Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Illini give Badgers Halloween scare

[media-credit name=’RAY PFEIFFER/Herald photo’ align=’alignnone’ width=’648′]FB_Front_RP[/media-credit]Wisconsin (8-1, 5-1 Big Ten) received a scare of its own Halloween weekend, needing a defensive stand on Illinois' (2-7, 1-4 Big Ten) last drive to fend off the Illini for a 30-24 victory.

The No. 17 Badgers started the game out flat, trailing at halftime for the first time all season and playing catch-up for the first three quarters.

"We expected to play a lot better, especially coming out of the gate," cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu said. "We knew we were a better team but we didn't play that way in the first half."


Illinois jumped out to the lead off a 41-yard interception return by freshman safety Travon Bellamy toward the end of the first quarter and kept pouring it on, leading by as many as 18 points in the first half.

Wisconsin wasn't able to establish a sustaining drive early on and with running back P.J Hill going down with a nerve injury in the second quarter, head coach Bret Bielema looked to senior quarterback John Stocco and the passing game to turn the game around.

"It was very interesting to see the game unfold and see how [Stocco] handled it," Bielema said. "You can't faze him no matter what happens. It's not only the plays that he makes, but our offense entirely. We need someone to control the game."

Stocco completed 11-of-15 passes in the second half, connecting with Luke Swan for a 17-yard touchdown pass on Wisconsin's first offensive possession in the third quarter to pull within 7 points.

But it was linebacker Mark Zalewski's interception on the previous series that Bielema felt was the spark UW needed.

"'Zew' doesn't have the best hands in the world, so I was just happy to see him catch it," Bielema said. "But that converted into our first touchdown offensively."

Hill returned in the second half, but only carried the ball three times and sat out the rest of the game following another injury with seven minutes remaining in the third quarter.

Hill's backup, true freshman Lance Smith, didn't have the best day on the ground, rushing 21 times for 46 yards, but managed to punch in a 1-yard touchdown.

Illinois' true freshman, on the other hand, caused problems for Wisconsin's defense all day long.

The Michael Vick-esque quarterback Juice Williams threw for 171 yards and touchdown and also ran for 53 yards, juking and jiving past Badger defenders.

"We knew this game was going to come down to one-on-one tackling," Bielema said. "[Williams] was able to win some of those."

"He can do some things with his feet," Zalewski added. "He can make guys miss, and he's got some speed. He's pretty tough."

Wisconsin was able to contain Williams in the second half, however, holding him to only 2 rushing yards after halftime.

With the Badger defense stepping up and pulling Illinois' offense to a screeching halt in the second half, Wisconsin's offense was able to go to work, scoring 20 unanswered points.

Following Swan's 17-yard touchdown catch, Illinois had a chance to respond and keep its momentum going.

With a third-and-one on its own 42-yard line, Illinois completely fooled Wisconsin's defense as running back E.B. Halsey streaked downfield on a route every Badger assumed was a running play, after the Illini hustled to the line of scrimmage for a quick snap after breaking the huddle expeditiously.

But Williams overthrew Halsey by 5 yards, forcing Illinois to punt and putting the fight out of the Illini.

Wisconsin captured its first lead in the start of the fourth quarter when Stocco hit tight end Andy Crooks on a screen pass in which Crooks stormed downfield for 21 yards, fumbled at the 1-yard line and recovered his own fumble for a touchdown.

Kicker Taylor Mehlhaff later hit a 33-yard field goal — his longest of three on the day — to give Wisconsin a 30-24 lead.

After Mehlhaff's kick, Illinois failed to gain a first down and after a Wisconsin three-and out, the Illini got the ball back at their own 18-yard line and 1:28 remaining on the clock.

Down by only 6 points, Illinois had the opportunity to tie or win the game, but Wisconsin's defense simply wasn't having it.

"You got to man up that drive," linebacker Jonathan Casillas said. "If they convert, they're coming back and got a shot now, but if we get them off the field, the game's over."

While the game wasn't the most convincing victory for Wisconsin, many team members felt as though it will help them in the long run.

"I'm happy it happened now than later down the road," defensive tackle Nick Hayden said. "We just have to learn from it."

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