What Illinois head coach Bret Bielema said after his team's win over PSU
Penn State Nittany Lions football suffered a 20-18 defeat in nine overtimes to the Illinois Fighting Illini on Saturday at Beaver Stadium.
It was a landmark victory for first-year head coach Bret Bielema, who watched the Illini suffer a 56-21 defeat in the same stadium last December, mere days after he took the job.
Here's what he had to say about the 100th win of his career.
1. Run, run and run some more
The game plan for the Illini this week was clear: Keep the ball on the ground.
They installed a new jumbo package that included no wide receivers this week in practice, and used it to perfection.
For Illinois, 357 of 395 total yards came via the ground game, with Penn State was almost helpless to resist without the services of star defensive tackle PJ Mustipher, who was lost for the season after suffering an injury against Iowa.
"When you're watching film, you can see how teams play against bigger people or against littler people," Bielema said. "We just felt, the bigger we got, we felt we could dictate what we were going to get out of them a little bit better."
2. A mental toughness moment
Bielema said he thought he could feel the momentum shifting away from his sideline when quarterback Art Sitkowski — who started this game for the Illini in place of Brandon Peters — suffered an injury that ended his day during the nine-overtime slog.
Bielema stepped into the huddle and said, "one play, one play."
Time after time, his defense — which Bielema compared to the Bad News Bears — made that play, setting the offense up to finally come away with the clincher in the ninth overtime.
"It's just a bunch of guys that play play really well together and don't care who gets the credit," Bielema said. "They just want to get the results."
3. Thoughts on the new overtime format
A new rule was passed over the offseason, transitioning College Football to an overtime system that requires the two teams to alternate two-point conversion attempts to decide the winner after the second overtime.
Penn State and Illinois played the first ever nine-overtime game today inside Beaver Stadium, and Bielema was a fan of the change.
Bielema and his coaches managed to stay in front of things, always thinking one play ahead to deal with the rapid fire pace.
"I gotta believe those two-point plays, it was a lot of fun for the fans," he said. "It was fun for us. In a way it kind of gets the guys going. Every play is another opportunity and when there's a stop, you knew what you had to do, when there was a touchdown, you knew what you had to do."
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