Wisconsin Badgers vs. Illinois Fighting Illini: Final Thoughts From The 24-13 Win


The Wisconsin Badgers’ injury-plagued season continued on Saturday during their 24-13 road win against Illinois. With the injuries, Bart Houston proved he can be a quality backup in his first meaningful game experience, and where would the Badgers be without Alex Erickson?

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Wisconsin improved to 6-2 overall and 3-1 in the Big Ten, a half-game behind the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Big Ten West. Here are the Week 8 Final Thoughts from the Badgers’ victory over the Fighting Illini.

More Costly Injuries

While Joel Stave’s injury will create more discussion, a few more key contributors will sit out for an extended period of time. Fourth-year junior center Dan Voltz had been recovering from an elbow injury but exited in the third quarter with a right knee injury. Earlier on the same drive, junior wide receiver Rob Wheelwright left with a leg injury. Head coach Paul Chryst announced that Voltz will miss the remainder of the season, while Wheelwright has a chance to return.

Both players have dealt with injuries throughout their careers. Wheelwright has had a nice year operating as the Badgers’ second receiver. Voltz is a veteran on the inexperienced offensive line, and the unit will not get any of his teammates back. According to Chryst, fifth-year senior Ray Ball and redshirt sophomore Hayden Biegel will not be returning to the Badgers at any point this year.

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  • The offensive line played very poorly run blocking as well as pass protection in the Badgers’ first two drives, which led to a head injury for Stave. He returned on the third drive but left the game for good a few plays later.

    Bart Houston Shines

    With Stave’s injury in the first quarter, we finally got to see Badger fans’ favorite player get some extended playing time in a meaningful game that does not include rugby-style punting. When being thrown into action, Bart Houston played well, completing 22 of his 33 passes for 232 yards and threw two touchdowns.

    The numbers look good except for the two bad interceptions in the end zone. While Houston played well for the most part, there is no quarterback controversy in Madison. Stave has been cleared to practice, and he will start for the Badgers on Saturday.

    The Value of Alex Erickson

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    With Stave knocked out of the game early, fifth-year senior wide receiver Alex Erickson continued to be the dominant pass catcher for the Badgers. Erickson caught 10 passes for 96 yards and scored a touchdown. Erickson is the most valuable player on Wisconsin’s offense and even made an impact on the ground. With the running game still in a struggle with Dare Ogunbowale and Alec Ingold combining for an average of 2.3 yards per carry, Erickson led the team in the rushing attack with four carries for 81 yards.

    Last season, Wisconsin’s passing game included Erickson, and that was about it. Wheelwright developed into a solid No. 2 receiver, and the Badgers’ passing game took a huge hit with his recent injury. Somebody will need to step up and catch some passes for Wisconsin. Redshirt junior tight end Troy Fumagalli has gotten healthier and has started to contribute as a pass catcher with Austin Traylor out with an injury.

    Injuries continue to take a toll on this Wisconsin football team, but the Badgers have put themselves in position to contend for the Big Ten West.

    Next: Do The Badgers Have A QB Controversy?

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