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Bielema’s Illini don’t shy away from big moments

Stomping a mudhole, and walking it dry.

Brad Repplinger // TCR

Illinois football coach Bret Bielema leaves little doubt in what he expects from his football team. Bielema also doesn’t shy away from moments, big or small.

The process is paramount. A step in that process was his personal homecoming to the place that he started his coaching career. This was widely billed as a statement game for his fledging program.

Illini fans were cautiously optimistic. It seemed too convenient and too perfect. The other shoe had to drop, at some point. After all, this is Illinois football.

The elite Illini defense held the Badgers to a single rushing yard for each decade since Illinois had won in Madison. Two decades, two rushing yards. For the game. Only two.

“This is part of where we wanted to be,” Bielema said. “A lot went into today beyond the preparation of this week.”

In other words, here is the message to other coaches in the division.

Open your front door and take three steps. Congratulations, you have just outgained Wisconsin on the ground.

The head football coach brought his new team to his old stomping grounds, and that’s exactly what he did. Illinois stomps, pummels and beats the Badgers into submission with a convincing 34-10 drubbing in Madison.

“It’s a big deal. I told our locker room, ‘To do something that’s never been done in 20 years, that’s not common. You don’t get those opportunities,” Bielema said.

Quite honestly, the game was not as close as the final score would indicate.

After an opening drive touchdown by Wisconsin to make it 7-0, Illinois dominated the game in every facet imaginable.

Here’s the tale of the tape for the two teams.

Illinois gained seven more first downs (19 to 12), 46% more total yards (304 to 208), +3 in turnover battle (more on that later), and most importantly, outgained Wisconsin on the ground by 135 yards (137 to 2).

What can Brown do for you? Anything you ask.

Illinois running back Chase Brown has been so dominant and reliable that he has become an afterthought, to a large degree. He is expected to be great.

Six straight games of 100+ rushing yards. He adds to his program-record on a weekly basis.

Syndication: Journal Sentinel
Brown rushed for 129 yards (5.2 YPC), including a back-breaking 49-yard TD scamper to put the game away for Illinois.

Tommy Devito has turned the corner.

Big Time Tommy snuck his way into the endzone on three different occasions. He did not throw a touchdown. More importantly, he did not throw an interception. Zero turnovers. Ball security for Illinois.

Devito is making better decisions and more accurate throws. Huge steps in the right direction.

“Tommy just continues to impress me, just his diligence, his work ethic. He’s got a very live arm. He’s very accurate, very conscientious,” Bielema said.

Bielema does not lack confidence in his signal caller. Let’s see what happens the next few weeks with an more open playbook.

His overall numbers weren’t terrific. A weird illegal man downfield call on 1st-and-goal eliminated a TD pass in the first half.

Three turnovers for the Badgers, including two interceptions by Badgers QB Graham Mertz.

Illinios was (+3) in this crucial area. An area of concern has quickly evaporated.

The concern for Illinois ball security is not the only thing that has been swept away by wind. Here’s a look inside the mid of a Badger fan.

You love to see it. Wisconsin fans have been smug and condescending for a few decades now. Borderline arrogant is not a ridiculous label.

Take it in, Badger Nation.

Illinois is the captain now.