The Wisconsin Badgers played like they were out to prove something and it showed early, jumping out to a quick 21-0 lead on the Illinois Fighting Illini in the first quarter en route to a 56-32 victory Saturday night in Champaign, IL. It was all thanks to a Badgers running game that couldn’t be stopped and a defense that played well for the most part, even withlinebacker Chris Borland being sidelined most of the game.
The Badgers scored their three touchdowns in the first quarter within five and a half minutes of each other, as James White kicked off the scoring with a two yard. It took the Badgers just four minutes later to find the end zone once again as Melvin Gordon scored his first touchdown of the night with 26 yard run. After the Badgers recovered a fumble on the Illini’s next drive, quarterback Joel Stave connected with Brian Wozniak from two yards out and you had the feeling that this game had all the makings for a huge blowout.
Illini quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase was not going to go down without a fight. After a rough first quarter, Scheelhaase found his rhythm and led the Illini on a 14 play, 67 yard drive that resulted in a field goal. The Illini scored touchdowns on their next two drives, a one yard run by Josh Ferguson and a one yard touchdown reception by Matt LaCosse from Aaron Bailey. Although Scheelhaase did not pass for a touchdown he did end up having a nice game, finishing with a line of 20-of-27 for 249 yards.
Coming out of the halftime the big story was linebacker Chris Borland coming out of the locker room. Borland injured his right leg in the first quarter covering a punt and obviously would not return. It was a blow to the defense but they made adjustments at the half and were able to buckle down and were able to shut out the Illini in the third quarter.
The big story however was the Badgers running attack of Melvin Gordon and James White once again. Gordon finished the game with 142 yards and three touchdowns, eclipsing the 1,000 yard mark seven games into the season. Not to be outdone, White had a didn’t have a slouch of a game either. The senior running back finished with 98 yards rushing and two touchdowns and he also caught another touchdown three yards out from Joel Stave. True freshman running back Corey Clement also decided to get into the touchdown frenzy by scoring one of his own, scoring five yards out with 2:20 left in the game.
Final tally for the tremendous trio running backs: 294 yards on 44 carries (6.7 avg) 6 rushing touchdowns.
Quietly wide receiver Jared Abbrederis had a nice game, catching 8 balls for 106 yards. Stave did as well, making no mistakes as he went 16-of-21 for 189 yards and two touchdowns. But both men were overshadowed but what the running backs were able to do tonight.
The Wisconsin Badgers improve to 5-2 overall, 3-1 in the Big Ten on the season as Illinois drops to 3-3 overall and 0-2 in conference play. The Badgers will have another week off before being tested on the road once again, facing off November 2 against the Iowa Hawkeyes.