Illinois move to 3-1 for the season, best start since 2015

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The Illinois Football Team Fighting Illinois is off to its best start since 2015, going 3-1 this season after beating Chattanooga 31-0 on Thursday night.

Illinois quarterback Tommy DeVito completed 23 of 31 passes for 329 yards and three touchdowns as Illinois put back Chattanooga its first loss of the season.

Illinois QB Tommy DeVito, No. 3, interviewed by Big Ten Network sideline reporter Elise Menaker following a college football game between the Chattanooga Mocs and Illinois Fighting Illini on September 1.  February 22, 2022 at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Illinois.

Illinois QB Tommy DeVito, No. 3, interviewed by Big Ten Network sideline reporter Elise Menaker following a college football game between the Chattanooga Mocs and Illinois Fighting Illini on September 1. February 22, 2022 at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Illinois.
(Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

In the second year under head coach Bret Bielema, the Fighting Illini allowed just nine runs in its three wins, with the lone loss coming at Indiana in Week 1.

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The Fighting Illini allowed just 142 total yards, 49 of them through the air, and allowed no touchdowns in their three wins.

“The sky’s the limit for this defense, man,” Illinois defensive back Jartavius ​​Martin said.

“Coach (Ryan) Walters came in and set a great standard for our defence,” he added. “Just by believing in us as a unit, we believe in him and know he’s going to put us in the right place.”

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Illinois running back Chase Brown rushed for 108 yards on 20 carries, becoming the first running back from Illinois to rush for 100 yards in five straight games, according to The Associated Press.

Illinois QB Tommy DeVito's football helmet, #3, sits on the grass after a college football game between the Chattanooga Mocs and Illinois Fighting Illini September 29.  February 22, 2022 at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Illinois.

Illinois QB Tommy DeVito’s football helmet, #3, sits on the grass after a college football game between the Chattanooga Mocs and Illinois Fighting Illini September 29. February 22, 2022 at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Illinois.
(Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“I think we’re just beginning to understand who we are,” Bielema said. “I really like the way this group works.”

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Now Bielema must prepare his team for a return to his old stomping grounds in Week 5 – Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin.

Bielema had a fantastic run as the Badgers head coach from 2006-2012, going 68-24 at Madison and leading the Badgers to two Rose Bowl appearances.

Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Bret Bielema gestures during the game against the Chattanooga Mocs at Memorial Stadium on September 29, 2019. died February 22, 2022 in Champaign, Illinois.

Illinois Fighting Illini head coach Bret Bielema gestures during the game against the Chattanooga Mocs at Memorial Stadium on September 29, 2019. died February 22, 2022 in Champaign, Illinois.
(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

I left Wisconsin for the Arkansas Head Coach Job in 2013 before being fired in 2017.

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“Obviously there’s a lot of history,” Bielema said Thursday when asked about his return to Wisconsin, according to 247 Sports. “I tell our players that I’ve never met a successful man who isn’t proud of where he comes from. I’m from Illinois, I played and coached in Iowa, I went to Kansas State for a bit and spent a lot of my career coaching Wisconsin, both as coordinator and head coach.

“I’m very proud of what I achieved there, but none of those accomplishments will help us next Saturday. Nothing we did on the pitch is going to continue.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.