The surely former No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers (6-1, 3-1 Big Ten) fell to Illinois (3-4, 1-3) in a shocking defeat in Champaign, Illinois. For a team that dominated all previous opponents in such a decisive manner, losing to one of the worst teams in all the Big Ten is quite a bad look.
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It’s tough to pin down exactly why the Badgers played so poorly. For starters, their defense was completely flat to start the game. Illinois is the first team all season to score a touchdown in the first half against the Badgers. Even worse is the fact that it came on a simple crossing route after a string of missed tackles by the Badger secondary.
The Badgers gave up 315 all purpose yards to the Illini offense this week, a very high number compared to their past performances against teams that they outmatched in practically every facet of the game.
Without a doubt, though, turnovers were the main reason that Wisconsin crashed and burned against the Illini. The Badgers lost two fumbles, including one from Jonathan Taylor that the Illini then capitalized on by scoring a touchdown.
This was one of three turnovers Illinois forced, two of which created touchdown drives. The final turnover, an interception thrown by Jack Coan as he targeted Jake Ferguson, provided the Illini with a chance to kick the game winning field goal.
Illini kicker James McCourt did not disappoint Champaign.
The Badgers gave Illinois a chance to stay in the game through sloppy handling of the ball and a lackluster defense that simply looked flat all day. With yet another heartbreaking loss this season, Badger nation is left once again asking, “Well, what now?”
No one really knows. This game can either be interpreted as a one off anomaly in which the stars perfectly aligned in favor of the Illini or as an indicator that the Badgers aren’t the team everyone though they were.
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Perhaps too optimistically, it makes sense to lean toward the former. This is the first time this season that turnovers have plagued the Badgers, and it’s certainly not like the Illini defense is anything special. Mental mistakes seem to lie at the heart of what made this game a close contest to begin with.
With an undefeated and unshaken The Ohio State University lurking on the horizon, it’s time to refocus and reset before the Badgers take on what will undoubtedly be their toughest test of the season next Saturday.