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Lovie Smith: North Carolina game will be a measuring stick for Illinois Football

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Illinois will face the No. 22 Tar Heels on Saturday night.

On coming off the first game of the season

"The good part about getting the first game under your belt is that the rest of the games start coming quickly. To our students that showed up [Saturday], you were outstanding. Our team felt them from the start, and throughout [the game]. And of course to our fans, that showed up too. For Memorial Stadium to be the home field that we need, we'll need that energy that we had this past weekend.

On facing North Carolina next Saturday

"It's good to be 1-0, but besides that, that last game felt like training camp; something that's in our past that will hopefully make us better going forward. We're really excited about playing North Carolina this week; they're a storied program. There's a type of football that you expect from them, a lot of good athletes, well coached. Everything that you look for in having a successful program, is what we see in [North Carolina.] They played a good game this past week and had a good Georgia team down 10 points in the third quarter, so we know who we're seeing this weekend. Coach Fedora is a good football coach and has been that way for a long time."

On injuries

"Injury wise, we're in pretty good shape. Joe [Spencer] was close to playing this week and we hope to have him ready to go for this Saturday. We'll need all of the troops ready to go."

On improving from game one to game two

"There are some things we need to clean up. We need to play a better game; it's as simple as that, in all three areas even if we like some of the things we did. The most improvement you should see is from game one to game two. We've had a chance to finish plays, see guys in a game environment and everything that goes along with it.  We went through our game routine all the way up to the game. All the things we need to do, we went through last week and that should make us better this week."

On penalties from Murray State

"We like the result. We liked the way we finished plays and finished drives. But we had penalties, too many penalties, critical penalties. A penalty had a long punt return called back. A penalty kept a drive going for their offense. On the offensive side of the ball, we left some plays out there. There's a lot of things for us to clean up, but that's what you do."

On Rob Bain's game against Murray State

"Rob Bain played an outstanding game. When you're the nose guard and you're taking on double teams a lot of the time, you don't get a lot of credit. He played good football."

On the defensive effort against Murray State

"I like the effort defensively, playing hard. We had quite a few plays where we had all 11 guys in the frame, around the ball, which is what we're striving for."

On dealing with North Carolina's Elijah Hood and T.J. Logan

"We're going to play our defense, but both are a little bit different. Both can really go the distance right away.  It doesn't really matter which one is out there, both are great players and can change the outcome of the game. Both had a big impact throughout the [Georgia] game. We just need to know that whoever is back there can break a game open in a second. Four of their five offensive linemen also return from last year, so that also has an impact on how productive they were this past week."

On the night-game atmosphere against North Carolina

"We're excited about this game. We're excited about the game day atmosphere we're going to have here. We keep talking about having a home field advantage, the whole experience that you have. It should be a special one this weekend."