Bret Bielema Apparently Really Motivated His Illini This Week


You have to credit Illinois Fighting Illini coach Bret Bielema, as it appears the controversial remarks he made at the start of the week have apparently motivated his team. No matter what you think of the remarks he made on Monday, or how he handled the fallout on Thursday, the result speaks for itself.

Illinois just won on the road, at a top ten ranked team, for the first time since 2007 when they upset #1 Ohio State. Illinois won a 9-overtime, yes 9 TIMES (Dean of Students Ed Rooney voice) contest at #7 Penn State, 20-18. Yes, you read the that correctly- two Big Ten teams entered, one emerged victorious, and only one team reached 20 points.

Yes, that was indeed the most Big Ten game possible. While it was ugly, for sure, and overall, kind of a brutal game to watch, the Illini win absolutely no fluke. They outgained the Nittany Lions 395-227 and controlled the clock 36:25 to 23:35. They also almost doubled PSU in first downs as well, 26-14, as Bielema recorded the 100th victory of his coaching career.

They did it all on the ground, as Chase Brown had 223 yards on 33 carries and a touchdown. Josh McCray added 142 yards on 24 carries. Both are great, productive, effective backs, but there is of course, some statistical inflation, as the Illini have just been unable to do anything else on offense lately.

This is what is known as the Robert Holcombe effect.

This was the fourth straight game in which the Illini failed to reach triple figure passing yards, just imagine what they could possibly, someday, be if they ever get the passing game figured out.

“We’re not where we need to be, but I definitely am loving the attitude, the enthusiasm, the energy,” Bielema said after he ruined Penn State’s homecoming.

“It’s just boundless, and they just fight for each other.”

The previous record for overtimes, in a college football game, entering today was seven. And for all the media pundits who said Bielema proverbially threw his players under the bus this week and that he would lose the locker room…well, hey, we have some lovely parting gifts for you!

It’s clear that the first year coach lit a fire under these guys this week.

Said Bielema: “I tell you the greatest thing I saw today was Isaiah Williams doing everything he could to get in that end zone. Probably the littlest guy on the field in that moment, but he played as big as anyone out there.”

I guess you could say, there is an actual path to a bowl game now. Wouldn’t that be something, if Bielema could pull it off, after this 2-5 start.

Paul M. Banks is the owner/manager of The Bank (TheSportsBank.Net) and author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America,” as well as “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry.”

He has regularly appeared in WGNSports Illustrated and the Chicago Tribune, and co-hosts the After Extra Time podcastFollow him on Twitter and Instagram. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram

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