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‘Art was prepared’: Bielema, staff talk season-opening win

Hear from the Illini coaching staff following the Week 0 victory.

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Illinois Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Illini kicked off the Bret Bielema era with a 30-22 win over Nebraska and will look to get to 2-0 this weekend against UTSA. Offensive Coordinator Tony Petersen, Defensive Coordinator Ryan Walters and Bielema met the media on Monday to discuss the win and preview this week’s contest.

Here’s what Petersen had to say about:

The quarterback room:

  • “Deuce Spann is spending his time right now in the wide receiver room. We could bring Deuce back if we needed to but he’s got a very special skill set.”
  • “Ryan Johnson and Matt Robinson are a close 3-4 in the quarterback room.”
  • “Art (Sitkowski) handled it how I expect backup quarterbacks to handle it. ... Art was prepared.”

The running backs:

  • “We were happy with the running backs. They played well. They may not always play evenly in a game.”
  • “We made a strong effort to run the football. We ran it efficiently on first and second down and made some big plays when we needed to.”

Here’s what Walters had to say about:

The Illini defense:

  • “This is as deep of a defense front as I’ve been around.”
  • “Very confident [in linebacker depth]. With Jake (Hansen), Tarique (Barnes) and (Khalan) Tolson being out there, that’s probably the deepest position we have on defense.”

Here’s what Bielema had to say about:


  • “BP has an injury to his left shoulder, all the tests came back in terms of a long term injury negative.”
  • “CJ Hart getting through some more testing, still waiting on some results.”
  • “Marquez Beason will start practice tomorrow.”
  • “Chase was a guy who going into the game was all clear, but he reaggravated an injury. He should be fully accessible and ready to roll on Saturday.”
  • “(Brian Hightower) will be out for a while, but nothing structurally that will cancel the season. “
  • Bielema also mentioned the Illini could get Jafar Armstrong back.


  • Bielema said the team gave Offensive MVP to Doug Kramer, Isaiah Williams and Art Sitkowski, Defensive MVPs to Johnny Newton, CJ Hart and Sydney Brown and Special Teams MVPs to Blake Hayes and Kerby Joseph.

This week’s game vs UTSA

  • “At quarterback they have a lefty who can throw the ball and run the ball real well.”

The Win over Nebraska

  • “Before you can win the game you need to stop yourself from losing it.”
  • “There aren’t any wins or losses that have asterisks, every win is a win.”

His players

  • “Luke Ford has begun to evolve into a complete tight end.”
  • “I know he didn’t touch the ball but he (Daniel Barker) had five knockdowns.”
  • “(Devon Wither)Spoon is just scratching the surface of how good he could be.”
  • “(Owen Carney is) just a sponge, he’s a fun kid.”
  • “I think the best you Deuce Spann can be is a wide receiver.”
  • “If I had Blake Hayes my entire career I wouldn’t have grey hair.”