In Bret Bielema’s return to Madison, Paul Chryst had a chance to tie Bielema as the second all-time winningest coach in school history. Chryst entered the game with 67 career wins, compared to Bielema’s 68.
However, Chryst’s chances of getting to 68 career wins were quickly dashed as the Illinois Fighting Ilini (4-1, 1-1 conference) defeated the Wisconsin Badgers (2-3, 0-2 conference), 34-10 — the Illini’s first win in Madison, since 2002.
Wisconsin got off to a hot start in the game, as Isaac Guerendo returned the opening kick off, 38 yards and then capped off the opening drive with a 21-yard receiving touchdown from Graham Mertz.
Wisconsin then forced an Illinois punt on the Illini’s first offensive series of the game and the Badgers looked to be in control.
However, Mertz was intercepted, trying to complete a pass to Keontez Lewis down the sideline, setting up the Illini with a very short field, at the Wisconsin 16-yard-line, following the interception return.
Wisconsin looked as though it would get off of the field, as Illini quarter back Tommy Devito’s fourth down pass was incomplete, but Jay Shaw was called for defensive pass interference, giving the Illini a fresh set of downs at the 1-yard-line.
This was the first of Wisconsin’s 10 penalties in the game, which caused the Badgers 78 yards. This was the second time this season that the Badgers have been charged with 10-or-more penalties in a game.
A play later, Devito was in for the score and a tie game.
Wisconsin was able to answer with a 39-yard Nate Van Zelst field goal, but that was the last time the Badgers would put any points on the board in the game.
Mertz would later throw his second interception of the first half, which led to Devito’s second 1-yard rushing touchdown of the game.
Mertz finished the game 17-31 for 206 yards, while throwing the opening drive passing touchdown to Guerendo and the two interceptions.
In the second half, it was more of the same, as the Illini scored 20 unanswered points, en route to their lopsided victory.
Devito capped off a 10-play, 75-yard drive to open the second half with his third 1-yard touchdown run of the game.
Wisconsin had the Illini with their backs against the wall on the drive, as the Illini were facing a fourth-and-4, but Devito was able to convert the down, with a 6-yard completion to Isaiah Williams.
Illinois was 1-of-2 on fourth down in the game, while Wisconsin finished 0-of-3.
On the ensuing kickoff, Guerendo was unable to secure the kick and Wisconsin committed its third turnover, which led to a 44-yard Caleb Griffin field goal.
The Illini’s drive was thwarted by Keeanu Benton, who record one of his two sacks in the game on third-and-10, forcing the Illini to settle for a field goal, after ending up with a short field.
Wisconsin’s three turnovers in the game, led to 17 Illini points.
Chase Brown, the nation’s leading rusher, added a 49-yard rushing touchdown as the Illini continued to pile on in the third quarter, as the Illini put up 17 points in the period and amassed 163 yards, compared to Wisconsin’s 10 total yards of offense in the third quarter.
Brown finished the game with 129 yards on 25 carries.
Overall in the game, Illinois outgained Wisconsin 304-208, but the place where that discrepancy was the most blarring, was in the rushing yards — Illinois outrushed Wisconsin 140-2.
It was only the fourth time dating back to the start of the 2021 season that the Badgers had been held under 100 team rushing yard in a game.
Braelon Allen, who entered the game as the nation’s fifth leading rusher, ran the ball eight times for two yards.
Wisconsin and Illinois were about even on third down conversions in the game, with Wisconsin converting 4-of-14 and Illini converting 3-of-13, with Illinois leading in time of possession, 33:56 - 26:04.
Wisconsin also saw three players exit the game with an injury, as Guerendo, Lewis and Hayden Rucci all had to leave. Rucci is the second of Wisconsin’s tight ends to get hurt, as Clay Cundiff was injured last week at Ohio State. It was announced earlier this week that Cundiff would be done for the season.
Chryst will go for career win No. 68 and the Badgers will look to bounce back and win their first conference game of the season, next weekend, as the Badgers will travel to Northwestern.