Wisconsin 24, Illinois 13
Illinois (4-3, 1-2 Big Ten) dropped its first home game of the year as Wisconsin backup quarterback Bart Houston (22-for-33, 232 yards, 2 TDs, 2INTs) led the Badgers (6-2, 3-1) to a win in relief of Joel Stave (concussion). Wisconsin overcame injuries to its starting quarterback and star running back Corey Clement to total 421 yards, thanks in large part to receiver Alex Erickson (10 catches for 96 yards and four carries for 81 yards). The Illini offense (283 total yards, 55 rushing yards) sputtered against the Badgers defense, ranked No. 3 in the FBS in scoring defense entering the game. Wisconsin doubled the Illini in time of possession.
What it means
The Illini missed their best opportunity in a decade to beat Wisconsin and now must win two of their final five games to reach bowl eligibility. The defense kept Illinois in it -- limiting Wisconsin in the run game -- but the Badgers provided the blueprint with how to attack the Illini: quick passes, preferrably against the Illini linebackers. The Illini defensive line played great to start the game but Wisconsin slowed most of the pressure for the final three quarters, exposing the safeties a bit in pass coverage.
The Illini offense's lack of physicality is costing the Illini dearly. The Illini couldn't score a touchdown in both its redzone opportunities and couldn't convert a first-down on three 3rd-and-short opportunities. The Illini are a finesse team, but they have to win one-on-one physical battles if they're going to get to seven or eight wins -- heck, maybe even six. The Illini offensive line did protect quarterback Wes Lunt (22-for-43, 278 yards, 1 INT) well, but the receivers and running backs had six costly drops, and Lunt threw his first interception in 190 attempts (a tipped pass).
Star of the game
Alex Erickson, Wisconsin WR: Hard to justify giving it to any Illini. Clayton Fejedelem (18 tackles, 1 INT) had a big day in the stat sheet but allowed big plays to Erickson. Ke'Shawn Vaughn scored the Illini's lone touchdown on a 36-yard run but was otherwise ineffective (55 rushing yards). Illinois DT Rob Bain (five tackles, 2.0 TFL, 1.0 sack), WR Malik Turner (four catches, 80 yards) and WR Geronimo Allison (eight catches, 99 yards) had good moments too.
Illinois heads to Penn State (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten) -- which defeated Maryland 31-30 on Saturday -- needing a win to avoid falling to .500. Illinois defeated Penn State 16-14 in Champaign last year. Illinois last won at Penn State in 2010, a 33-13 victory. The Nittany Lions entered Saturday's game against Maryland with the 20th ranked scoring defense.