On an afternoon that saw Anthony Davis' return carry the offense, the man who led the defense was more of an unlikely hero. Instead of Erasmus James, Anttaj Hawthorne, or Jim Leonhard leading the way, junior linebacker Dontez Sanders had a field day.
"My individual play, I'd give myself about a B," Sanders said. "I feel that I just want to always be around the ball. I want to get interceptions, and just get a bunch of tackles and big hits and things like that."
While Sanders did not intercept any passes, he did just about everything else. The Bedford, Ohio, native recorded the first two sacks of his UW career to go along with a forced fumble and 13 total tackles, two and a half of which went for a loss. One huge factor in Sanders' performance was Illinois' multiple double-teaming on the Badger defensive line, which freed "Tez" up to make plays.
"It was an extra guy that couldn't get up to me and block me," Sanders said with a grin.
Defensive coordinator Bret Bielema said that though Sanders is relatively inexperienced, the first-year starter brings plenty of energy to his defense. He also brought energy to a packed Camp Randall crowd, often gesturing to get the crowd into the action.
"'Tez' plays with a lot of personality, plays hard, and he's exciting to be around," Bielema said. "I think he's a contagious personality in whatever he does. I think every game is a learning experience for him, and he's playing better and better."
With 1:37 on the clock in the fourth quarter and the Badgers leading 24-7, it was Sanders who put the final nail in the Illinois coffin when he sacked third string quarterback Chris Pazan and forced a fumble, giving Wisconsin the ball.
"Coach ‘B,' he's always preaching strip, strip, strip," Sanders said. "Just get the ball. So that's what I went in there and did."
After the Badger defense lost its chance for a shutout in the second half for the second week in a row, Sanders is hoping to finally seal the deal in the near future.
"I'm just hoping that one game that we can just go out there and get a goose egg," Sanders said.
Sanders shines in victory
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