CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — After a historic loss on Saturday, Illinois head coach Lovie Smith says the team is moving on and ready for the season finale against Northwestern.
“After a disappointing game against the last opponent, our guys realize who we’re playing and what’re we playing for,” Smith said. “The Land of Lincoln trophy. It’s been up there [in Evanston] for too many years.”
The Illini will look to bounce back this Thanksgiving week after getting spanked on their Senior Day, 63-0, by an Iowa team that hasn’t lived up to expectations this year. The loss ties for the largest margin of defeat in school history, dating all the way back to 1906. For context, the United States was still almost 10 years off from the first World War, and the University of Chicago was a Big Ten football powerhouse.
Smith said the loss on Saturday was disappointing, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the season was a failure.
“We have four wins right now, and the opportunity to finish with a good taste in our mouth,” he said. “We had hoped to do more this season. Last week, we talked about winning the last two games and reaching a bowl.”
Unfortunately, Illinois fans will have to wait at least one more year before their program gets a December of January game again.
Smith thanked those that stayed until the conclusion of the game Saturday, but he doesn’t blame those who decided to leave.
“We know how much [the fans] love the university,” Smith said. “In tough times, you appreciate the support. These are people who know what’s happening. There will come a day where we have a football product that will make fans want to stay for the entirety of the game.”
The loss didn’t sit well with neither fans, coaches or the players. Some supporters even took to social media, demanding that Smith be canned after the team’s most recent performance.
“I thought we had a really good week of practice,” said offensive coordinator Rod Smith. “So for me to sit here and tell you that I’m not disappointed, I am extremely disappointed that we didn’t do more than what we did. I knew it’d be an uphill challenge based upon what we were going to face, I was disappointed that we didn’t get more done than we did.”
But, despite the severity of the loss, the season still goes on.
For the few seniors on the team, the loss against Iowa was probably not how they planned their last game at Memorial Stadium going. Thankfully, the class will have one more chance to end their careers on a positive note.
“We move past right away,” said senior captain Nick Allegretti. “[Northwestern is] a good team. We know who they are. They’re a physical, talented team. It’s a rivalry, though. No matter where we are in the season, no matter where they are in the season, we get to play for a trophy. It’ll be fun.”
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