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‘We’ll be ready’: Fresh off big win, Illinois heads to Indiana

Bring on the Hoosiers.

Head coach Bret Bielema hugging athletic director Josh Whitman after the win Saturday.
Jack Jungmann // TCR

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Coming off a 38-6 victory over Wyoming on Saturday, head coach Bret Bielema feels excited about the upcoming matchup against Indiana and what’s to come for the team.

In his press conference Monday afternoon at Memorial Stadium, he addressed some important topics that people might want to know about ahead of Friday night’s matchup.

What’s the deal on Josh McCray?

Midway through the third quarter of Saturday’s win against Wyoming, running back Josh McCray suffered an apparent leg injury, forcing him to exit the game and not return.

Running back Josh McCray getting helped off the field after an apparent leg injury.
Jack Jungmann // TCR

Despite the uncertainty still surrounding his status, Bielema was able to confidently rule McCray out for the upcoming matchup at Indiana.

“I know that he won’t be with us this week,” Bielema said. “I just don’t know the long-term prognosis of where he’s at.”

McCray will undergo further testing later Monday to clarify the true extent of his injury.

So who will be the guy that’s going to step up?

Bielema was hinting at it possibly being Reggie Love, who scored the final Illinois touchdown against Wyoming.

“Saturday, when that opportunity came, I went up to [Love] and said ‘Hey, here’s your moment,’” Bielema said. “‘This is what you prepared for.’”

The other options include fellow reserves Aidan Laughery and Chase Hayden.

“It’ll be a situational decision,” Bielema said. “I want to give Illinois the best chance to have success.”

Prepping for the Hoosiers

The Illini already have a game under their belts, but the Hoosiers do not.

While we don’t yet know if that will be an advantage or a disadvantage, Indiana can study film on the current Illinois team. Illinois, however, can only use film from past years, in which the Indiana teams were vastly different.

The importance film will have on their preparation is one of the key things Bielema stressed, but he believes the players and coaches will be up to the task.

“It is a tremendous challenge to our coaches,” Bielema said. “It’s one that I think we’ll be ready for.”

Although this upcoming test is a big step up from Week 0, Bielema loves nothing more than a Big Ten battle this early in the season.

“To play on the road in a Big Ten environment is everything you can dial up as a competitor.”

Excitement about the team

We’ve known from the start that Bielema was excited about this team.

However, the big question still remains: What makes this team so different from last year?

Bielema knows there are a few — the first being its new quarterback Tommy DeVito.

“DeVito wants to win games and not put the team at risk,” said Bielema. “He’s so coachable; he’s so driven and on task.”

Quarterback Tommy DeVito looking to make a throw to one of his many targets.
Brad Repplinger // TCR

Then you also have superstar Chase Brown, proving time and time again that he is a force to be reckoned with. Brown was named the Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Week on Monday after his three-touchdown performance against the Cowboys.

“Brown just continues to prove to us how special a player he is,” Bielema said. “He’s very talented.”

Running back Chase Brown catching a touchdown pass from quarterback Tommy DeVito.
Brad Repplinger // TCR

Brown and the Illini are experiencing a sense of deja vú from last year, where they were victorious in Week 0 as well. However, they followed it with a Week 1 loss.

The goal is 2-0 this time around.

“I think this team overall is an improvement from a year ago,” Bielema said. “Our guys do what we’ve asked them to do better than we’ve ever done before.”