Illini nationally ranked after defense shines in win over Iowa

Published: Oct. 9, 2022 at 6:25 PM CDT
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CHAMPAIGN (25 News Now) - Illinois is nationally ranked in the AP Poll for the first time since 2011. The Illini coming in at No. 24 in this week’s poll after a 9-6 win over Iowa on Saturday night.

In the win, Illinois bended but never broke thanks to a dominant defensive performance.

“We have the best fire department in the history of the United States,” Bret Bielema, Illinois head coach, said. “Our defense just continues to come out, and put out fires left and right and don’t bat an eye.”

The Illini defense held Iowa to just three points on three turnovers, once again keeping their opponent out of the endzone at Memorial Stadium.

“We’re the only team in the country who hasn’t given up a touchdown at home,” said Bielema. “That statistic is amazing when you think about it.”

“To say that nobody scored on us at home, we pride ourselves in protecting this house,” Tarique Barnes, Illinois linebacker, said.

“Not having a touchdown at home is like a big thing, but having the expectation of dominance,” Matthew Bailey, Illinois defensive back, said.

The Illini defense proved that they are one of the top defenses in the country, however, it was the players who came in for injured starters who helped get the Illini their fourth-straight win.

“I think we had four starters go down today, and they continue to come in and do what we ask them to do,” said Bielema. “Our guys did champion the moment.”

Quarterback Art Sitkowski and kicker Fabrizio Pinton were just two players who answered the call, helping the Illini take a big step forward this season.

“We are clearing a lot of good hurdles and going forward,” Bielema said. “This team knows how to win.”

“From the time I’ve come in here till now, I’ve just seen it flip,” Art Sitkowski, Illinois quarterback, said. “It’s truly amazing what Coach B has done with this program and this family and it’s something really special and we’re going to keep this thing moving.

“And the vision that he has for us and the standard that he has for us is really, really special and we got to follow as players.”

Following Saturday’s win, the Illini have now beaten both Wisconsin and Iowa in the same season for the first time since 1989.