Basic Badgers Best Illinois

With head coach Bret Bielema citing the Badgers needed to get back to fundamentals, Wisconsin's offense managed the game and its defense made the big plays, besting Illinois, 27-17, for UW's first conference win.

MADISON - After opening the Big Ten conference season with four consecutive losses, it was time for the University of Wisconsin football team to get back to the basics.

In an attempt to try to right the ship with five games remaining on the schedule and having suffered through the program's longest losing streak since 1996, Wisconsin got back on track Saturday by defeating Illinois 27-17.

Dustin Sherer, starting in his second career game, threw two touchdowns to David Gilreath and ran for another as the Badgers had to rally from a touchdown deficit in the second half.

"It feels great, man. It feels like it was our first victory of the year," said Gilreath, who had a career high 71 receiving yards along with his two scores. "I was telling someone, ‘I've never had a win feel this good. It's been so long.'"

After heading into halftime tied at 10, it appeared as if Wisconsin might squander another game in what has been a season of mostly disappointment thus far.

On the first possession of the third quarter, the Fighting Illini marched 70 yards down the field before Juice Williams found a gaping hole in the Badgers' Cover Two-scheme and hit A.J. Jenkins for a 27-yard touchdown.

Typically, a breakdown like the one resulting in Jenkins' touchdown would have hurt the Badgers' psyche this season. Furthermore, Wisconsin has been unable to answer back with a big play. However, in getting back to the basics this week, the Badgers were able to do just that.

On the ensuing possession, Sherer hit Gilreath in stride on a sword cut route where Gilreath was able to zip for 49 yards and the score to tie things up at 17 and give Wisconsin the momentum to eventually pull ahead.

"We haven't had too many of those (plays) this year," Sherer said. "A run after the catch like that is huge. That's kind of the play where you can gash them and that's exactly what he (Gilreath did) … for him to make that run was huge."

While Bielema downplayed the level of scaling things back for the struggling Badgers this week, it was obvious Wisconsin stuck to the basics. Offensive coordinator Paul Chryst stuck to a run-heavy game with John Clay, who ran for 93 yards on 25 carries, making his first career start in place of the banged up P.J. Hill. Also, the passing game for Sherer was kept to mostly short-yardage passes and not many shots were taken down the field.

It resulted in a balanced offense that didn't get shook up, which, along with a steady defensive performance against Ron Zook's spread, helped the Badgers win their first game in over a month (Sept. 13 at Fresno State).

"Now we all look like geniuses," Bielema joked.

And for some, the difference in this win and the previous for losses was simple.

"The difference was that we were just hungry for a win," said cornerback Niles Brinkley, who made his second career start and made a key fourth-quarter interception. "We came out and said that we had to win and we were hungry."

But even with the win, the Badgers still have a challenge ahead of them in becoming bowl eligible. They must win two of the remaining four games to earn a bowl bid, starting next week at Michigan State.

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