MADISON – The University of Wisconsin might not be able to take a deep breath heading into its second and final bye week of the season, but the Badgers can breathe a little bit easier thanks to their running game.
Led primarily by the efforts of junior Melvin Gordon and sophomore Corey Clement, Wisconsin ran for 401 yards and five touchdowns against one of the nation’s worst run defenses to earn a 38-28 victory over Illinois and Camp Randall Stadium Saturday.
"It's great to win, bottom line," said UW coach Gary Andersen. "Excited about it. Great victory in front of a tremendous crowd, as always. Unbelievable for our kids."
Trailing 14-7 early, Wisconsin (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten) kept the ball on the ground and reaped the benefits. Gordon rushed for 175 yards on 27 carries and four touchdowns, pushing his season total to 14. Corey Clement ran for 164 on 13 carries, including a 72-yard run to open the fourth quarter.
"I felt like we would have a big game but they was doing whatever they could to stop us," said Gordon. "They was trying. Those guys were playing. I definitely feel I had to work for every yard."
Junior quarterback Joel Stave played all but one series for the Badgers, but the passing game never found a rhythm and finished with 97 passing yards. Wisconsin has been held to under 175 passing yards for the fifth time this season and the fourth straight game.
"I feel like we're going in a good direction offensively," said Stave. "I feel like the play-action pass game continued to evolve, especially with how effective we were running the ball. When we can do that, we can continue to expand."
Illinois (3-4, 0-3) got two touchdown passes from Reilly O’Toole in the first quarter and a 29-yard scramble from Aaron Bailey in the fourth quarter, but failed to win at Madison for the first time since 2002.
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6 plays, 80 yards, 2:42 TOP, 12:12 left
Melvin Gordon 15-yard run (Rafael Gaglianone kick)
Key Play: Everyone is expecting a heavy diet of Gordon today, so the Badgers flipped the script with an end around to Natrell Jamerson, who gained 23 yards on his first collegiate touch down to the Illinois 14.
4 plays, 31 yards, 1:38 TOP, 6:43 left
Matt LaCosse 8-yard pass from Reilly O'Toole (David Reisner kick)
Key Play: Unable to move the football after being pinned on its own 1-yard line, Wisconsin was unable to flip position after Drew Meyer registered only a 35-yard punt.
5 plays, 42 yards, 1:49 TOP, 3:08 left
Geronimo Allison 5-yard pass from Reilly O'Toole (David Reisner kick)
Key Play: O'Toole is filling in well for the injured Wes Lunt, including his ability to scramble, which he did for an 18-yard gain down to the UW 15.
10 plays, 75 yards, 5:11 TOP, 12:57 left
Melvin Gordon 6-yard run (Gaglianone kick)
Key Play: UW needs all the help it can get right now in its passing game and got a break when Illinois was whistled for pass interference on a third-and-2 at the Illinois 21.
2 plays, 64 yards, :28 TOP, 2:14 left
Melvin Gordon 30-yard run (Gaglianone kick)
Key Play: The end around has been an effective change-of-pace weapon for the Badgers, as Kenzel Doe kickstarted the quick drive with a 34-yard burst down the sidelines.
5 plays, 52 yards, 1:13 TOP, :03 left
FG Gaglianone 44
Key Play: Gordon's 46-yard run was a thing of beauty, maintaining his balance after getting tripped up at the line of scrimmage to turn a four-yard gain into field goal position for UW.
9 plays, 90 yards, 4:31 TOP, 1:08 left
FG Gaglianone 44
Key Play: Faking the sweep to Jamerson, which went for 23 yards in the first quarter, Corey Clement found a gap in the middle of the defense and took it 51 yards down to the Illinois 39.
1 play, 72 yards, :10 TOP, 14:50 left
Corey Clement 72-yard run (Gaglianone kick)
Key Play: It doesn't get much easier than that. A wide-open running lane was there for Clement and he never looked back.
1 play, 29 yards, :08 TOP, 8:43 left
Aaron Bailey 29-yard run (Reisner kick)
Key Play: Wisconsin's punt team hasn't delivered in flipping field position, as the Badgers allowed a 30-yard punt return to set up the prime field position for Illinois.
9 plays, 83 yards, 3:02 TOP, 2:53 left
Donovonn Young 1-yard run (Reisner kick)
Key Play: On third-and-8, Aaron Bailey completed a 24-yard pass to Mike Dudek down to the UW6.
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