CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Illinois offensive coordinator Rod Smith spoke to local and statewide media for his weekly media conference via Zoom video on Monday, Oct. 26.
The topics included the paltry offensive performance in the 45-7 loss at No. 14 Wisconsin Friday night.
Rod Smith is in his third season as offensive coordinator at Illinois in 2020. Smith was hired by head coach Lovie Smith on Jan. 19, 2018, coming to Champaign-Urbana after six seasons as co-offensive coordinator at Arizona.
Rod Smith helped lead Illinois to the 2019 Redbox Bowl, the program's first bowl in five years, after two of the most memorable victories in Illini history. Illinois clinched bowl eligibility with a 37-34 win at Michigan State in the biggest comeback in program history. Illinois trailed 28-3 in the second quarter and 31-10 entering the fourth to tie the largest fourth-quarter comeback in a Big Ten game in the last 40 seasons by outscoring Michigan State 27-3 in the fourth quarter, including Daniel Barker's game-winning touchdown reception from Brandon Peters with five seconds left. Illinois' 27 fourth-quarter points were the most by an opponent in the 96-year, 544-game history of Michigan State's Spartan Stadium.
Smith also led the Fighting Illini to one of the biggest upsets in Big Ten history with a 24-23 victory over No. 6 Wisconsin on Oct. 19, 2019. Illinois entered the day as a 30-point underdog before James McCourt's 39-yard field goal as time expired sent Illini fans rushing to the Memorial Stadium field in one of the greatest Homecoming scenes in University of Illinois history. The Wisconsin victory sprung Illinois to four straight Big Ten wins, the first four-game Big Ten winning streak for the Fighting Illini since the 2001 Big Ten Championship team finished the regular season with seven straight conference victories. Illinois finished the 2019 regular season 6-6 and 4-5 in the Big Ten.
Smith engineered a huge turnaround to the Illinois offense in 2018, led by All-Big Ten running back Reggie Corbin. Corbin was third in FBS in yards per carry (8.5) during the regular season as Illinois leaped in the national rankings to 12th in rushing yards per game (+110 spots in the rankings), second in 40+ yard runs (+93), 51st in yards per play (+73) and 62nd in total offense (+64).
The revamped Illinois offense made the biggest improvement in the nation in rushing, averaging 137.4 yards more in 2018 than in 2017. The Illini averaged 243.0 rushing yards per game, good for second-best in the Big Ten and fifth on the Illinois season rushing average list.
Smith brought more than 22 years of coaching experience to Illinois and has coached in 10 bowl games. Prior to his stop at Arizona, Smith was co-offensive coordinator at Indiana (2011), quarterbacks coach at Michigan (2008-10), quarterbacks coach at West Virginia (2007), offensive coordinator at South Florida (2005-06), and quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator at USF from 2001-04.