CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — The only thing Illinois is worried about this week, is keeping the Cannon Trophy in Champaign, and bouncing back from their 45-7 loss against Wisconsin.
Head coach Lovie Smith said the way the team had been practicing, didn’t translate to the field on Friday, and it wasn’t the performance he anticipated from his team.
“We’re not as far along as I hoped we would be, but we still have time to get there,” says head coach Lovie Smith. “When you have an effort like that, you can’t wait to play as soon as possible. We of course, watched the video with our team, and now it’s moving on to Purdue.”
There was some concern heading into this week, after several reports over the weekend said that Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz tested positive for COVID-19. On Monday, Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst did not comment on Mertz’s status. Smith also said on Monday morning that Illinois was a clean team, with no positive tests before practice.
With Wisconsin, and a COVID scare behind them, the Illini are using it as a learning experience moving forward. Offensively, they’re hoping to see a big jump from week one, after they failed to get the run or pass game going. Last season, against the Boilermakers the Illini rushed for a season-high 242 yards. They’re hoping to exceed those standards when they come to town on Saturday.
“When you play in the Big Ten conference you have to put certain things past you once you learn from them, but not until you learn from them,” says senior offensive lineman Doug Kramer. “Really what we have to do is just match the intensity, play hard, and just get back to what we’re known for, which is that toughness, grit, and establishing the run game.”