What happened and what mattered in the Wisconsin 49-20 win over Illinois?
Wisconsin 49, Illinois 20
The conditions got nasty for a stretch, so give the Badgers just a little bit of a break for not being perfect, but this was hardly the air-tight performance they might have wanted against a bad, bad team.
Alex Hornibrook threw two interceptions, and the defense gave up 210 rushing yards, but the offensive line did its part. Jonathan Taylor didn’t run for a score, but he led the way with 159 of the team’s 357 rushing yards. Taiwan Deal ran for 111 yards and two scores, and there wasn’t any problem getting the offense moving, but …
Considering the game was played in a snow globe for a stretch, Hornibrook’s 13-of-22 day was fine. The offense only converted three of eight third down tries, and had several easy chances thanks to the five takeaways from the defensive side, but this still wasn’t the type of performance to make Badger fans feel any easier. However, take a look at what Michigan did to Michigan State’s passing game. That Wolverine defense is the truth.
Illinois doesn’t have the lines yet. Reggie Corbin ripped off an 80-yard run, and the ground game wasn’t awful, but the turnovers and the inability to do anything on the defensive front killed any hope of ever taking over. AJ Bush ran for 47 yards, but he couldn’t throw, completing 2-of-8 passes for ten yards with two picks.
This was fine, but the Badgers can’t miss the four-foot putt at Northwestern next week. With three of the next four games on the road, closing out the West won’t be easy – this just isn’t last year’s team.
Illinois has a doable run of at Maryland, Minnesota, and at Nebraska. Win two of this three, and bowl hopes are still alive. However, the run defense has to be far stronger, and at this point in the season, some semblance of a playmaker has to emerge for the passing game.