Chez Mellusi ran for 145 yards and a touchdown and Wisconsin beat Illinois 24-0 on Saturday.
Braelon Allen ran for 131 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries and John Chenal carried nine times for 38 yards and a touchdown for the Badgers.
Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz had 10 of 19 passes for 100 yards with an interception. The Badgers (2-3, 1-2 Big Ten Conference) edged Illinois 491-93 yards in total offense.
Heading into the game, Wisconsin placed third in the nation and led the Big Ten in total defense, allowing just 249 yards per game and just 4.3 yards per game. Illinois (2-5, 1-3) had shown progress in their running game.
Something had to give. Saturday was the Illinois running game.
âOur defensive coaches have come up with a good plan to counter the running game,â said Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst. “But the children bring it to life.”
Chase Brown led all of the Illinois rushers with 35 yards on eight carries. Brown ran for 257 yards against Charlotte last week and tied his career high with two rushing touchdowns.
Illinois starting quarterback Brandon Peters had 3 of 7 passes for 30 yards before sustaining an unknown injury while being sacked in the second quarter. Artur Sitkowski replaced him and went 8 of 27 for 55 yards.
After the game, Illinois coach Bret Bielema said he had no update on Peters or star linebacker Jake Hansen, who also left the game in the first half due to a unknown injury.
BORN TO RUN
The Badgers established the run early, scoring on a 17-yard Collin Larsh field goal late in the first quarter to cap an 18-play, 67-yard drive that included just three passes.
Wisconsin has one of the strongest running defenses in the country and Illinois has one of the best running attacks. But the Illini didn’t throw the ball until the first set of the second quarter when Josh McCray rushed without a win near the Illinois goal line following a Kerby Joseph interception that prevented a affected from Wisconsin.
âIt’s a good defensive team, I understand,â said Bielema. âWe have work to do. It was another step in the process. It’s not pleasant, but we have to live with it.
Wisconsin edged Illinois 206-33 in the first half despite Mertz hitting 3 of 9 passes for 15 yards. Illinois ran for 21 yards and only had 12 going into intermission.
Wisconsin led 10-0 at the break.
Wisconsin tight end Jake Ferguson caught an assist in his 39th straight game, breaking the school record for consecutive games with a reception previously held by wide receiver Lee Evans, who played for the 2000 Badgers. to 2003.
THE BIG PICTURE
The Badgers won the game on the scoreboard, but it’s clear this is a team struggling to find themselves offensively. Chryst and his team will have to rectify that if Wisconsin wants to participate in the Big Ten West.
âObviously we have things to clean up,â Chryst said. âWe will be working on this this week.
Illinois coach Bielema faced his former team and struggled for their 100th career victory, but his team were listless and ineffective from kick-off. Since Illini’s offense didn’t show up, it was up to the defense to try and entertain a large homecoming crowd. The crowd cheered derisively as Illinois got their fifth first down of the game – early in the fourth quarter.
âI have to give Wisconsin credit,â Bielema said. âThey executed their game plan really well. We have things to work on.
Wisconsin: Welcomes the Army on Saturday.
Illinois: After a week off, goes to Penn State’s No.4 on October 23.