On Saturday, Wisconsin's offense appeared stagnant through three quarters. The Badgers entered the fourth quarter with a narrow 10-7 lead against one of the weakest teams in the Big Ten on their home turf. Besides a nicely called 62-yard touchdown on a screen pass to James White, the offensive woes remained much the same.
However, the Badgers' offense, particularly the running game, returned to form in the fourth quarter. Montee Ball showed flashes of the Montee Ball we've all become accustomed to watching. He ran for 97 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter alone, after accumulating just 19 yards up to that point. Even Joel Stave connected with Jared Abbrederis on yet another deep touchdown pass to UW's biggest threat on the outside -- who, by the way, has an uncanny knack for consistently shaking defenders out of their shoes and finding openings in opposing defenses.
It's great and all to see the Badgers finish strong like this, but honestly, it came against a very weak opponent in Illinois. We've seen flashes of life out of this offense before (especially in the first half at Nebraska), but can Wisconsin's offense produce on a more consistent basis?
My one inclination to say things may change for the better would come after seeing the energy level on the sidelines in that fourth quarter against the Illini. The energy was infectious. Every time Ball broke loose for another big run, the rest of the team got fired up. They seemed to be playing with a certain pride and confidence that we hadn't seen much through the first five weeks of the season. In postgame interviews, Ball and White -- who also had one of his best performances in a while -- finally seemed pleased with the production on the ground. You could tell from watching them speak they believed the rushing attack had been resurrected and that it would stay that way. We'll have to wait for kickoff at Purdue, but hopefully that enthusiasm and energy carries over and translates into success for this Wisconsin offense.
It's nothing short of incredible that Curt Phillips is healthy again and saw his first action since the 2009 season. With him back, the Badgers are looking to get him more involved in the offense.
Wisconsin will host Minnesota on Oct. 20, which is set to kickoff at 11 a.m. on ESPNU.
See all the latest rankings and bowl predictions for the Badgers.
Solid defensive line play has been key for UW's tough defense this season.
The coaching staff is pleased with Stave's progress.