This was the eighty-first meeting between Illinois and Wisconsin and both teams needed a win more than ever. Wisconsin was 3-0 at home but was just coming off a tough road loss last week at Northwestern. Illinois was also coming off a tough loss, losing 38-27 against Purdue but the loss was not even the worst of it. During that game quarterback, Wes Lunt suffered a broken leg and would now be out 4-6 weeks. Senior Reilly O’Toole now replaced Lunt at the quarterback position.
Wisconsin also was struggling to figure out whom their starting quarterback would be and today the starter was Joel Stave. The Badgers came out to play though and put points on the board early, marching right down the field on their first possession of the game. Heisman Trophy candidate and running back Melvin Gordon ran the ball in for a fifteen-yard touchdown.
The fighting Illini were able to respond after a great seventy-two-yard punt and huge defensive stand to regain possession of the ball. In less than five plays, O’Toole threw a pass into the end zone to Matt LaCosse, and Illinois tied the game at seven.
Wisconsin went three and out and Illinois once again received the ball with a short field already in Wisconsin territory. Illinois soon found themselves in the red zone and O’Toole threw his second touchdown pass of the day to Geronimo Allison with 3:08 remaining in the first quarter.
At the end of the first quarter, Illinois lead Wisconsin, 14-7.
Wisconsin’s running back Melvin Gordon would not be stopped for long though and at the start of the second quarter scored his second touchdown of the game with a six-yard run, tying the game back up at fourteen all.
The Illini would not be able to stay hot and were forced off the field by the Badgers defense. Ben Ruechel sacked O’Toole for the first time in the game.
After the Illinois punt, Tanner McEvoy came out to replace Stave at quarterback and lead the Badgers offense back on to the field. After completing a couple of passes and being nearly picked off in the end zone, McEvoy and the Badgers were stopped. The Wisconsin field goal unit was brought out and freshman Rafael Gaglianone attempted a forty-seven-yard field goal. The kick was no good, missing wide to the left.
With 2:47 left in the second quarter, the fighting Illini went for it on fourth and two, but Josh Ferguson was stuffed in the backfield, turning the ball over on downs.
The Badgers would come right back on to the field, only needing two plays to score for the third time in the game. A thirty-four-yard run by Kenzel Doe set up a thirty-yard scoring run for Melvin Gordon, his third touchdown of the game. Wisconsin regained the lead, 21-14.
The Wisconsin punt set up Illinois to come back on to the field. After a defensive penalty, O’Toole was able to pick up another first down. The Illinois offense found themselves in trouble though and with a fourth and ten had to punt the ball back to Wisconsin.
Stave was now back on the field in the quarterback position and the Badgers star player, Gordon again ran for a big gain, picking up forty-six-yards. Wisconsin was able to add three more points on the board with a made forty-four-yard field goal by Gaglianone.Wisconsin had a ten-point lead at half time over Illinois, 24-14.
Illinois got the ball first to start the second half, but the first play resulted in a four-yard loss. On a big three and twelve play, O’Toole was sacked for the third time in the game and Wisconsin gained the ball.
Wisconsin appeared to be fired up and started their first drive of the second half just behind the fifty-yard line. Stave continued as the quarterback on the field. The Illinois defense made a good stop though, forcing a three and out and a Badgers punt.
Illinois picked up a first down at the sixteen and a fifteen-yard run by O’Toole lead to another first down on the drive. The offensive struggles continued for the fighting Illini and O’Toole was sacked for the fourth time in the game. The sack forced a long third down and Illinois was not able to convert. It was another punt for the Illini.
Corey Clement for the Badgers with a big play ran the ball deep for fifty-one-yards, but the Illinois defense forced a four and one. That would not stop the Badgers from going for it and continuing the drive. After picking up another first down, Gordon ran the ball to the four-yard line for a second and goal. Once again, the Illinois defense fell short and could not stop Gordon. He scored his fourth touchdown of the game, stretching Wisconsin’s lead to seventeen.
O’Toole would again lead the fighting Illini on to the field, but would not even be able to pick up a first down. The Badger defense would get the offense right back on to the field.
With just one play, Wisconsin busted the game wide open. A seventy-two-yard run by Corey Clement lead the Badgers to another touchdown, making the score 38-14.
With that play, the fighting Illini changed quarterbacks putting sophomore Aaron Bailey into the game. He did not have much luck his first drive on the field though and the Badgers picked up their fifth sack of the game. Once again, the ball had to be punted.
The Illinois defense was able to force a three an out and run the punt back for thirty-one-yards, setting up good field position for the offense. Quarterback Bailey had much better luck the next time out and ran twenty-nine-yards for Illinois’ first score of the second half. The touchdown run cut Wisconsin’s lead to seventeen.
The Wisconsin pass game continued to struggle, but Stave did a good job at protecting the football.
Illinois marched down the field for its second score of the half, a one-yard touchdown run by Donovonn Young. Just like that, the lead was cut to ten.
With an onside kick attempt, Illinois was able to maintain position and with 2:53 left in the game have a chance to make a comeback.
An issue that continued all day though was Illinois had problems defending the blitz, leading to the Badgers sixth sack of the game. With a third and nine, Bailey threw deep and pass interference was called against Wisconsin. Lining up inside the forty, Bailey threw a ball deep into the end zone but it would be picked off by Wisconsin for the first turnover of the game for either team.
Just like that, Wisconsin lined up in victory formation and the Badgers got the win at home. Melvin Gordon had a total of one-hundred and seventy-five-yards and made Badger history. Gordon became the quickest running back in Wisconsin history to reach 1,000 yards in a season and passed Alan Ameche for tenth all-time for rushing yards in school history.
Final score: Wisconsin 38 and Illinois 28
Both of these teams are now headed into bye weeks and will be back in action on October 25. Wisconsin is scheduled to play Maryland and Illinois is scheduled to take on Minnesota.