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Lovie Smith discusses Illinois Football’s 31-27 victory over Michigan State

Here’s the postgame press conference from Saturday afternoon.

Lovie Smith’s Opening Statement:

"It’s a special day for our football team, our football players. There’s something special, of course, about a son and his dad and someone in that role today. That was pretty neat for them. The dads got a chance to go through our pregame walk with our football team. There’s a little pressure when the last person you see (before the game) is your father wanting to see a good game. We’re getting better; we’ve been getting better on the football field and in practice. You win games on the practice field but today we put it all together. You talk a lot about starting fast and finishing strong and that’s what it was today. It was a brutal, typical Big Ten football game; it’s going to go right down to the end. Offensively, Jeff George has gotten better and better each week, but we needed our quarterback to step up and answer some drives that they had, and he did. In order to do that the offensive line has to give you protection. Kendrick Foster, I think, that he had over 50, 150-60, whatever it was, a lot of yards. Again, you attribute a lot of that to the offensive line: Sam Mays, Zach Grant, we had a lot of guys that stepped up defensively, different guys. They grew plus one in the turnover ratio; that was big. Tré Watson, Hardy Nickerson, they had a lot of sacks. The front played well, again, it was a great team effort, one that we needed as much as anything."

On Moving Forward After the Win Against Michigan State

"They had to take me through the routine of singing our alma mater. Of course, in the locker room, there is no excitement like a winning locker room. Just genuine emotion, that’s was what the locker room was like. You want the guys to feel that more often. Going into this week, we can’t do a whole lot about what’s happened in the past. There were some disappointments that have happened in the past. We talk about a four-game season and in order to really do justice to the four-game season you need to win the first game. Now we’re going to talk about the next one, but we got off to a good start."

On QB Jeff George’s Improvements

"I’m just going to take the easy way out and say his entire quarterback play. I mean, there are checks at the line, he hasn’t made calls, and, of course, handing the ball off, but eventually quarterbacks are judged on how they throw the ball and step up to make big throws. The more you do something, the more confident you get with it, and that’s what we saw from him. We had a confident quarterback at the end of the game."

On Working Through Offensive Limitations

"Garrick [McGee] and our offensive staff, all our coaching staff, they’ve been coaching their butt off all year. It’s tough for the OC to go down to its third quarterback, have linemen out and lose your one receiver, but they want the next guy to step up and you find a way to get some production. That’s what they were able to do."