Sep. 10—CHAMPAIGN — For the University of Illinois football team, it is the chance to see if the lessons from the last two weeks are coming in.
The Illini are coming off a 23-20 loss in their Big Ten opener to Indiana in a game where they were leading for most of it. The team hopes that the loss is something to grow from instead of dwelling on it as it faces Virginia today at 3 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.
"It's a learning opportunity. It's something we can grow from. It's a feeling that we don't want to have again," Isaiah Williams said. "The only way from here, you either get worse or you get better. I feel like the attitude of this team is that we are going to get better because we hate this feeling."
"I don't think there is anyone can say that our guys didn't go over there with the expectation to win with the way they battled through and persevered through a tough couple moments that worked against us," Illinois coach Bret Bielema said. "Sometimes things go your way and sometimes they don't."
Something the Illini will have to deal with is injuries, inclduding an injury to Danville native Julian Pearl. It made Bielama make some quick adjustments: Adustments that will have to go through at least the Virginia game.
"We had a situation last week where Julian Pearl basically got hurt in the middle of a practice on Thursday, which is lightest practice day," Bielema said. "We immediately popped Isaiah Adams out to left tackle, we took Jordan Slaughter, who had been reping at right guard with Cy. Moved them over to left tackle new position, and left guard new position. They way they performed for 90-plus snaps was pretty incredible. It wasn't clean, but to think about their entire week went into different position and play that way was really good.
"When Julian went down, I checked on him with our trainers and when I came back, they made the changes where we plug in the next player. It's how you maximize your roster. We have to be smart in player safety. I think he is going to be ready to go, but my biggest concern is not bring him back because we expect him to be a phenomenal player when he is 100 percent.
A highlight from last week is Chase Brown, who ran for 199 yards, becoming the first Illinois player to start a season with consecutive 100-yard games since 1944.
"Chase Brown just continues to impress me with he way he competes," Bielema said.
The Illini will be facing the Cavaliers in the third game for the second year in a row. Illinois was at 1-1 going into the game in Charlottesville, Va. and lost 42-14, continuing what would become a four-game losing streak.
Bielema and the Illini do not want to go through that again and are hungry to put the Cavaliers away.
"I tell our coaches and players that we haven't done some great things in the last 15-20 years and it is us against everyone," Bielema said. "We have to play in a level about our expectations to get the respect that we need."
We don't want to go down the same road that we did last year. It's kind of up to the leaders, captains and guys on the team considered leaders, to step up and make sure the rest of the team knows the season is not over with. That's just one game, of course we want to win them all, but sometimes teams have to lose. That may be the greatest blessing for this season, losing this game. Understand we have to come to practice and keep getting better.
Illini freshman wide receiver Shawn Miller is out for the season due to an unspecified injury, head coach Bret Bielema announced on Monday.
Miller will have season-ending surgery and played two snaps in the Week Zero win against Wyoming, but did not play against Indiana. Bielema did not disclose the nature of the injury. Miller suffered a collarbone injury during spring practice but was cleared to play at the end of training camp.
"Unfortunately he won't be with us the rest of this year," Bielema said. "He'll have surgery that will be a season-ending deal. They haven't nailed down exactly how it's at but it's obviously something that will take him out for the rest of this year."
Miller was a major recruiting win for Illinois and was one of four high school wide receivers to sign with the Illini in the Class of 2022, along with Hank Beatty, Ashton Hollins and Eian Pugh. Miller had a slew of other power-five options and was ranked the No. 701 player in the nation, according to the industry-generated Composite Rankings. He had a final five of Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State and West Virginia — five schools to which he took official visits — and is the second-highest rated offensive player in the Illini Class of 2022, behind only running back Aidan Laughery.
The game will be broadcast on the Illini Sports Network, where at Danville, it will be on WDAN-AM 1490, and WDNL-FM 102.1. The game will be shown on TV on ESPNU.