After losing four straight conference games, the Wisconsin Badgers finally put head coach Bret Bielema’s “1-0” mantra into action, defeating the visiting Fighting Illini 27-17 at Camp Randall Stadium Saturday afternoon.
Behind three Dustin Sherer touchdowns, the Badgers recorded their first home win since Sept. 6.
Bielema discussed the victory at his weekly press conference Monday.
“It was a total team effort,” Bielema said. “I thought offense, defense and special teams, all three phases of our team were able to respond. It was a four-quarter game that we won, [which was] something we weren’t able to do during our four-game stretch.”
Calm at Quarterback
In just his second start for the Badgers, junior quarterback Dustin Sherer passed for two touchdowns, ran for another and recorded zero interceptions as he earned praise from his head coach.
“I thought he really adjusted to the game better,” Bielema said of Sherer. “In the Iowa game, we never really got over the hump. We weren’t able to convert on third down and give us a chance to get into the end zone.”
Sherer was aided in his efforts by sophomore wide receiver David Gilreath, who caught three balls for a career-high 71 yards and two scores.
Gilreath received offensive game honors from the UW coaching staff.
“He obviously had a big game with the two touchdowns,” Bielema said. “[He was] recognized for the things he was able to accomplish.”
Valai, Nortman also honored
Bielema praised sophomore defensive back Jay Valai for his performance against the Illini, as he recorded four solo tackles and one tackle for a loss.
“[Jay] had an exceptional game. [He] really did a great job reading and reacting to certain things,” Bielema said.
Freshman punter Brad Nortman was named Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week in addition to receiving recognition from the coaching staff.
Nortman averaged 51.7 yards per punt, including a career-high 64-yarder. Three of his punts were downed inside the Illini 20-yard line.
“I liked his approach,” Bielema said of his freshman. “I’ve been amazed at the way he concentrates on things. I think the last [punt] was the greatest indication of how much growth you can have in a short amount of time.”
Recruiting class to remain strong
With the Badgers dropping four straight Big Ten contests, worries about the caliber of next year’s recruiting class have emerged. But Bielema does not believe there is any reason for concern.
“Of the feedback I have gotten from recruits, it was just more words of encouragement,” Bielema said. “It reinforces why they want to be here more so than ever and it was very, very positive.”
Bielema expects both sophomore left tackle Gabe Carimi and senior right guard Kraig Urbik to return to practice this week.
Sophomore wide receiver Maurice Moore should also get back to the field this week.
“[Maurice] feels he should be able to make a go of it at practice tomorrow,” Bielema said. “He may be able to get into the rotation.”
Freshman defensive back Mario Goins suffered a concussion last Thursday but should return to practice Tuesday.
As for Travis Beckum’s season-ending broken left leg?
“Travis has done a lot here at the University of Wisconsin,” Bielema said. “He has a lot of great things that will help him in the future.”