Bears

University of Illinois bowl-eligible for the first time under Lovie Smith following amazing comeback win

University of Illinois bowl-eligible for the first time under Lovie Smith following amazing comeback win

Lovie Smith—who is no stranger to improbable comebacks—has indeed done it again. The University of Illinois head coach led the squad to a wild comeback win over the Michigan State Spartans on Saturday.

Of course, any time Smith leads a squad to a huge comeback win, what first comes to mind is the Bears' now-infamous comeback win in the desert against the Arizona Cardinals in 2006.

That was the matchup at the University of Phoenix Stadium where the Bears trailed the Cards 20-0 before rallying to finish with a one-point, 24-23 win. That was the first time in Bears franchise history that they were able to win a game after trailing by at least 20 points in the second half. This was the same kind of magic that Lovie conjured up on Saturday night to lead U of I to the monumental win.

At one point during Saturday's game, the Illini were down 28-3 and, shortly thereafter, they were down 31-10 following a 46-yard Brandon Peters touchdown pass to and a Michigan State field goal that stretched their lead to 21 points.

At the end of the third quarter, Michigan State's win probability was a whopping 99.6%.

Spartans quarterback Brian Lewerke, who had two interceptions in the first quarter, rebounded and led the Spartans to two scoring drives in the second quarter. In that period, he had a touchdown pass to Tre Mosley and led MSU to another touchdown drive before the field goal in the third that made the score 31-10 MSU.

That field goal to stretch the lead to 21 was the last MSU score before the start of the Illinois comeback for the ages.

The Illini defense, which was the sixth-worst in the Big Ten in opponents points per game coming into Saturday night, held the Spartans to six second-half points and scored a touchdown on an exciting 76-yard interception return.  This set up the stage for Illini quarterback Brandon Peters, who threw two touchdowns in the final frame, including the game-winning five-yard strike to Daniel Barker.

The thrilling comeback win clinches bowl eligibility for the Fighting Illini under Smith, and represents the best stretch of Smith's collegiate career to this point. U of I's has now rattled off four consecutive wins over No. 6 Wisconsin, Purdue, Rutgers and now MSU. 

Saturday's comeback victory over the Spartans was the biggest comeback in program history and has set up the Illini for a great close to their season.

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Under Center Podcast: Under Center Pod and Halas Intrigue Pod mashup

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USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: Under Center Pod and Halas Intrigue Pod mashup

The Under Center Podcast unites with the Chicago Sun-Times' Halas Intrigue Podcast for a star-studded event.

Laurence Holmes and JJ Stankevitz are joined by Patrick Finley, Jason Lieser and Mark Potash to discuss the Bears' quarterback competition and the different opinions about Mitch Trubisky between GM Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy.

(1:51) - Are you surprised the NFL is proceeding as normal?

(9:45) - Does the NFL have a responsibility to the sponsors during this downtime?

(13:48) - Now that we know Foles' contract, does this fix the Bears QB situation?

(22:18) - Can Mitch Trubisky still be redeemed?

(30:00) - Why did the Bears make so many coaching changes?

(37:40) - Mark Potash joins the podcast

Listen here or below.

Under Center Podcast

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker on if Bears', 2020 NFL season will start on time

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on if Bears', 2020 NFL season will start on time

On Saturday, President Trump talked to several commissioners of professional sports leagues and reportedly told them that he believes the NFL season will start on time despite the ongoing pandemic. A day later, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker was asked about that possibility.

On CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, Jake Tapper asked Pritzker if the Bears would be playing in Soldier Field in September, and if there would be fans. Pritzker did not give a definitive prediction.

“Well, the Bears are a great team whether they’re playing or not, but I will say this, it’s not up to us,” Pritzker said. “We don’t know. None of us really knows. But what I do know is this; if the researchers are able to come up with a treatment, something that will save lives, something that will keep people off ventilators, maybe even keep them out of hospitals, then that will be an enormous development for our country and for the future. It may allow us to open things up in the way the president is describing. But the truth is that no one predicts now that we’re going to have that treatment any time in the next few weeks or even in the next month, and no one really knows if we’ll have it by September.”

“What we do know is that if you have a vaccine, that ultimately will help us deal with the problem,” Pritzker said. “Because it’s either going to be a treatment and herd immunity that ultimately allows us to open everything back up, or it’s a vaccine.”

The sports world will continue to hold its breath until there are more answers.

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