Despite having a somewhat quiet statistical season for Wisconsin, Henry made a number of big plays that swung the momentum in the second half toward the Badgers' sideline, but none bigger than his tackle on a reverse in the fourth quarter that Bielema said prevented a touchdown.
"I said right after the game when he came over, ‘Buddy, that play on the reverse was one of the best plays I have ever seen you make,'" Bielema said. "I thought that was huge."
Wisconsin (9-2, 5-2 Big Ten) was leading 28-17 midway through the fourth quarter and with Illinois needing something to turn the tide, Ryan Lankford took the reverse at his own 48-yard line. With the cornerback sealed, Henry came across the field and took out Lankford's legs, stopping him after only a 2-yard gain.
Before Henry arrived, the play looked poise to be the Illini's biggest gain of the afternoon and possibly could have been taken for a touchdown. Instead, safety Shelton Johnson interception the team's third pass of the day to seal the victory four plays later.
"I didn't know how big it was until after the game," Henry said. "Being back there at safety, you get kind of a feel of what's going on before it happens. The guy ran a zone-read option. I saw the reverse out of the corner of my eye (and) on top of that Antonio (Fenelus) was kind of yelling. I just b-lined and took off … I was just trying to make a play for my team."
Henry was also in the right spot at the beginning of the quarter when Fenelus broke up a pass intended for A.J. Jenkins and the ball bounced off both players and into Henry's hands. Wisconsin scored a touchdown four plays later.
"Aaron Henry is a pretty good man of faith," said Bielema. "I sometimes believe those balls find guys hands with a higher reason."
Henry finished with nine tackles (7 solo), third best on the team, and tied his season high.
Offensive pass interference costs Illini
Studying film all week, Bielema made sure he told the officials of the habits of Illinois' receivers ‘picking' defenders, illegally interfering with them to cause openings downfield. It happened twice on the same drive with Illinois leading 14-7 and in the red zone.
Freshman tight end Jon Davis was flagged first after bumping Fenelus and it wiped out a 15-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Reilly O'Toole to Jenkins. Three plays later, sophomore wide receiver Darius Millines was penalized and it canceled out a 6-yard pass play from O'Toole to Jenkins to the UW 3.
One penalty was called by the side judge and the other by the back judge.
"We make'em aware of it absolutely," Bielema said. "It was an outside-in motion and they were sprinting that way, so a lot of times good referees and officials know that's a potential pick play. That's exactly what happened."
Illinois eventually settled for a 41-yard field goal by Derek Dimke for a 17-7 halftime lead.
From the Infirmary
After having somewhere between five and six starters banged up, Wisconsin survived relatively unscathed vs. the Illini. The only injury that popped up during the game for Wisconsin was when left tackle Ricky Wagner got his left knee rolled up at the end of a run.
Rob Havenstein replaced Wagner while the junior being examined in the locker room, but did return in the second quarter.
"He obviously tweaked his knee," Bielema said. "But he sucked it up and got back out there. I don't really know the full diagnosis on him other than the fact he came back and played."
Extra Points: Sophomore defensive end Pat Muldoon started for Brendan Kelly, who had a sore foot but still played. Muldoon had two assisted tackles. Kelly did not record a tackle … Sophomore linebacker Chris Borland recorded a game-high 16 tackles, the sixth time he has posted double-digit tackles this season, and forced two fumbles … Wisconsin has now recorded at least nine wins in each of the past three seasons. It also marks the seventh time in eight years that Wisconsin has reached that plateau … UW is now 18-2 in regular-season games played after Nov. 1 under Bielema and 30-7 since the start of the 2009 season … Either Russell Wilson or Montee Ball have scored or have contributed to 57 of Wisconsin's 68 touchdowns on the season … Wisconsin's game against Penn State will be televised on ESPN at 2:30 p.m.