Wisconsin 38, Illinois 20

Led by a strong running game, the Badgers prevailed in their Big Ten opener.

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While Illinois had difficulty adjusting to the game early on, the Badgers dominated throughout the first half. With a few minor setbacks, the domination continued into the fourth quarter en route to a convincing 38-20 win.


The Badgers scored early and often in the first half with tailback Dwayne Smith and Wisconsin's running game leading the way.


Smith tallied his first of three touchdown runs, from 19 yards out, less than three minutes into the game putting Wisconsin on the board, 7-0.


Five minutes later, Wisconsin was driving again, as junior defensive back Jim Leonhard picked off senior quarterback Jon Beutjer's pass in the red zone. With contributions from freshman running back Booker Stanley, the Badgers got the job done when Smith eventually scoring from two yards out with eight minutes left in the quarter. 


The Illini remained quiet throughout the rest of the first quarter. Beutjer struggled to get into a rhythm early and struggled at the passing game, causing the Illini to punt. Wisconsin, meanwhile, returned the punt and began a steady, 12-minute drive that resulted in a touchdown early in the second quarter. This time Sorgi got the glory, as he faked a handoff to Smith and ran it into the end zone.


Wisconsin could not protect a 21-0 lead and the Illini slowly began chipping it away in the second quarter. Freshman running back E. B. Halsey greatly contributed, rushing for 44 yards of Illinois' 64 rushing yards, including a touchdown with less than a minute left in the second quarter. A 27-yard field goal by senior placekicker John Gockman, coupled with Halsey's touchdown, gave Illinois 10 unanswered points going into halftime.


Despite a motivating touchdown heading into the locker room, the Illini couldn't quite capitalize on key moments. Badger junior punter R.J. Morse fumbled a punt and recovered it only to get tackled at Wisconsin's 25-yard line, giving Illinois excellent field position. A false start penalty on Illinois assessed on third down put Illinois at third and 15, forcing Gockman to kick a 47-yard field goal.


With the lead narrowing, the Badgers pulled ahead, as Sorgi connected with sophomore wide receiver Brandon Williams on a 75-yard pass, bringing the ball to the 5-yard line. Smith ran it in on the next play for his third touchdown of the game.


Illinois responded to Wisconsin's quick touchdown with one of its own. Beutjer nailed junior wide receiver Kelvin  Hayden, one of the Illini's bright stars, with a 28-yard pass. Illinois continued to march down the field and into the end zone, where Halsey scored his second touchdown of the night.


The score now at 28-20 and Wisconsin again began a time-consuming drive down the field, scoring with 13 minutes left in the game. With Wisconsin at the Illini four-yard line, Sorgi kept the ball for the touchdown, bringing the score to 35-20.


The 35-20 score was familiar to the Badgers, who lost by that same score to the Illini at home last year. But UW one-upped Illinois this year and junior kicker Mike Allen kicked an 18-yard field goal after another lengthy drive. Wisconsin's last two scoring drives covered a combined 144 yards in 25 plays over the course of 17 minutes.

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