1. The Juice is Loose
Williams threw some absolute darts when he was allowed to set his feet in the pocket and really step into his throw. Surprisingly, he did not look to use his feet nearly as much as the old Juice would have. What was key was the blitz pressure. While they did not often get to Williams, they did manage to make him hurry a number of throws, which I believe had a negative effect on the Illinois passing game.
2. Slowing Down the Irresistible Force
The Badgers allowed just 17 points and just over 300 yards. Illinois put together two drives, but was contained throughout the rest of the afternoon. In particular, the Badgers really throttled the Illinois running game, giving up less then 3 yards per carry. Defensive coordinator Dave Doernen reportedly simplified the defensive scheme, which may have lead to a more disciplined defensive unit which for the first time in a number of weeks did not allow the big play. In the pregame Keys, I mentioned horizontal discipline and that was a contant of the defense on Saturday.
The Wisconsin wideouts caught just 4 passes, but David Gilreath did hit on one big play that was instrumental in the victory. Paul Chryst was also able to isolate Garrett Graham on some simple slants in order to give Dustin Sherer some simple throws, in addition to the one over the top toss to Graham that effectively was the back breaker. The Wisconsin passing game was not fancy, but they made just enough plays to take advantage of the overcommitting Illini defense.
The Badgers struggled to get to the second level all game long as Illinois crashed the line of scrimmage relentlessly. John Clay finished with just 3.5 yards per carry. The Badgers' best run plays proved to draws to Zach Brown in passing situations as well as broken plays or rollouts with Sherer.
5. Fickle Fans
The fans were unspectacular, with a late arriving student section as per usual and more empty seats than usual. However, there was no dissention from the fans as the Badgers kept the game close with a methodical first half.
Well, I hit fine on the Wisconsin offense, predicting their output within a field goal. However, I did not forsee the Wisconsin defensive performance. The Badger defense has not played terribly poorly for most of the year, but they have surrendered some big plays at inopportune times. With these plays removed from the game context (something I did not think they could do against Illinois), the defense was able to put together perhaps their best game of the year.