Illini set to play against Iowa without Bret Bielema


IOWA CITY (WCIA) — Bret Bielema will have to watch Saturday’s game like most of Illini nation: on TV. The Illinois head coach tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday night, meaning he won’t be able to accompany the team on their trip to Iowa to take on No. 17 Iowa.

The biggest storyline heading into this game, was Bielema getting to coach against his alma matter. Now that he’s been removed from the equation, this week is all about how the team responds without him.

Bielema is 3-2 against Iowa, he won his last game against his former team with Wisconsin back in 2010. Illinois hasn’t won in Iowa City since 1999. More recently, the Hawkeyes have won seven games in the series dating back to 2008, the last time the Illini won a game against Iowa. To guarantee a bowl game, Illinois needs to win it’s final two games.

“I mean that’s in the air, right now we have the team mindset of win or go home and we’re going to take that mindset the next two weeks but first things first is Iowa,” said Illinois outside linebacker Owen Carney Jr.

“For me personally and for all the other guys that I came into this university with, we haven’t won against those guys,” says offensive lineman Vederian Lowe. “You know we kind of want to start turning the tide. Iowa is a great program, they have a lot of history and we’re just preparing this week to perform without Coach B being there. We know he’s going to be watching us so we just want to make Coach B proud and give a great fight.”

Per conference rules, Bielema won’t be able to have contact with the team 90 minutes prior to kick-off, but has been involved with the team virtually this week. Wide receivers coach George McDonald will be leading the Illini against Iowa this week.

Kick-off on Saturday is at 1:00 p.m. on Fox Sports 1.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.