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QUOTABLES: Lovie speaks ahead of Rivalry Week against Northwestern

Here’s what head coach Lovie Smith had to say as the team looks to end their season with a win at Northwestern.

NCAA Football: Iowa at Illinois Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

After Saturday’s loss to Iowa on Senior Day, the Illini will head up to Evanston to face the Northwestern Wildcats for Rivalry Week.

Lovie discussed how the team is preparing to end the regular season:

On Rivalry Week:

  • The tradition goes back a long time and trophy has been with the Wildcats for too long.
  • There is a special feeling when playing against a rival - in any sport, at any level.
  • “For us, five years is too long. We have ended some streaks and we are looking to end another one this week.”

On facing Northwestern:

  • Northwestern (5-1) is in first in Big Ten West, while Illinois (2-4) is at the bottom of the division .
  • Getting that third win is important, especially in this competitive conference.

On Mike Epstein:

  • Nothing has changed and Epstein is expected to be available this weekend.
  • He did not play against Iowa.

On Northwestern’s offense:

  • Mike Bajakian, in his first season as Northwestern’s offensive coordinator, and Lovie know each other. They coached together in the NFL for the Chicago Bears.
  • Bajakian has NFL experience as the former quarterbacks coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
  • The Illini defense know what they are going up against. There are not a lot of surprises going into games, especially within the conference.

On what needs to be done differently:

  • Each game is different and there is no single thing to point to.
  • Looking at how the Illini played against Iowa, there were missed plays in all areas. Mistakes were made that led to the loss of their 14-point lead.
  • They have to keep working to not let that happen again.