Things tend to get heated on the playing field. After all, Big Ten football demands a lot of competitiveness and intensity from it's players. Those attributes were never more apparent Saturday in Wisconsin's 24-7 victory over Illinois.
In a generally one-sided game, the Illini all but abandoned the run in an attempt to jumpstart their offense out of a 17-0 deficit. With such a dependence on the pass, the Badger defense was able to strengthen their pass rush and key in on the quarterback.
"I thought early (our pass protection) was pretty good, but late in the game when they knew we were going to throw it, it's tough," Illinois head coach Ron Turner said. "I thought we had a good plan to try to neutralize their front and give us protection, but as the game went on and they knew we were going to throw it – that's a situation you don't want to be in against this defense."
Forced into just that type of situation, tempers flared between the Illinois offensive line and the Badgers' defensive line. Wisconsin's Erasmus James was pitted against Bucky Babcock, a 6-foot-4, 305-pound, four-year starter for the Illini. James, who earned the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Week the last two weeks, was held at bay for most of the day.
"They were holding me all the time," James said after the game.
Several times throughout the game such violations were more than apparent. A video replay on Camp Randall's scoreboard showed James' jersey being pulled as he raced into the backfield, but no call was made. James recorded three quarterback hurries against Illinois, but was held to just one assisted tackle. The frustration simply compounded things and scuffles between Babcock and James continued after the whistle.
"I think there's bad blood anytime you take the field," Turner said. "I don't think there's anything different with this team. I think our guys have a lot of respect for this team and what they've accomplished."
Babcock begged to differ with his coach.
"There was no bad blood at all," Babcock said of his battle against James. "He's a good player and it was a great challenge for me today. It was one of those things where we both were just getting pretty intense and we got really competitive but there was no bad blood. I told him what I thought of him after the game and it wasn't anything negative. It was definitely a positive thing."
Babcock even went on to praise the Badger line for a hard-fought game.
"I was very impressed with the way they played together and they played very well as a defensive unit," Babcock said. "I wouldn't say they're all pro-bowl type of guys, but they're all very good players, especially in our league."
James, on the other hand, was less than appreciative of Babcock's competitiveness and did not hold much regard for his Illinois opponent after the game.
"He was okay," James said of Babcock's play. "I thought he was going to be a little bit better, but that's only better for me…he was a pretty dirty player at the end when we were getting on the ground he'd try and drive his knee into me. But, whatever."
Bucky vs. Ras
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