Wisconsin 24, Illinois 13; 9:42 left 4Q
Wes Lunt and the offense will have to put together a heck of a finsih to win this game. Another long drive for Wisconsin, sparked by -- who else? -- Alex Erickson, who has torched the Illini secondary today. He now has 9 catches for 88 yards to go with 77 rushing yards. The Illini secondary hasn't looked this bad since North Carolina.
Wisconsin 17, Illinois 13; 4:05 left 3Q
Wisconsin answers with an 8-play, 86-yard drive, catapulted by an Alex Erickson 56-yard end around. The receiver has 127 total yards today.
Clayton Fejedelem is going through a concussion teston the sideline. Jevaris Little checked in for him. Wisconsin lost starting center Dan Voltz on the same play with what looked like an ankle injury. He'stheir best lineman.
Illinois 13, Wisconsin 10; 7:48 left 3Q
And the Illini finally find paydirt thanks to a Ke'Shawn Vaughn 36-yard touchdown run. It was a perfect play call for Wisconsin's play call. A Badgers blitzer over-ran Vaughn, leaving a huge hole on the left side. Vaughn then shook Tanner McEvoy to find the end zone. Vaughn's first ten carries went for just 21 yards.
That was a well-designed 89-yard drive into the wind that included first-down passes to Geronimo Allison, converted safety Caleb Day and slot receiver Dionte Taylor. The Illini are getting more weapons involved.
Illini TE Tyler White will not return today due to an injury.
HALF: Wisconsin 10, Illinois 6.
The Illini defense was getting torched by Wisconsin backup QB Bart Houston until Rob Wheelwright dropped a wide-open touchdown in the end zone. On the next play, Eaton Spence intercepted Bart Houston for a huge momentum swing. Instead of 17-6, it's 10-6 at half.
Houston (12-for-18, 140 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) has had a phenomenal game in relief of Joel Stave (3-7, 49 yards), who is out for the game with a concussion. The Illini wish Stave were still in. The Illini defensive line now is struggling to get pressure on the QB and Wisconsin is getting rid of the ball quicker.
Wes Lunt: 12 for 23 for 113 yards. He hasn't been intercepted in 180 attempts, but should have been picked in the half.
Desmond Cain: 4 receptions, 35 yards; Geronimo Allison 4 catches, 32 yards; Malik Turner 2 catches, 44 yards
Clayton Fejedelem 8 tackles; Carroll Phillips 2 sacks
Total yards: Wisconsin 217, Illinois 132
Rushing yards: Wisconsin 28, Illinois 19
First downs: Wisconsin 12, Illinois 7
Time of possession: Wisconsin 17:28, Illinois 12:32
Sacks: Illinois 2, Wisconsin 0
WIsconsin 10, Illinois 3; 4:23 left 2Q
Lunt and the Illini finally got going with a quicker tempo, but the Illini's struggles in the red zone continue. The Illine went 70 yards in 9 plays but stalled inside the 10 and had to settle for a Zalewski 25-yard field goal. Lunt's wobbly pass with pressure in his face found Malik Turner for a 37-yard gain, and Desmond Cain had three catches on the drive. The freshman continues to establish himself as the Illini's best healthy slot receiver. The Illini couldn't find the end zone but maybe that drive ignited some momentum.
Wisconsin 10, Illinois 3; 7:03 left 2Q
The Wisconsin offense has found a rhythm with Joel Stave on the sideline. The Badgers are attacking the Illini linebackers in coverage, which is really smart. UW backup QB Bart Houston picked apart the Illini on 12 play, 59-yard drive. The Illini couldn't cover up a WIsconsin fumble, but Eric Finney broke up a pass to force the field goal. The defense is keeping it close for the offense -- which is off to another slow start.
Wisconsin 7, Illinois 3; 14:09 left 2Q
Backup quarterback Bart Houston came in to finish an 11-play, 89-yard drive for Wisconsin. Joel Stave left the game but Houston made a nice pass to Robert Wheelwright who made an even better catch and stretch into the end zone. Dare Ogunbowale's 35-yard catch set up the drive.
Wes Lunt and the Illini offense need to get going. Lunt appeared to suffer a knick on the last drive, forcing Chayce Crouch to warm up. But Lunt is going back into the game.
Illinois 3, Wisconsin 0; 4:21 left 1Q.
Taylor Zalewski drilled a 37-yard field goal to give the Illini the early lead. The Illini were lucky to get points after Wes Lunt made the most ill-advised throw of the season, throwing into tough coverage on the run. But the Wisconsin defender dropped an interception.
The Illini lead the yardage battle 53 to minus-8.
The Illini defensive line is dominating the line of scrimmage. Carroll Phillips has earned increased playing time lately and will likely earn more after getting back-to-back sacks, his first two sacks of the season. Joel Stave left the game momentarily after the first sack. He's back, but he looks like he could be in for a long day.
The Illini student section is full for the first time in several years. The Block I members were each given two free tickets this week. The DIA would like to allow students to come in for free, but the Big Ten revenue sharing limits ticket giveaways. The Illini may pursue a corporate sponsor to give away free tickets to students in the future.
10 minutes to kickoff
Bears GM Ryan Pace is in attendance today. One of the players he's surely looking at is Illinois DE Jihad Ward. The Illini run stuffer is catching the attention of a lot of scouts, especially those who could play him as a 3-4 DE.
Many more NFL scouts here today. For what it's worth, one told me he likes the look of Illinois today, said he likes the way they're carrying themselves. One thing is for sure, Illinois thinks it should win.
Big recruiting day for Illinois. I talked with Illini commit Kenyon Jackson -- the DT is one of eight commits here today -- and he said the 16 commits have a group chat and are in constant communication with each other. Jackson and fellow commit Antonio Shelton, also a DT, are attached at the hip today.
2 hours to kickoff
Jeremy Werner here in the Memorial Stadium Press Box. The Illini just entered Memorial Stadium and Wisconsin is on the field loosening up. The temperature is in the 60s but it is a windy day for two pass-heavy offenses.
Not on the field -- or even in the state -- for the Badgers is Corey Clement. The star running back did not travel with the team and will miss his seventh straight game following surgery for a sports hernia. Clement has been medically cleared to play and suited up for last week's home game against Purdue but did not play. This is a big boost for Illinois as Clement is the Badgers best gamebreaker. Without Clement, quarterback Joel Stave and the Wisconsin offense have relied on long drives to score.
There is a buzz in Grange Grove today. The crowd may not top 50,000 but it'll be the best crowd of the season. Kudos to the DIA for Grange Grove, by the way. It's a great gameday piece and will grow in popularity when the Illini establish a winning program.
This obviously is a huge game for the Illini and a huge game for interim head coach Bill Cubit. Win this and the Illini will be 5-2 with four winnable games left on the schedule. Cubit would earn even more support and add another signature win to sell in recruiting. Simply, if he wins this, his case for the long-term job grows significantly.
Speaking of recruits, I just walked by a bunch of recruits on the way to the press box. Some big names today include 3-star OL Alaric Jackson and 3-star OL Coy Cronk. The Illini also are hosting two kickers to whom they offered scholarships: Braxton Pickard out of Oklahoma and James McCourt out of Florida powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas. Eight of the 16 Illinois commits were schedule to visit as well.
A bunch of NFL scouts are in attenance, including reps from the Bears, Browns, Giants, Jaguars and Titans.
Bowl reps from the Rose Bowl, Russell Athletic Bowl and Citrus Bowl are here too.
Read my preview, keys for the game, Illini in the spotlight and game pick here.
Also, my deepest condolences to the family of Illinois junior Brett Lerner, who died in a car crash while traveling to cover a high school football game last night. Brett was an uber-talented, hard-working aspiring journalist who interned for me at ESPN Radio 93.5. You probably didn't know his name yet, but he was on his way to becoming a star. I cover this game with a heavy heart today.