CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) —While coaching in the big ten — Bret Bielema has never lost a game to group of five team until now. UTSA beat Illinois 37-30 on Saturday last night to mark the Roadrunners’ best win in program history. Although, losing a game that should’ve been a guaranteed win is a feeling all too familiar for Illinois. The program has lost several games to Group of 5 teams within the last decade, their most recent coming in 2019 against Eastern Michigan.
This loss marks the first major setback for the new Illini head coach, as it wasn’t the way he expected his second week to go. Especially after beating Nebraska in the season-opener.
“It tears up your insides, and it should hurt, I think it does hurt,” says Bielema. “This will hopefully be a lesson we had to learn. Unfortunately it sucks to go through it, but just where were at right now in this program we weren’t able to do the things we needed to do to win. We’re not going to stay here, we’re going to move forward, and unfortunately we have to go through a few days like this to get there.”
The Illini struggled with some self-inflicted wounds — penalties, turnovers, and mental errors had them playing catchup the entire game. They had a chance to tie it up on their final drive, where Art Sitkwoski threw a pass to Casey Washington that would’ve sent the game to overtime — but it was caught out of bounds. The Illini couldn’t anything going on the ground either — with just 146 rushing yards, compared to the Roadrunners’ 217.
“You know obviously adversity happens throughout a season, but it’s how you respond to it, it’s how you come back from it and learn from the mistakes that you make this week,” says offensive lineman Doug Kramer. “We knew going into the game that they were going to be good up front, just trry to establish a run game, and protect our quarterback and unfortunately we didn’t do enough of that today.”
“We just take this as a learning experience, both weeks as a learning experience,” says senior Vederian Lowe. “We took last week as a way to get better, we have a lot of stuff we could work on last week, and it’s the same thing this week.”
The Illini will play at Virginia next. Kickoff is a 10 CT on ACC Network.