeping it going, everything that he taught us, everything that he prepared us for this moment,” Illinois senior outside linebacker Owen Carney Jr. said. “Next man down, another one up.”

The Illini (4-6, 3-4 B1G) storylines would have centered around Bielema returning to his alma mater, now the focus will be on acting head coach George McDonald and the Illini trying to win their third straight road game over a Top 25 opponent. After taking down No. 7 Penn State and No. 20 Minnesota, the 17th-ranked Hawkeyes await in a 1 p.m. game Saturday afternoon at Kinnick Stadium on FS1.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.