Four to Score: Wisconsin-Illinois

Four keys to Illinois gaining an upset win Saturday against No. 25 Wisconsin.

Start fast.

Considering the opponent, start time and planned Orange Out, this is the biggest home game to date for Illinois. The fans have all day to tailgate and get amped up. Plenty of recruits will be on hand. The players should run out prior to kickoff to a charged atmosphere. A good start would both help the player confidence and keep the crowd emotionally invested.

"As every coach, you try to start fast," Coach Tim Beckman said. "Again, I think that when you're ploying a team like Wisconsin that had been to the Rose Bowl the last three years and been in the championship game they have the tradition of winning. Their kids have been there. There's no question we'd like to feed off the crowd."

Cash in.

Looking back on the Washington game and adding in the Nebraska struggle, the Illini's issue wasn't with moving the ball. Instead it was scoring points when opportunities were there. Illinois ranks 21st in the country averaging 25 first downs a game. It's clear coordinator Bill Cubit can scheme up ways for his unit to drive and position itself for touchdowns. It's up to the players to execute on big plays and inside the red zone. Field goals or coming up empty won't work against a team of Wisconsin's caliber.

"I think the biggest thing for us is we've got to show more composure when things are flying around," Cubit said. "We've just got to keep comfortable. I knew it was going to be an issue. … That's all we've got to do is just get comfortable. We've got good players."

Win the turnover battle.

Recalling the Washington loss again, two first half Huskies turnovers kept the Illini within range when the offense couldn't score. That led to a chance for the upset in the second half. Against Nebraska, the opposite happened. Donovonn Young's fumble ended a promising early drive as the Nebraska offense was near flawless in building a 30-5 lead. Beckman says the off week was spent telling his corners to be as aggressive as possible. There is a balance between not giving up big plays and taking chances for picks, but the risk could be worth the reward for a struggling defense.

"I think you need to be as aggressive as you can be," Beckman said. "That's what we teach."

Force field goals.

Sounds simple, but holding the Badgers to 3 instead of 7 on trips to the red zone would do wonders for both the score and confidence. The Illini have given up 12 touchdowns and seven field goals on opposing team's 22 tries inside the 20-yard line. Seeing the kicker come out on fourth down would help the unit's morale with proof of the bend but don't break saying. It's happened before. The defense took notable stands against Southern Illinois (the fourth down stop to end the game), Cincinnati (V'Angelo Bentley and Earnest Thomas stop of a fourth-down goal line run) and Washington (Jaylen Dunlap deflects a pass to force a field goal). Replicating that against the Badgers will keep the game manageable and the crowd on the Illini's side.

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