In a recurring theme this season the Badgers again allowed a big kickoff return. Wisconsin had opened the game with three consecutive touchdown drives, but the kickoff with 8:00 remaining in the second quarter was returned 66 yards to the Badgers 24-yard line. Wisconsin's defense held the Illini to a field goal, but the play gave Illinois renewed life. The Fighting Illini scored 10 unanswered to finish the first half.
Wisconsin's kick coverage units gave up 179 yards on seven attempts Saturday.
"I'll tell you what we tried to do," Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez said. "We tried to get more coaches involved in coaching it. We had about five different coaches really coaching some guys. We are going to have to really take a look, really shuffle a lot of people. Obviously we have an issue with a couple spots in there. We are going to have to re-look that. My answer was, ‘let's coach them harder.' Let's get more guys involved in coaching, almost get a one-on-one situation. We didn't answer it so that is something we are going to have to get better at."
Wisconsin's punting game also suffered a breakdown Saturday. Following the Badgers first possession of the second half, though, the Illini sold out to block Wisconsin's punt attempt. Badger punter R.J. Morse bobbled the snap, attempted to run and was taken down at the Wisconsin 25. Again, however, the Badgers defense held Illinois to a field goal.
Holding them to field goal
Two weeks ago against UNLV Wisconsin's defense yielded just 187 yards, but allowed two touchdowns on short drives following Wisconsin turnovers. Despite the poor defensive field position, defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove felt his defense should have played better.
"Defensively we have to hold them to three," Cosgrove said following the UNLV game. "We have to keep them out of the end zone. That is our job. That is what we have to do."
Following the Badgers third touchdown against Illinois, the defense again found itself backed against the wall after E.B. Halsey returned a kick 66 yards to the Wisconsin 24. Compounding matters, on the first play of the ensuing drive Scott Starks was called for defensive holding, moving the ball 10 yards closer. Wisconsin's defense held, though, allowing just four yards on the next three plays. The Illini settled for a 27-yard field goal from John Gockman.
Early in the second half, following a botched punt that gave Illinois the ball at Wisconsin's 25, the Badgers defense held again, forcing the Illini to kick a 47-yard field goal after losing five yards on three plays.
"Those are big," Cosgrove said Saturday. "After a sudden change or a turnover and they get the ball down there that is what we have to do. I think our kids responded in holding them to field goals. The next thing we have to do is try to block one."