MADISON (WCIA) — Expectations for fifth-year head coach Lovie Smith were sky high, but following a 45-7 beatdown from Wisconsin, things didn’t seem much different from where they were back in 2016.
The hype surrounding a veteran team, star-studded offensive line, and second-year quarterback Brandon Peters failed to meet expectations. The offense didn’t score a single point, and struggled to get anything going at all. Their time of possession was just 16:32, compared to Wisconsin who had the ball for 43 minutes. Illinois had just 8 first downs, and failed to convert on any fourth downs.
The Illini struggled defensively, with a brand-new defensive line, allowing six touchdowns and 430 yards. Smith says it wasn’t the night they were anticipating.
“You know they started scoring so many times I can’t remember everything that happened doing it,” says Smith. “I just know the touchdown passes we gave up, busted coverages. We’re a better football team than that, we will play better than that.”
The Illini were also down two linebackers in the first quarter, after Jake Hansen left the game early with an injury. Milo Eifler had to sit the first half due a targeting penalty he faced in last year’s Redbox Bowl. Sophomore Tarique Barnes stepped in to lead the Illini with 11 tackles, also recovering a fumble to score the the only touchdown of the game.
“You’re name is called you got to be ready to go. You get your shot, and you got to take it. you know that’s the bottom line to it. We started going down, the ball got lose and I punched it out. It slipped out under everybody else, I saw it rolling out, picked it up, and score. That’s the first thing we go for.”