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QUOTABLES: Lovie speaks ahead of season opener

Here’s what Lovie Smith had to say ahead of the Illini’s first game against Wisconsin.

NCAA Football: Redbox Bowl-California vs Illinois Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

It is finally game week for the Illini, and Lovie Smith met the media ahead of the season opener in Wisconsin. Here’s what the fourth-year head coach had to say:

On last year’s upset over Wisconsin

  • We needed a signature win.
  • Only way it (being a good team) can be confirmed is getting a win.
  • Winning definitely gives you confidence.

On being underdogs against Wisconsin

  • Until we become a consistent winner, this is the position we will be in quite a few times.
  • We were a six-win team and I think we’re a stronger football team now.

On traveling to a place with a high positivity rate / battling Covid

  • We’re focusing on what we can control.
  • There’s a lot on my mind about this Wisconsin game, but being safe is not one of them.
  • We’ve been testing around here for a long period of time.
  • I wash my hands, I try to socially distance as much as I possibly can.
  • We kinda keep our game plan to ourself.

On playing after a long layoff

  • We're expecting to play good football right away.
  • I do not expect a bad brand of football.

On the game against Wisconsin

  • We were able to beat this football team last year, we’re a better football team now.
  • They want to establish the run and we have to meet that challenge.

On playing without fans

  • If you’re relying on someone else to get you going as an athlete, you’re going to fail eventually.
  • Would I rather have 90,000 Badger fans there or no badger fans there? I’m going to pick no Badger fans every time.

On the team’s philosophy

  • Taking the ball away is in our DNA.
  • We start with a minimum (goal) of three takeaways a game.

On players

  • I love Jake Hansen.
  • Verdis Brown will be starting at guard.
  • Jake Hansen was on a course last year to do something better than anyone has ever done in college football at taking the ball away.
  • For the most part we’re injury free.
  • Everything is good (Covid-wise).

On Social Justice

  • The conversation will not fizzle out.
  • There is a time and a place for everything, and there will be a time.