Wisconsin Football: Get To Know The Illinois Fighting Illini


The Wisconsin football team will look for its third Big Ten victory this weekend when it hits the road to take on the Illinois Fighting Illini.

READ ALSO: Big Ten Standings: Three Unbeatens Left

The Badgers are 2-1, hot off a home victory on Homecoming, 24-7 over the Purdue Boilermakers. Wisconsin’s offense moved the ball well through the air, and the defense gave Purdue fits all day.

The Badgers hit the road for their second true road game of the season. The last true road game resulted in a comeback win over Nebraska.

Saturday’s opponent, the Illinois Fighting Illini, also earned a late victory against the Cornhuskers.

Here’s what you need to know about the Illini:

Record: 4-2, 1-1 B1G

Wisconsin Badgers
Wisconsin Badgers /

Wisconsin Badgers

Season So Far: The Illini opened the season with a couple of blowout victories over lesser competition before being trounced 48-14 by North Carolina. The Illini then earned a close victory over Montana State before heading to the Big Ten season, where Illinois has been competitive.

The Illini opened with a 14-13 win over the Nebraska Cornhuskers, and fell to the Iowa Hawkeyes 29-20 in another close game. Illinois has already had a bye week in Big Ten play.

Top Players: Quarterback Wes Lunt leads the Illini offensive attack. The junior thrower has completed 58.4 percent of his passes for 1,424 yards, nine touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. His last time out, Lunt threw for over 300 yards and a touchdown in Illinois loss to Iowa. Lunt isn’t a threat to run, but is having a strong season throwing the ball.

At running back, starter Josh Ferguson has dealt with injuries on the way to 381 yards and three scores on 71 carries. He’s doubtful for Saturday, and if he can’t go, the Badgers can expect to se Ke’Shawn Vaughn, who leads the Illini with 392 yards and three scores on 95 attempts. Neither running back is used extensively in the passing game, but they have caught a collective 19 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown.

Senior wide receiver Geronimo Allison is the clear-cut top target of the Illini passing game. The receiver has 40 catches for 601 yards and three touchdowns, already rivaling his season output of 41 catches, 598 yards and five touchdowns a year ago.

Behind Allison, sophomore receiver Marchie Murdock has 20 catches for 194 yards and three scores, and true freshman Desmond Caine has 22 grabs for 176 yards. Sophomore Malik Turner also has 13 grabs for 155 yards and a score.

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  • Senior defensive back Clayton Fejedelem leads the Illini defense with 55 total tackles, followed closely by linebacker T.J. Neal, who has 53 total tackles. The pass rush has been almost non-existent for the Illini outside of linebacker/defensive lineman Dawuane Smoot, who has five sacks, the only Illinois player to notch at least a full sack. Illinios has six total sacks, Jihad Ward and Jerrod Clemens share the other.

    Defensive backs Taylor Barton and Eaton Spence have each pulled down multiple interceptions (Barton three, Spence two) as Illinois has forced seven interceptions and recovered three fumbles.

    Outlook: The Badgers defense will be tested through the air against Illinois, so it is imperative that the defensive front seven continues its dominance. Wisconsin hasn’t allowed much to opposing offenses, and doesn’t plan to start Saturday.

    Wisconsin’s own offense will need to avoid costly turnovers, the only things that have truly pressured its own defense. Joel Stave can’t afford any more bad interceptions, and the running game should benefit from a better-prepared offensive line.

    The Badgers should be able to leave Champaign with a win on Saturday.

    Next: Final Thoughts From Wisconsin's Win Over Purdue

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