CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Illinois football coach Bret Bielema will be with his team in Evanston Saturday afternoon when they take the field in the regular season finale at Northwestern. Bielema has had a difficult nine days, losing his mother last Thursday, before his father-in-law Greg Hielsberg passed away on Wednesday. Bielema returned to Champaign late Monday after his mother’s services on Sunday and Monday in his hometown of Prophetstown.
Bret’s wife, Jen Bielema, posted on Twitter commemorating her father Greg earlier this week.
“My dad was a tremendously special man with a zest for life. He was full of love, optimism, laughter, courage, and so much more. I’m especially thankful for all the memories we shared together and proud to be your daughter and your little pumpkin. I love you, Dad! 11.23.22”
Bielema and the Illini (7-4, 4-4 B1G) are going for their second straight win over the Wildcats (1-10, 1-7) after a dominating win in Champaign last year. Illinois hasn’t beat Northwestern in back-to-back seasons since 2010 and 2011, and hasn’t won in Evanston since 2014. Despite the Cats losing 10 straight games, Bielema expects a battle for the Land of Lincoln trophy.
“One thing you can say, they are extremely physical, they play the game the right way, they play really hard,” Bielema said earlier this week. “You throw in that Ohio State game a couple of weeks ago and they were going at it toe-for-toe with the highest ranked team in our conference so they’re a team that shows up to play.”
Illinois and Northwestern kickoff Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. in a game broadcast on Big Ten Network. The Illini are 14.5-point favorites and with a win can post their best season since 2007.