TownNews.com Content Exchange

The University of Wisconsin running back speaks to the media Saturday after rushing for 131 yards and a touchdown in the Badgers' 24-0 win over the Illinois Fighting Illini at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Il.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The University of Wisconsin football team improved to 2-3 overall and 1-2 in Big Ten play with a 24-0 win over Illinois on Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium. Here are my three quick thoughts on the game:

What a rush

This looked — and felt — more like Wisconsin football.

Check out UW’s first three scoring drives:

18 plays, 67 yards, 9:44.

14, plays, 79 yards, 6:50.

13 plays, 75 yards, 6:22.

The Badgers finished with 391 yards rushing, including 145 from Chez Mellusi and 131 from freshman Braelon Allen. It was the first time UW had two players go for more than 100 yards since Jonathan Taylor (159) and Taiwan Deal (111) did so against Illinois on Oct. 20, 2018.

And yes, a caveat needs to be attached that this big day on the ground came against Illinois. Still, it was finally something to build on for an offense that has struggled this season.

The University of Wisconsin quarterback speaks to the media Saturday after the Badgers defeated the Illinois Fighting Illini 24-0 at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Il.

Dominant defense

The UW defense finally got to play with a lead for an extended stretch and it was aggressive and dominant.

Illinois had 51 total yards until it was able to move the ball on UW’s backups in the fourth quarter. Even then, Illinois finished the game with 93 yards.

Illini quarterbacks threw 12 consecutive incompletions at one point.

It’s hard to single out one player in a shutout, so let’s go with an entire group: The linebacker quartet of Nick Herbig, Leo Chenal, Jack Sanborn and Noah Burks wreaked a lot of havoc against the Illini.

The University of Wisconsin offensive lineman speaks to the media Saturday after the Badgers defeated the Illinois Fighting Illini 24-0 at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Il.

Mertz returns

Graham Mertz, knocked out of a loss to Michigan last week with a chest injury, played OK.

Mertz wasn’t particularly sharp in the first half and threw an interception on an underthrown deep ball to Kendric Pryor.

But Mertz got better in the second half and took advantage of Illinois putting so many defenders in the box to try to stop the run.

Two throws that stand out: An out route to Chimere Dike for 7 yards on third-and-6, and a 27-yarder to Pryor on a dig route.

Mertz’s final numbers aren’t going to wow anyone — 10 of 19 for 100 yards with that pick — but it was a small step forward.

 
 

Recent Stories You Might Have Missed

Contact Jim Polzin at jpolzin@madison.com.

This article originally ran on madison.com.

Locations

TownNews.com Content Exchange