Bielema “pretty sure” Personal Foul Penalties Won’t Happen vs. Maryland

Illinois head coach Bret Bielema says he’s spoken to the players assessed with unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in last weekend’s blowout loss to Virginia.

By Matt Stevens - IlliniGuys Football Writer/Analyst

September 17, 2021

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Without necessarily guaranteeing it, Bret Bielema is personally convinced that the personal foul penalties in the blowout loss at Virginia were handled quick, fast and in a hurry.

“That definitely got addressed,” Bielema said. “As a head coach, I can always address those things when they happen, but usually I’m (angry), they are obviously (angry), they just had it, so it’s usually never a great situation to learn from.”

Bielema has said he and his staff have addressed the personal foul penalties the Illini (1-2) were called for with the players assessed for after-the-whistle penalties in the second half of the 42-14 loss last weekend at Virginia. Those players would include outside linebacker Isaiah Gay, inside linebacker Tarique Barnes and tailback Chase Brown.

“We took a deep breath. I addressed that individually with those players on Sunday and I’m pretty sure that’s something...our team won’t do again.”

Brown, who was assessed with a 15-yard penalty for taunting in the third quarter after a 7-yard run, said Tuesday that he “crossed a line” with what he said to multiple Virginia defenders.

“When you’re going up against a team that talks, you can’t retaliate,” Brown said. “It’s definitely something I shouldn’t do. I should’ve kept my mouth shut. It doesn’t help my team because I’m getting a penalty and going forward, it’s something I need to learn from.”

Beyond the after-the-whistle infractions, Illinois was charged with 90 yards of penalties and that’s the second-most for the program since the beginning of last season.

“One of the three biggest ways you can effectively lose games is penalties, mental errors and turnovers. Two areas we’re really concentrating on are penalties and mental errors,” Bielema said. “With the penalties, things are going to happen during the course of the game. It’s a physical game. Every player that’s played the game you realize you get caught in an occasional situation: the offensive lineman might hold, a defensive player might have a facemask. Post-snap or pre-snap, whatever you want to call it, the plays that happen before the ball has started play or after the ball is played, you can’t have that. It can’t be tolerated.”

Bielema has used the Sunday film session to review the penalties and wrap them around the overall message coming out of the blowout loss to address players reverting back to a losing behavior created by a program that hasn’t had a winning season since 2011.

“I think it was kind of a frustration level from a lot of our guys that reverted back to some bad techniques, some techniques that definitely don’t want to surface up again,” Bielema said. “I think we’ve got to wrap up, tackle, run through and not dive at people’s feet. I think that will be a good start."

Illinois allowed Virginia to execute 11 passing plays over 15 yards and five rushing plays of 10 yards or more. Of those 16 big plays given up by the Illini defense, Virginia was the beneficiary of an Illini penalty before the specific play happened.

“The big one is mental errors. Someone asked the question earlier about slow starts. We’ve just had some things that we’re not on the same page as players and coaches at the beginning of the game with mental errors,” Bielema said. “We’ve got to make sure when we make the calls they know how to execute it and vice versa that we as coaches have to have confidence in them knowing the plan.”

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