Champaign, Illinois- What started off as a promising game, turned into yet another ugly defeat for the Illinois Fighting Illini. Promises, promises. A promising 6-0 season is now officially destroyed. With just one game left in the season, Illinois is still bowl eligible, but lost their final game at home to the #17 Wisconsin Badgers.
Illinois is now 6-5 for the season and has a 2-5 record in Big Ten Conference play.
The first quarter of the game was scoreless. Wisconsin’s offense was sloppy for pretty much the entire first half. Illinois’ offense did something it’s been unable to do for the previous games, and that’s move the ball. Illinois started the second quarter in Wisconsin territory. Looking at a 2nd down and 10 at the Wisconsin 12 yard line, freshman running back Donovonn Young took the ball into the endzone. He gave the Illini the first points of the game and the lead, 7-0. On Wisconsin’s next possession, Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson connected on a 20 yard pass to receiver Nick Toon. After a Montee Ball 3 yard rush, the Badgers would put the ball into Illinois territory on a 24 yard pass from Russell Wilson to Nick Toon yet again. On the next snap, Illini Whitney Mercilus would sack Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson, forcing a fumble. The fumble was recovered by Illinois. Illinois linebacker Jonathan Brown recovered the fumble at the Illinois 30 yard line and would return it all the was down to the Wisconsin 36 yard line. This put Illinois in great field position.
Illinois would choose to switch quarterback play between sophomore Nathan Scheelhaase and freshman Reilly O’Toole the entire game.
After an Illini penalty for illlegal holding (15 yard penalty), freshman running back Donovonn Young had a huge run for 22 yards taking the ball to the Wisconsin 29 yard line. Reilly O’Toole would fine Jon Davis and then Darius Millines to take the ball to the Wisconsin 19 yard line. Another huge Illinois rush, this time by Troy Pollard, would take the ball to the 4 yard line. Donovonn Young received his second touchdown of the game two short rushes later. Illinois was now up 14-0.
Illinois would apply some pressure, including a forced fumble by Illini Terry Hawthorne. Wisconsin would recover this one, but find themselves forced to punt shortly after.
Illinois would go 3 and out on their next possession, but punter Justin DuVernois would fumble the snap. Wisconsin recovered the fumble at the Illini 2 yard line. Wisconsin’s Montee Ball would rush it into the endzone two plays later making the score now 14-7.
With 2:55 left in the first half, Reilly O’Toole and the Illinois offense would move the ball down field and extend their lead before half on a 41 yard field goal by kicker Derek Dimke. Illinois was up 17-7 at halftime.
Illinois owned the first half and went to the locker room with momentum on their side. Wisconsin went into the locker room in shock, but would come out ready.
The turnover disease that has plagued the Illini, showed it’s face on their first possession. After a 5 yard completion from Scheelhaase to receiver Darius Millines, Wisconsin defender Chris Bolan would force the fumble. Mike Taylor of Wisconsin would recover. The Wisconsin’s power run game would kick in. Badger running back Montee Ball would own this series and single-handedly rush the ball multiple times down to the Illinois 5 yard line. The series ended with Russell Wilson finding Ball on a 5 yard touchdown pass. Wisconsin was coming back with the score now 17-14.
Reilly O’Toole would take command of the offense again and…………………. another turnover. O’Toole was picked off by Wisconsin’s Antonio Fenelus at the Wisconsin 31 yard line.
Wisconsin would be forced to punt on their next series and Illinois would return the favor on their next series.
Wisconsin would star with the ball at the Illinois 44 yard line after the punt. Montee Ball would rush the ball successfully and get the ball to the Illini 1 yard line. Russell Wilson would run it in himself, putting Wisconsin in the lead, 17-21.
The game went downhill for the Illini after that. The next Illinois’ series, O’Toole was picked off. Monte Ball continued his dominance of the entire Illini defense again. This time on a touchdown after a 17 yard rush. The score was now 17-28.
Nathan Scheelhaase would successfully take the offense to the Wisconsin 29 yard line. Wisconsin’s defense would then bank on another turnover. Scheelhaase was picked off. Wisconsin would run out the clock and end the game.
Both offenses posted similar numbers. The only difference was turnovers. Illinois had 4 turnovers that a majority of them were turned into Wisconsin points. Wisconsin only had 1 turnover.
Illinois will end their season next weekend at Minnesota.