Badgers football: Wisconsin defeats Illinois 24-10 despite underwhelming play
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The University of Wisconsin football team put together another underwhelming performance Saturday at Illinois but earned yet another victory.
Such has been the story since Big Ten play began for the fifth-ranked Badgers (8-0, 5-0), who enter the final month of the regular season undefeated after their 24-10 win at Memorial Stadium.
UW’s offense struggled much of the game and never looked comfortable from the start. Illinois (2-6, 0-5) sold out against the run and stuffed Badgers freshman sensation Jonathan Taylor behind the line twice on their first two drives, both three-and-outs.
The running game did briefly find a spark, as UW ran on 14 of its 15 plays during a 8 minute, 5 second touchdown drive to close the first quarter. The Badgers handed the ball off 12 straight times before Alec Ingold’s 1-yard touchdown on fourth down, and Taylor ripped off gains of 10 and 29 yards.
Taylor left in the second quarter with a left leg injury and did not return, however, making life for UW’s offense even more difficult despite facing an Illini defense that ranked 83rd nationally in total defense and 110th against the run entering Saturday.
A sack-fumble from outside linebacker Tyler Johnson set up the Badgers’ other first-half score — a seven-play, 50-yard drive that Garrett Groshek capped off with a 2-yard run.
UW’s defense continued making big plays when the Badgers needed them.
Inside linebacker Chris Orr sacked quarterback Jeff George Jr. late in the second half from inside the UW 5-yard line, holding Illinois to a field goal. When the Illini drove deep into Badgers territory again early in the fourth quarter, safety Joe Ferguson picked off a pass from true freshman Cam Thomas.
Taylor finished with 73 yards on 12 carries before exiting. Bradrick Shaw gained 40 yards on 12 carries, while Groshek had 51 yards on 12 carries.
Quarterback Alex Hornibrook threw a second-quarter interception, his seventh in five Big Ten games, and finished 10-of-19 for 135 yards.
UW’s final touchdown came on a trick play with less than four minutes remaining. Hornibrook threw a backward pass to left tackle Michael Deiter, who ran in for a 4-yard score.