Illinois defeated Akron 42-3 on Saturday, and on Monday Lovie Smith met the media to recap his team’s week one win, and preview the task at hand: UConn.
- Smith began the press conference with his usual “Of course good to be 1-0,” but the biggest story came when Smith announced that this is another season where Mike Epstein’s year will be cut short due to injury.
Smith had this to say regarding Epstein:
- “Mike Epstein went down with a season-ending injury, which is unfortunate.”
- “He has been through so much and is an outstanding football player.”
- “Mike has a lot of eligibility left, and he’ll come back strong as ever.”
In other injury news, Smith made sure to address the status of his star running back Reggie Corbin and his hip that he injured on Saturday:
- “He’s feeling good.”
Smith also expressed that the team does has some depth in the backfield.
- “[The] running back position is our deepest,” Smith said, before going into depth about Dre Brown, Jakari Norwood, Ra’von Bonner and Kenyon Sims. “We need everybody, it’s a long year.”
After week one’s victory over Akron, Lovie Smith had high praise for quarterback Brandon Peters among others.
- “ I thought it was a good first game... [Milo Eifler has] a chance to be an outstanding football player.”
- “I thought [Oluwole Betiku Jr.] rushed the passer well. I thought he played the run well.”
- “I think [the defensive line] play is the type of play that I think Bobby [Roundtree] expected them to have.”
- “I think [Justice Williams] did well...it’s pretty tough to play three positions.”
This was the Illini’s first game without Bobby Roundtree since his offseason spinal injury. Smith made time to mention the defensive end as well.
- “We definitely missed [Bobby Roundtree.]” Smith also said that they are in constant contact with Roundtree who continues to get better everyday.
The Illini head coach even dished out some awards after the first game.
Special Teams Player of the Game: Donny Navarro
Offensive Player of the Game: Brandon Peters
Defensive Player of the Game: Jake Hansen
Finally, Smith went on to discuss the team’s historic difficulty playing on the road.
- “I was told we haven’t won a non conference road game in 12 years, I don’t know if it’s true or not but it is a good thing to tell the team... We have not been that good on the road.”
Ultimately, Smith was pleased with his team’s performance this past Saturday.
“We met all of our offensive goals... Defensively, we met most of them.”
The Illini will look to meet those goals again this week on the road at UConn.