Banged up Badgers gut out win at Illinois
Final: Wisconsin 24, Illinois 13
Key play: Alex Erickson catches 9-yard touchdown pass in fourth quarter
It was a fitting way for Wisconsin to finally get some breathing room. The star of the day, Erickson, came up with a 9-yard touchdown score from Bart Houston with just under 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter to take a 24-13 lead. Houston stepped up in the absence of Joel Stave and delivered a clutch drive to put the game away. And Erickson did everything and more to jump-start the banged up Badger offense. Wisconsin didn’t want to put itself in a position where it was clinging to a one-possession lead on the road.
Telling stat: Erickson leads team in receiving AND rushing
Man, did the Badgers need a veteran to step up like that. Illinois simply could not guard Erickson. It didn’t matter if he was hauling in passes on the sideline, catching slants or running end-arounds. Whenever the ball was in Erickson’s hands, something good happened. Houston clearly trusts Erickson, which is why he racked up double-digit catches for the second time in his career. Perhaps even more impressive was the fact that on a day when Wisconsin was without its top two tailbacks and lost its starting quarterback and center, Erickson led the team in rushing. His effort — and Houston’s emergence — might be the reason the Badgers are still alive in the B1G West race.
-Stave leaves game in first quarter with head injury
Yet another tough loss for the Wisconsin offense. The Badger quarterback left the game in the first half with a possible concussion. Stave obviously wanted to play badly after he came back into the game after his first exit. But the medical staff ruled him out with the head injury, which means he’ll have to go through concussion protocol before he is cleared to play next week against Rutgers. Paul Chryst is only in his first year, but I can imagine he’s already sick of forecasting whether or not key offensive players will be in the lineup. Even worse, Robert Wheelwright, who made a miraculous touchdown catch earlier in the game, was sidelined in the second half with a left leg injury. Oh, and by the way, center Dan Voltz went down, too, just in case Wisconsin wasn’t banged up enough.
–Wes Lunt snaps 190-pass interception-less streak
Michael Caputo put the game on ice thanks to a tip from T.J. Edwards. It was Lunt’s first interception since the loss at North Carolina over a month ago. For a guy that struggled with accuracy issues in the early part of the season, that’s pretty impressive. Lunt’s ability to secure the ball was part of the reason why Illinois hasn’t taken itself out of a game since that rout in North Carolina. Without Josh Ferguson, this offense lacks an important element. It’ll be up to Lunt to help right the ship after Illinois’ first two-game losing streak of the season.
What it means: Wisconsin hanging on by a string…but hanging on
No Corey Clement, no Taiwan Deal, no Austin Traylor, no Stave, no Voltz and the Badgers still find a way. That’s quite the effort from Chryst’s bunch on the road. This team is learning how to win games with plenty of in-game adversity. It helps when you have guys like Edwards and Joe Schobert on defense, but you can’t help but be impressed with the resiliency of this group. Who knows whether or not Stave will be back next week. There will be plenty of Badger fans calling for Chryst to roll with Houston. The Badgers now have five straight road wins for the first time in over 100 years. Chryst has to be earning himself some supporters in Madison.