Lovie Smith knew his program needed a signature win, something to point at to prove the program was heading in the right direction. Illinois had come close, but never closed the deal.

That all changed on Saturday afternoon. No. 6 Wisconsin (6-0) headed into Champaign as a four-touchdown favorite against 2-4 Illinois. But the Badgers left a loser.

Illinois knocked off Wisconsin 24-23, thanks to a game-winning field goal from James McCourt, who knocked home a 39-yard attmept to lift the Illini over the Badgers. It was the first B1G win of the season for Illinois and the first loss of the year for Wisconsin.

It was also the first marquee victory of the Smith era.

After the game, Smith was emotional while speaking with Big Ten Network’s Rick Pizzo. He knew it was time for the Illini to finally break through.

“We’ve been close a couple times, where we felt like we had a chance to win the game,” Smith said. “We had a great game plan, we’re healthy now, and when we’re healthy, we’re a pretty good football team. All the credit goes to these guys, who finally finished the game.

“We hope that more people take notice. We got a great new facility, we’re a better football team and hopefully people will start looking at us and see a team that can contend week to week…Our program, we needed to get a signature win. I was just hoping today was the day, and the day came.”

Below is the full interview between Pizzo and Smith.