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Grading Wisconsin’s win vs. Illinois

Breaking down the Badgers’ blowout of the Illini.

Illinois v Wisconsin Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Ah, nothing like a good, old-fashioned, blow-the-doors-off victory to celebrate Homecoming. No. 7 Wisconsin took the wood to Illinois on Saturday, gobstomping the overmatched Illini 48-3 in front of the home crowd at Camp Randall Stadium.

After a few weeks of excitement, it was kind of nice to see some ruthless and brutal efficiency from the Badgers (8-2, 5-2 Big Ten) in all aspects of the game. Here are the grades:

Offense: A

During the post-Northwestern roundtable, one of B5Q’s smarter pundits suggested that one of the keys to this game was for the offense to jump on the Illini early and bury them to take some of the pressure off of a defense that’s been holding the line for weeks. (Note: that’s the hard-hitting analysis you have come to expect from this site: “Keys to Win = Score Points.”)

The offense delivered and then some. The running game was the most effective it has been all year to the tune of 363 total yards and four touchdowns. Corey Clement (123 yards, 3 touchdowns), Dare Ogunbowale (103 on 14.7 yards per carry), and Bradrick Shaw (80 yards, one touchdown) all contributed heavily.

The offensive line has been criticized of late, but this was a high-water mark performance for them, and the third straight game that Wisconsin had 200-plus yards gained (Note: net yards against Northwestern were less than 200 due to the “run-Bart-Houston-backwards-drunken-Madden-style” end of game sequence last week.).

Quarterback play was solid, if not spectacular. Redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook got the bulk of the snaps, completing 7 of 12 passes for 85 yards and a touchdown. Redshirt senior Bart Houston got a little work as well, completing his only pass for a seven yard touchdown to tight end Kyle Penniston. Most importantly, the quarterbacks took care of the ball, throwing no interceptions for the second straight game.

Defense: A

The Badgers were aggressive and opportunistic on defense, snaring four interceptions off of Jeff George, Jr. in the first half, leading to 17 Wisconsin points. George, Jr. managed only five completions all game before he was lifted at halftime for former starter Wes Lunt.

Lunt managed to complete only two passes of his own in the second.

Overall, Illinois could not get much of anything going. Their offense held the ball for only 17:57, managing just 200 total yards and 11 first downs all game. Aside from a couple of big Illini plays, including some explosive plays in the run game and a 35-yard reception by Justin Hardee, the Badgers kept the offense bottled up. Illinois went 0-for-9 on third downs.

Special Teams: A

A clean and steady game across the board. Kicks were good (two-for-two in field goals, six-for-six on PATs), kickoffs went for touchbacks (six-for-nine), and the punts flipped the field. Junior Natrell Jamerson got to ease back into the mix with two decent kick returns. The Badgers even got in a successful fake punt for a first down in the second quarter.

Coaching: A+

Look, the coaches get stuck with picked nits when things go wrong, so they should get rewarded when everything goes right — and pretty much everything went right. Everyone executed and the home crowd went home happy.

Overall: A+

This was the most complete win of 2016. Badgers were prepared and opportunistic, erasing big Illinois plays with turnovers and gashing the Illini defense with the ground game. The defense has executed at a high level all year long and the offense and special teams finally met their level of performance. As always, there are quibbles: Illinois looked like it could throw long at times; red zone execution is still a concern. Somehow, the Badgers left even more points on the board with a few stalled-out drives, and Houston needed longer cleats.

All that said, this was as thorough a Badgers’ team win as we’ve seen this year.