CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — The highest anticipated and most attended spring game in a decade felt normal. Fans were in the stands at Memorial Stadium for the first time since the end of the 2019 season, the socially distanced Marching Illini played and we got our first look at new head coach Bret Bielema’s Illini.
The Orange team, consisted of first string guys, had no trouble moving the ball, winning 65-15 over the Blue team. Brandon Peters threw for 291 yards, with Chase Brown leading the running backs with 80 yards and two touchdowns. Luke Ford also added in a TD, with five receptions for 88 yards. The Orange defense held the Blue offense to just five first downs and 30 passing yards.
“We showed definitely a new face,” said Owen Carney Jr. “It’s a new era of what the fans didn’t see the last five years and great things to come.”
“To be the only team playing tonight, it’s a great opportunity and what was really cool about it was that was the first look of what Illini football is this year,” said Brown.
“Being a new staff we needed to be around and play next to each other,” says Bielema. “I wanted the right guard and right tackle to play next to each other. I wanted the center and quarterback to play together, I wanted the running backs to have a committee. I liked how the guys operated on the orange unit. I think in the fall you’re going to have an exciting football team. You’re going to have a group of guys who represent Illinois the right way and a team that will make you proud.
The team has two more of their allotted 15 spring practices to go, as they work towards the fall. They’ll officially kick off the Bret Bielema era a little more than four months from now when they host Nebraska for the home opener on August 28th.