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Wisconsin offense slow to open game, Badgers still lead Western Illinois 9-3 at halftime

Despite engineering a 17-play drive in the first half that ended with a 4th-down stop, the Badgers have the lead going into halftime.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Despite struggling in the running game in the first half, Tanner McEvoy and the Wiscosnin Badgers took advantage of a Western Illinois mistake on the opening kickoff and have held on to a 9-3 lead going into halftime.

The game started in an odd fashion, as Western Illinois took the ball out of the end zone but the returner downed it after bringing it back in, though originally called a touchback. Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen challenged, and the call was reversed, giving the Badgers a 2-0 lead very early in the first quarter.

The offensive line and the offense in general struggled with Western Illinois, as the Leathernecks have stacked the line, daring Wisconsin to throw with eight defenders in the box. Heisman candidate Melvin Gordon was held to only eight yards on 9 carries, while the only form of rushing attack has been through McEvoy and sophomore running back Corey Clement -- as the Badgers have gained 73 yards on 18 carries through two quarters.

The passing game came alive in the second quarter, with McEvoy connecting with senior Sam Arneson for 3 catches for 72 yards. The junior college transfer passed for 117 yards in the second quarter.

Despite a 17-play drive that lead to the Leathernecks' 7-yard line, the Badgers stalled on a 4th-down carry by Clement. McEvoy lead the Badgers 54 yards down the field in 3 plays the drive after, capping the 1:11 drive with a 7-yard touchdown off a read-option look.

The defense primarily played in a 3-3-5 nickel defensive look to counter Western Illinois' spread look. Despite a scare in the first quarter, redshirt freshmen defensive end Chikwe Obasih tipped a pass that lead to junior safety Michael Caputo's interception that halted the possible scoring drive.

The Leathernecks, who gained 128 yards in the first half, did drive 67 yards in its final possession. After 11 plays, Nathan Knuffman connected from 29 yards for a 9-3 lead.

The Badgers offense will be on the field first in the first quarter, as they receive the second half kickoff.