Illinois head coach Bret Bielema on team’s response in PSU win: ‘They keep chopping wood’

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Illinois football is coming off an emotional win at Penn State last weekend, a nine-overtime thriller that saw the Illini knock off a top-10 team.

And when asked about the game during his midweek press availability, Illinois head coach Bret Bielema relied on a cliché that is fast becoming common around the Big Ten.

“They keep chopping wood and doing what we’re asking them to do,” Bielema said in response to a question this week about emotion and willpower factoring into their upset win.

“Emotion is very good on game day, but what we do on the field is what we’re trying to build our program on.”

Rutgers, which has their own ‘CHOP’ phrase plastered throughout the stadium, has been using the slogan since 2005. In fact, following a loss at Illinois in their season opener, Schiano began integrating the ‘chopping wood’ mantra that has become nationally synonymous with Rutgers football.

When asked this week, Schiano isn’t sure what happened to the original ax, saying that the idea and concept of the ‘CHOP’ is more important than the physical tool.

“But I do remember carrying that ax in that door right there and it still being wet – they went and got it wherever they got it and then they brought it to the machine shop and whoever was in there, painted it spray painted it red for us,” Schiano told reporters this week.

“And I remember afterward having red paint on my hands, but it was fitting. And certainly, you know, something that I had heard years before. And it fit the situation then.”

The ‘CHOP’ concept – the idea of the only way to take down a forest of trees was one chop at a time – was presented to Schiano prior to his time at Rutgers when he was defensive coordinator at Miami. Rutgers finished the 2005 season 7-5, making just the second bowl game in program history.

The mantra has taken off and seems to be resonating within the Big Ten. Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker has started using the chop refrain this year with players and staff using a chop hand motion on the sideline and in games as a rallying cry.