Down 14-0 early and 17-7 at halftime, the Badgers stormed back, taking advantage of four second-half turnovers to outscore Illinois 21-0 in the second half and beat the Fighting Illini, 28-17, in front of a sparse 45,519 fans at Memorial Stadium.
After recording just 93 yards in the first half, the key to Wisconsin (9-2, 5-2 Big Ten) swinging the tide was turnovers. After playing turnover free in the first half, Illinois (6-5, 2-5) turned the ball over three times on its first four possessions, resulting in 14 points that gave Wisconsin its first and final lead of the ball game.
Junior Montee Ball continues his torrid stretch, etching himself as one of the top running backs in the country. Ball rushed for 224 yards, ran for two touchdowns and caught another, extending his season total to 30 and making him one of just five football bowl subdivision players in history to rush for at least 30 touchdowns in a season.
Ball is nine touchdowns shy of tying Barry Sanders' Division 1 record of 39 touchdowns in a season.
Senior quarterback Russell Wilson threw for only 90 yards, 67 of which went toward Nick Toon, but threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Ball in the third quarter, giving him a touchdown pass in 35 straight games and putting him one day shy of tying the NCAA record.
Wisconsin was out gained 301-to-285 overall, but out gained Illinois 192-to-77 in the second half.
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11 plays, 51 yards, 5:14 TOP, 13:14 left
Donovonn Young 12-yard run (Derek Dimke kick)
Key Play: Too far to attempt a field goal and too short to punt, Illinois went for it on fourth-and-14 and targeted its best wide receiver. For some reason, the Badgers didn't lock on to the Biletnikoff award semifinalist. A.J. Jenkins slipped behind Mike Taylor and Kevin Claxton for an 18-yard gain.
6 plays, 36 yards, 3:01 TOP, 8:21 left
Donovonn Young 1-yard run (Derek Dimke kick)
Key Play: Wisconsin was driving deep into Illinois territory when Whitney Mercilus out muscles Josh Oglesby and forced a Russell Wilson fumble on the Illinois 24. Jonathan Brown picked it up and rumbled to the UW 36.
2 plays, 2 yards, :40 TOP, 2:55 left
Montee Ball 1-yard run (Philip Welch kick)
Key Play: A special teams play finally goes Wisconsin's way. Throwing a blitz on the punt attempt, punter Justin Duvernois got anxious and dropped the punt in the process. A group tackle dropped Duvernois at the 2-yard line, gift wrapping a score for UW.
13 plays, 56 yards, 2:53 TOP, :02 left
FG Dimke 41
Key Play: Wisconsin was fortunate not be down 14 at halftime, as Illini was called for two offensive pass interference calls inside the red zone, wiping out a touchdown and a pass completion to the 3-yard line.
12 plays, 30 yards, 7:11 TOP, 6:27 left
Montee Ball 5-yard pass from Russell Wilson (Philip Welch kick)
Key Play: When the Badgers needed a yard, it ran behind its two seniors lineman. On two fourth-and-short distances on the Illini's side of the field, Ball ran behind Kevin Zeitler and Josh Oglesby, and moved the chains each time.
4 plays, 44 yards, 1:22 TOP, 0:00 left
Russell Wilson 1-yd run (Philip Welch kick)
Key Play: After selling the run through the right side throughout the entire game, the Badgers dialed up an audible. Wisconsin faked the dive with Ball, and Wilson ran a naked bootleg to the left pylon, a brilliant play call on first down.
4 plays, 39 yards, 2:02 TOP, 12:12 left
Montee Ball 17-yd run (Philip Welch kick)
Key Play: Montee Ball continues to dazzle and he saved his best move of the day for a needed insurance run. Breaking into the secondary, Ball did a slick spin move on cornerback Terry Hawthorne, fooling the junior and laughing all the way into the end zone.
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