SOMEWHERE IN THE LAND WITH NO HILLS, Ill. — I’m currently carpooling home from Champaign with a band of
merry beat writers, making our way northward through the flatlands of our neighbors south of us.
No. 5 Wisconsin outlasted Illinois 24–10 in front of 40,000-plus inside Memorial Stadium, a game that never felt in danger of being lost, but with “style points” in play, will probably not fare well for the Badgers when the College Football Playoff rankings come out on Halloween.
Had the Badgers won convincingly, they probably would move up further in the polls with No. 2 Penn State and No. 4 TCU losing on Saturday, but No. 6 Ohio State—along with the likes of No. 7 Clemson and the rest (hello, No. 9 Notre Dame)—should move up as well.
Nonetheless, Wisconsin is 8–0 for the first time since 2004, and the polls don’t mean anything with all eyes set to the CFP committee. How will that committee look at UW, though? Probably not with the kindest of eyes in what very euphemistically can be called an underwhelming win.
Keep winning, including the Big Ten championship game, and Wisconsin has to punch its ticket to the playoff, right? The Badgers just have to take it one game at a time.
However, the offense needs to continue to find its consistency, and soon—especially with what could be a challenging game in Bloomington less than a week away and the toughest part of its schedule beginning in November.
Michael Deiter: Big guy touchdown. Piesman Trophy candidate. Need we say more?
Chris Orr: The inside linebacker led the team in tackles (seven) while notching a tackle for loss and a quarterback hurry.
Alec James: The redshirt senior defensive end is playing at a high level, recording two sacks and four tackles in the win. It was the first time the Brookfield, Wis., native recorded multiple sacks in a game. For the season, he’s tied for second on the team in sacks (four) with outside linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel.
Garrett Groshek: Stepping up for the injured Jonathan Taylor, he rushed for 51 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown. Like most walk-ons, he’s had the ability to step in and help contribute when numbers are down.
Play(s) of the Game
There’s 1a, 1b and 1c:
1a. Tyler Johnson’s strip-sack of quarterback Jeff George, Jr. : Wisconsin scored 14 points off of turnovers, with the walk-on outside linebacker’s forced fumble leading to a seven-play, 50-yard drive that culminated in Groshek’s touchdown to give UW a 14–0 lead in the second quarter. The first career sack and forced fumble for the Menasha, Wis., product switched the momentum built up after Illinois intercepted Alex Hornibrook and returned it into UW territory.
1b. Joe Ferguson’s interception: Illinois was driving down the field, and a holding penalty pushed its offense back the play immediately before the redshirt senior’s pick. The former walk-on was in perfect position to make a play on the ball when caught at the UW 6-yard line, then proceeded to return it 37 yards, setting up the drive that led to...
1c. Deiter’s touchdown: There’s nothing more I can say about this. /sheds tear
- Wisconsin is now 29–6 overall under head coach Paul Chryst.
- Wisconsin has now scored 76 points off of the 16 takeaways it has forced through eight games this season.
- Wisconsin recorded a season-high 10 passes defended (that means pass break-ups plus interceptions). Eight pass break-ups and two interceptions by the defense contributed to the defensive effort.
- With Wisconsin’s five sacks against Illinois, the team is averaging 3.4 per game. That’s a full sack more per contest than what was seen during the 2016 season.
- Alec Ingold’s one-yard #FULLBACKTOUCHDOWN was the ninth rushing touchdown of his career, the first of the 2017 season.
- Five Wisconsin outside linebackers have contributed 23.5 of the team’s 56 tackles for loss this season so far (Garret Dooley 9.5, Leon Jacobs and Van Ginkel six each, Tyler Johnson and Christian Bell with one each).
- Van Ginkel, for that matter, registered a career-high two tackles for loss.
- Wisconsin placekicker Rafael Gaglianone converted a 52-yard field goal attempt right before halftime. It was the third 50-yard-plus field goal of his career, which now places him for successfully kicking the most 50-yard field goals in UW history alongside Taylor Mehlhaff and Philip Welch.
[Update, Monday, 11:55 a.m. CT: A UW official confirmed that Garret Dooley was credited with the sack and forced fumble, rather than Chris Orr. Our game ball and notes sections have been updated.]