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.
- 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.