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Grading No. 23 Wisconsin’s 49–20 win vs. Illinois

A homecoming blowout win for the Badgers.

NCAA Football: Illinois at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Snow day! (Well, 18 minutes of snow day!)

Still smarting from last week’s 38–13 national television beatdown at the hands of now-No. 6 Michigan, No. 23 Wisconsin looked to get back to its winning ways in Saturday’s homecoming game against Illinois.

The Illini were just what the doctor ordered, as the Badgers swamped the visitors for a 49–20 win that saw a first-half snow storm whiteout Camp Randall.

Offense: B

In addition to scoring seven touchdowns, the Badgers gained 545 yards total, 357 yards rushing and 188 yards passing.

Quarterback Alex Hornibrook was up-and-down all game. In the second quarter alone, the redshirt junior:

  • Was bailed out by an interception-negating Illinois penalty.
  • Missed touchdown throws to wide receivers A.J. Taylor and Danny Davis.
  • Found tight ends Jake Ferguson and Kyle Penniston for touchdowns on consecutive drives.
  • Threw an ugly interception late in the quarter that led to an Illinois field goal (and likely took points off the board for Wisconsin).

Hornibrook finished 13-of-22 for 188 yards with three touchdowns but the two interceptions.

Running back Taiwan Deal ran for 111 yards and two scores on 9.3 yards per carry, including a 39-yard breakaway score—a career-long. Senior fullback Alec Ingold opened the scoring with a one-yard touchdown dive early in the first quarter and added a second score late in the third quarter on a 19-yard play-action pass from Hornibrook.

Freshman wide receiver Aron Cruickshank scored his first touchdown as a Badger, taking a jet sweep 23 yards for the score.

Normally steady offensive lineman Michael Deiter had a rough day in wracking up three penalties, two holds and a false start, including two that erased Wisconsin first downs.

Defense: A-

For the second straight week, the defense came into Saturday’s game with a number of injuries, particularly in the secondary. It did not matter.

The defense was aggressive and opportunistic, forcing five Illinois turnovers in the first half. The defense had three sacks on the day and held the Illini to just 90 passing yards.

Redshirt senior T.J. Edwards gave the defense an early boost, jumping a slant route to snag his ninth career interception, tying the school record for picks by a linebacker.

Freshman inside linebacker Jack Sanborn forced a fumble early in the second quarter, which he recovered.

Redshirt senior safety Evan Bondoc grabbed his first career interception. The pick chased Illini quarterback AJ Bush, who was replaced with M.J. Rivers. The interceptions kept coming after the change, however, with Olive Sagapolu tipping a Rivers pass to himself for the pick.

It was a solid effort from a unit looking to bounce back from an exhausting effort against the Wolverines.

Special Teams: C+

Kicker Rafael Gaglianone missed his only field-goal attempt of 27 yards, which was immediately followed by an 80-yard Reggie Corbin touchdown run.

Punter Anthony Lotti had four punts, averaging 33.8 yards. Lotti was a victim of the weather late in first quarter, fumbling a snap which led to a 13-yard punt.

Coaching: A-

After what appeared to be an extraordinarily conservative game plan against Michigan, head coach Paul Chryst returned to more balanced play calling against the Illini. Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard’s defense stood tall, particularly considering all of its injuries.

Overall: A-

It was one of Wisconsin’s more dominant showings this year, though Hornibrook’s uneven play kept things closer than they should have been. It was exactly what was needed after a demoralizing road loss against Michigan.

Student section: D

The student section once again came up lacking, coming late (in actuality, never really coming at all) and leaving early. The raucous atmosphere at Camp Randall used to be a built-in advantage for Wisconsin (rain, snow, or shine) but the past two seasons have seen it erode. It looks awful on TV and has to be a bummer for the players. Maybe it’s time to start reducing student sections?