Asmussen | Bielema longs to return | Sports

  Asmussen |  Bielema longs to return |  Sports

“Other than being in this same (darn) room all the time,” Bielema said.

“I wish it could be today. It won’t be,” he said. “I’m just following all the protocols that have been in place. I want to make sure I’m good, too. I have questions every day.”

“When I get in the building, the hay’s going to be in the barn already,” Bielema said. “We don’t have school this week, so we adjusted our practices to a little bit later in the day.”

While Bielema remains in isolation, the Illini (4-7, 3-5 Big Ten) continue to prepare for Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. kickoff against the Wildcats (3-8, 1-7). The game plan is being installed.

Story Highlights

  • First-year coach Bret Bielema met with the media Monday afternoon via Zoom. Remember, Bielema is recovering from COVID-19. He feels fine.

  • Bielema expects to be cleared to return to his team by Friday. He hopes sooner.

The team will have Thanksgiving dinner together.

“We have 115 on our roster and 90 of them have RSVP’d and will eat dinner with us Thursday afternoon in the stadium,” Bielema said.

As much as he wants to see his team again, Bielema is looking forward even more to being with his family. Because of his illness, Bielema has been away from wife Jen and their two young daughters, Briella and Brexli. “I haven’t seen my girls for a long time,” Bielema said while getting choked up.

Illinois and Northwestern will play for the Land of Lincoln Trophy on Saturday in what will also be Senior Day for a bunch of guys who could have left after the 2020 season. “A really special week this week,” Bielema said.

Last look back Bielema watched the Illini’s 33-23 loss at Iowa this past Saturday from a remote location in Champaign-Urbana.

Bielema met with the team Sunday night on Zoom. What did he say? “’I love it. You played hard. You were competitive. You did a lot of really good things. The film shows that,’” Bielema recalled. ‘”But we aren’t doing enough good things in all three phases to win. We’re not into participation ribbons. We’re into winning games.’”

Of course, he would have liked a different result, with Iowa extending its win streak against Illinois to eight games. “I’m very proud of our coaches, our players, not just the way they showed up on Saturday, but the way they handled the week,” Bielema said. “I wasn’t surprised, to be honest.”