Running quarterback trouble for UW

Illinois quarterback Tim Brasic tormented the Badger defense with his ability to run or pass.

CHAMPAIGNE, Ill. — One of Wisconsin's defensive Achilles heels this season has been a quarterback with mobility. Illinois signal-caller Tim Brasic exposed this weakness over and over again during UW's 41-24 win here Saturday. Brasic was credited with 22 rushing attempts for 116 yards. Discounting the four times he was sacked, however, Brasic picked up 138 yards on the ground.

At times Brasic was Illinois' only offense. He scrambled for nine first downs, including six in the second half. He also proved adept at running the option, hurting the Badgers both with his legs and those of his teammates. Running back Pierre Thomas scored an easy third-quarter touchdown after Brasic executed the option perfectly.

"The one that was really killing me, was frustrating, was the third-down scrambles for first downs," defensive coordinator Bret Bielema said. "… Going into the game we thought he could move the ball pretty well with his feet and he did that. Just was able to escape. We got ourselves in third-down situations and he keeps himself alive."

Wisconsin did come up with the four sacks, but often the Badgers' front four failed to contain Brasic, allowing him to step up in the pocket or scoot around the edge and make big plays with this feet.

"Somebody's got to contain it," head coach Barry Alvarez said. "I didn't see anybody containing several times. But sometimes those 5-techniques are up the field and he steps under them and then gets outside. Then he's out in space with linebackers."

The Badgers missed the services of mike linebacker Mark Zalewski, who suffered a left knee injury in the last week's win over Purdue. Sophomore Andy Crooks replaced Zalewski in the starting lineup. Crooks was second on the team with seven tackles Saturday, and he had a big sack in the fourth quarter. But it was evident that the Badgers missed Zalewski's athleticism.

"The mike linebacker is the first that would be able to react to that play at that position," Bielema said, referring to the quarterback scrambles. "And there was a couple occasions… where I thought we were going to be able to get off the field and just weren't able to close and do it.

"A couple times the outside linebacker, in particular our sams, lost leverage on the football, which resulted in big plays."

Zalewski could return next week, when UW travels to face Penn State and another quarterback with the ability to run and pass effectively — Michael Robinson.

"I think there's a good chance (that Zalewski will play)," Alvarez said. "He may not play, but I have a feeling that he'll be ready to practice this week."

Brasic also beat the Badgers with his arm, completing 20 of 39 passes for a career-high 277 yards and two touchdowns.

What bothered Bielema was not simply that the Illini racked up 538 yards total offense, but how they accomplished it.

"The way that they moved it," he said. "It wasn't like it was first down, second-and-six, third-and-two. It was big plays. It was monumental problems."

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