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Grading Wisconsin’s suffocation of Illinois

The Badgers defense was lights out and the ground game was stellar. It was a Vintage Wisconsin Performance.

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Illinois Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Rubric - Wisconsin Football Unit Grades

Grade Description - accounting for degree of difficulty
Grade Description - accounting for degree of difficulty
A Excellent: Top-5 level performance
B Very good: Top-tier Big Ten performance
C Acceptable: Average for the Big Ten
D Unacceptable: Below average for the Big Ten
F Failure: Rutgers level performance
N/A Insufficient evidence for a grade

Offense: B+

O-line: A-


This was a throwback, vintage, classic, whatever you want to call it, Wisconsin Badgers offensive performance. Graham Mertz only threw when absolutely necessary (10-of-19, 100 yards, one INT) and he even scampered for a couple of first downs.

The running game was dominant, averaging 6.1 yards per carry while totaling 391 yards. Chez Mellusi and Braelon Allen were a dynamic duo and there were a couple of jet sweeps sprinkled in (STOP GIVING THOSE TO JACK DUNN) for good measure.

The offensive line, which was a bit reshuffled due to an injury to Logan Bruss, didn’t allow a sack and paved the way for all of those rushing yards. They looked excellent. Jake Ferguson got a catch to break the Wisconsin record for catches in consecutive games.

Defense: A

Pass rush: B
Pass coverage: A-
Run defense: A+


The Badgers allowed 33 total yards allowed in the first half while holding Illinois passing to a line of 3-of-14 for 12 yards (Sitkowski 0-for-7). Eventually, Sitkwoski completed a few passes, but the Illini only threw for 67 yards (and had 93 total). The Badgers only got home for one sack, but put good pressure on the Illini QBs all day. The pass defense had 10 passes broken up and had multiple “coulda shoulda woulda” interceptions.

From the beginning of the game you could tell that Illinois knew they weren’t going to be able to run the ball and they ended up only attempting 13 rushes. The defense was dominant and deserved the shutout.

Special Teams: B

Kicking: B
Punting: B
Returning: N/A
Coverage: B


Vujnovich had a great punt in the first half which ended with an excellent tackle by Travian Blaylock. Collin Larsh made his only FGA and did well in place of Jack Van Dyke on kickoffs too. Otherwise, uh, not a whole lot happened on special teams which is a great change of pace for UW.

Coaching: B

Strategy: B+
Adjustments: N/A
Play-calling: B


Paul Chryst and the offense went 2-for-2 on fourth downs, which is great. The Badgers came into the game with a clear game plan of cramming it down Illinois’ cramhole and, well, they executed it wonderfully. Chryst didn’t seem to have much trust in Mertz as there was at least one third down where a pass was probably the call and the Badgers ran it instead.

Where is Jalen Berger? He seems to be in the doghouse.


Overall grade: B+

Unit Grades: B
Big plays: C
Game Control: A
Penalties & Discipline: D-


The Badgers had a TON of penalties (nine for 101 yards) and many of them resulted in Illinois picking up first downs, something they weren’t able to do by running their actual offense. There weren’t really any big plays, but Mellusi and Allen each had a run for over 20 yards while Illinois was able to get the second run of the season for more than 10 yards against UW’s defense.

Wisconsin had over 42 minutes of time of possession and had four drives that lasted longer than six minutes. While this wasn’t some sort of masterful overall performance, it definitely changes the vibes around the program heading into next weekend’s night game against Army.