Wisconsin Opponent Preview: Illinois

Wisconsin Opponent Preview: Illinois

Football

Wisconsin Opponent Preview: Illinois

Tough loss for Wisconsin, which could not take advantage of any opportunities that were there for them. As players, we always left the past behind, learn, improve and focus on the future. The focus this week is Illinois, as the Badgers need to pick up the pieces and rebuild in order to keep their hopes alive for a Big Ten Championship.

Last weekend, Illinois was trounced by Purdue, 46-7, and spent the majority of the game struggling to establish the run. A week after rushing for 330 yards against Rutgers, Illinois managed only 69 against the Boilermakers. Senior quarterback AJ Bush Jr. and junior running back Reggie Corbin combined for 253 of the 330 rushing yards against the Scarlet Knights but managed only 44 combined yards last weekend.

The blueprint for Wisconsin is shutting down those two players. When they are able to run free, these two bulls can make it a difficult game for any opponent. Bush – a graduate transfer from Virginia Tech – gets a lot of his yards off zone-read option plays and averages 4.4 yards per carry. In the air, however, there has been a struggle for Bush. Failing to throw a touchdown in the last two weeks, Bush had 170 yards with one interception last week, even though Illinois was in catch-up mode.

Another key to victory for the Badgers would be the production of both the run and pass game. This past weekend against Michigan, Wisconsin banged-up defense eventually wore down against the offensive onslaught by the Wolverines. Junior quarterback Alex Hornibrook struggled against the defense, throwing only 7 of 20 for 100 yards passing, a touchdown and two interceptions. There is a lot of struggle this season for the Badger quarterback and this upcoming game will be a test for him on his ability to bounce back. Senior linebacker DelShawn Phillips and freshman cornerback Jartavius Martin each have three interceptions.

Even though sophomore running back Jonathon Taylor was able to rush for 101 yards on 17 carries, he didn’t find the end zone. The Illinois defense has struggled to keep its opponents out of the end zone this season, caused in part by a lack of experience in the trenches and inconsistent pressure. Even so, the Fighting Illini are capable of coming out of nowhere with turnovers and big plays at random points of the game. Discipline will be key in order to avoid these random spurts of hope.

The last key would be taking advantage of mistakes and limit their own mistakes. Defensively early on the Badgers were going back and forth with the Wolverines, not allowing their opponent in the red zone, getting stops where they were most needed and create some pressure. Senior linebacker Ryan Connelly recorded himself a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss, whereas senior linebacker TJ Edwards also did some damage with a sack and three TFLs. The inside linebackers were having themselves a field day in the backfield against Michigan until the unit’s lack of depth – and likely exhaustion from being on the field for so long – reared its head. It also didn’t help that Michigan capitalized on UW’s mistakes and the Badgers didn’t force any turnovers of their own.

Though last week wasn’t pretty, there are more still many more games to come. One game doesn’t define what a team is; the season itself will define the team. There is still hope for the Big Ten Championship and the success earlier in the season has put UW in a great position for a bowl game. The Badgers will be playing a rebuilding Illinois team that has proven to stick around, like last year when Illinois kept things closer than the 24-10 score indicates.

The Badgers have to deal with this week on preparing a struggling offense and young defense for a game like this.

More BadgersInsider
Home