MADISON — The No. 23 Wisconsin Badgers celebrated homecoming weekend with a comfortable 49–20 victory over Illinois on Saturday afternoon inside Camp Randall Stadium.
Wisconsin (5–2, 3–1 Big Ten) racked up 545 yards, 357 on the ground, against an Illini defense coming into the game giving up over 500 total yards per contest.
Two Badger backs went over 100 yards on the afternoon. Sophomore Jonathan Taylor again went over the century mark running the ball, gaining 159 yards on 27 carries, while redshirt senior Taiwan Deal tallied 111 yards on 12 carries with two touchdowns. Fullback Alec Ingold also scored two touchdowns on the day, one both rushing and receiving.
Quarterback Alex Hornibrook had an up-and-down afternoon, completing 13 of 22 passes for 188 yards with three touchdowns but also two interceptions.
Illinois coughed up the ball five times to Wisconsin, all in the first half, which led to 21 points for the Badgers. Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard’s unit held the Illini offense to only 300 yards.
Wisconsin won the coin toss, received the opening kickoff, and drove the ball at will against an Illinois defense that came into the game giving up 199.5 yards per game on the ground. On this opening drive, the Badgers drove 75 yards in 11 plays—57 of those yards rushing—and started off on the right foot with a one-yard touchdown run by Ingold. Nine of the 11 snaps were runs in Wisconsin’s attempt to assert itself offensively.
On Illinois’s first possession, Wisconsin forced its first takeaway of the afternoon when inside linebacker T.J. Edwards intercepted an AJ Bush pass and returned it 28 yards to the Illini 25-yard line.
Two plays later, true freshman Aron Cruickshank recorded his first career touchdown on a 23-yard run on a jet sweep out of a jumbo formation look.
Though it did not lead to points on the board, Wisconsin’s defense forced a second turnover in the first half that nullified an Illinois scoring opportunity. With the Illini driving in Badgers territory, true freshman inside linebacker Jack Sanborn forced a fumble from running back Reggie Corbin with Chris Orr recovering.
Wisconsin could not capitalize on another takeaway, as Rafael Gaglianone missed a chip-shot field goal a little more than halfway through the second quarter after Evan Bondoc recorded his first career interception. Illinois responded on one play, as Corbin switched directions and took it 80 yards for a touchdown to bring it within 14–7.
On the afternoon, Illinois—which came into the game rushing for almost 229 per contest—gained 210 on the ground.
After a Wisconsin three-and-out, Illinois inserted M.J. Rivers at quarterback. The offense stalled due to a couple of penalties, and then the new signal caller’s pass on third down was tipped in the air and intercepted by senior nose tackle Olive Sagapolu.
One play later, Hornibrook found tight end Jake Ferguson for a pretty over-the-shoulder catch from 27 yards out to put Wisconsin up 21–7. That was the redshirt freshman’s third touchdown reception of the season, and he finished the day with three catches for 62 yards.
All five turnovers for Illinois occurred in the first half. The last one was a forced fumble by redshirt sophomore safety Eric Burrell that was recovered by true freshman cornerback Rachad Wildgoose. Wisconsin needed only three plays to get its fourth touchdown of the afternoon, with Hornibrook finding tight end Kyle Penniston for an 11-yard touchdown to go up 28–7.
Two turnovers courtesy of Hornibrook led to 10 unanswered points by Illinois, however. One of Hornibrook’s two interceptions came late in the first half, which led to a Chase McLaughlin 52-yard field goal to make it 28–10 going into halftime.
On Wisconsin’s first offensive series of the third quarter, Hornibrook threw a mistake, which was then picked off by linebacker Jimmy Marchese. Two plays later, running back Ra’Von Bonner ran it in from 18 yards to bring the score back within 11 at 28–17.
To its credit, UW’s offense responded in a big way, going 75 yards in six plays, capped off by a Taiwan Deal 39-yard touchdown run to give the Badgers a 35–17 advantage with 8:22 left in the third quarter.
Not quite finished in the scoring department, Wisconsin would tack on another touchdown in the third quarter, with its fullback again finding the end zone. Ingold got up the right sideline with Hornibrook finding him for a 19-yard touchdown. Gaglianone’s extra point made it 42–17.
Consider these fun stats for Ingold, the decorated senior fullback:
For @AI_XLV, that's 19 total touchdowns on 103 career touches. Pretty, pretty, pretty good....— Brian Mason (@Brian_Mason) October 20, 2018
Illinois drove down and connected on a McLaughlin 26-yard field goal to bring the score within 22, but Wisconsin answered with a touchdown series of its own.
An 11-play, 86-yard drive ended with Deal’s second score from six yards out to cap the scoring for the game.
Wisconsin travels to Northwestern next week for another Big Ten West divisional showdown.