Grading out

The report card from Wisconsin's 38-20 win over Illinois, along with each position's season-to-date GPA

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Jim Sorgi was not called upon often, but he was extremely efficient during Wisconsin's three opening touchdown drives completing five of six attempts. All told, Sorgi completed seven of 12 passes Saturday for 131 yards and one touchdown.


The 75-yard third-quarter touchdown pass to Brandon Williams helped Wisconsin regain momentum, but more importantly it displayed Sorgi's resilience. Despite rarely throwing, Sorgi absorbed some big hits Saturday, but bounced back and threw the touchdown pass after missing a series with a bruised sternum. The Wisconsin signal-caller also ran for two touchdowns Saturday.


The passing game was not very efficient in the second half, but Sorgi's display of toughness receives high marks here. Still, though, the game may have had a very different ending had Sorgi's interception on a late third-quarter screen pass not been called back by penalty.


Illinois game grade: AB


Season-to-date GPA: 2.70


Running backs


With perhaps the best running back in the country nursing a sprained ankle, the Badgers put on an impressive display of depth against Illinois. The running game churned out more than 300 yards Saturday, with Dwayne Smith starting and gaining 193 yards on 34 carries. Smith and Booker Stanley (12 carries, 55 yards) ran in a purely downhill, power fashion Saturday, hitting running lanes with authority and driving back Illini defenders. The duo's effectiveness led to a more-or-less one-dimensional, and highly successful, offensive showing.


Fullback Matt Bernstein enjoyed career highs with 29 rushing yards and 35 total yards. He also did his usual stellar work leading the way for the Badgers tailbacks.


Illinois game grade: A


Season-to-date GPA: 3.30




There were few opportunities to make a play in the passing game, but when one was presented Wisconsin's receivers took advantage, most notably when Brandon Williams leaped and snagged Sorgi's deep out pass, turned a sprinted to the five-yard line before being knocked out of bounds with a 75-yard gain.


Wisconsin's receivers did an exceptional job blocking. Tight end Jason Pociask, who also caught his first pass of the season Saturday, made a number of solid blocks at the point of attack to help spring Smith and Stanley. Thanks to Williams, Smith was not touched until he reached the goal line on his 19-yard touchdown run that opened the game's scoring.


Illinois game grade: A


Season-to-date GPA: 3.40


Offensive line


The line was purely dominant in the running game Saturday. Tailbacks Dwayne Smith and Booker Stanley were consistently greeted with sizeable running lanes. Wisconsin's line controlled the line of scrimmage mercilessly during the Badgers first three drives and again once the momentum shifted back to Wisconsin in the second half. Especially considering how infrequently Wisconsin passed, though, the line allowed too much quick pressure on Sorgi.


Illinois game grade: AB


Season-to-date GPA: 3.20


Defensive line


Wisconsin's pass rush was almost non-existent for much of the game but picked up as the game went on. Darius Jones came up big with two sacks and Jonathan Welsh dropped into coverage and managed to break up a pass to thwart Illinois' final possession. The line did a decent job cutting down running lanes.


Illinois game grade: B


Season-to-date GPA: 3.00




Rather than play nickel, early in the game Wisconsin rotated starting outside linebackers Alex Lewis and Chris Catalano with reserves Elliot Goode and Kareem Timbers and entrusted them in coverage against Illinois' three- and four-receiver sets. The unit did a solid if unexceptional job in coverage, typically making tackles soon after receivers made receptions. There were breakdowns, though, and the group struggled at times to take on blockers and fill against the run.


Illinois game grade: B


Season-to-date GPA: 2.70




Considering how frequently they were challenged, the secondary did an excellent job against a very good passing offense. The Badgers defensive backs allowed few big gains and corners Scott Starks and Levonne Rowan won the battles with Illinois' receivers. Jim Leonhard's first half interception may have come via a poor read from Illini quarterback Jon Beutjer, but the play was huge in Wisconsin's early domination. The secondary also did an admirable job tackling against a group of nifty receivers. The only knock here is that Rowan and strong safety Ryan Aiello each had interceptions skirt between their hands.


Illinois game grade: AB


Season-to-date GPA: 2.60


Special Teams


Wisconsin's specialists nearly turned the game around completely. Following the Badgers' third touchdown, E.B. Halsey returned a kickoff 66 yards to the Wisconsin 24. The defense held Illinois to a field goal, but the momentum shifted and Illinois closed the half with 10 unanswered points.


Then, on Wisconsin's first possession of the third quarter, punter R.J. Morse bobbled the deep snap and was tackled six yards behind the line, at the Badgers 25. Again, though, the defense held the Illini to a field goal.


The two special teams breakdowns, however, gave Illinois momentum until the roughing the passer penalty turned things around late in the third quarter.


Illinois gained 179 yards on kick returns Saturday and its average starting field position following a kickoff was its 36-yard line. Wisconsin's kick return unit showed some improvement Saturday, but yielded a post-kickoff starting position of just the Badgers' 24.


Illinois game grade: D


Season-to-date GPA: 2.10

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