CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Illinois football coach Bret Bielema has emphasized eliminating penalties, turnovers and mental errors as keys to success for his teams. That game plan along with his ‘Tough, Smart, Dependable’ mantra is the fabric of what the third-year Illini coach wants out of his program but it’s not something Illinois has found consistently this season, especially after a 44-19 loss at Purdue.
At 2-3 overall and 0-2 in Big Ten play, Bielema and the Illini are searching for answers in several areas on the field heading into Friday night’s home game against Nebraska.
“The key ingredient to losing that we stress to our players from the first day I got here to where we are today, are penalties, mental errors and turnovers and we’re not very good in those two and I think our guys understand the importance of that,” Bielema said. “The second thing that we pride ourselves on is being tough, smart, dependable and that has to be a resilient part of our program. And I think those two elements right there together are what’s missing from us.”
Through five games, Illinois ranks 119th in the country and last in the Big Ten in fewest penalty yards per game, giving up an average of 72 yards per game. The turnover margin stat is worse for the Illini, coming in at 122nd in the nation at -1.20 turnovers per game.
Illinois and Nebraska kickoff at 7 p.m. Friday night on FS1.