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October 20, 2013Follow @JohnVeldhuis
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The No. 25 Wisconsin Badgers jumped out to a 21-0 lead early in the first quarter against Illinois and withstood an offensive resurgence from the Illini to wrap up a 56-32 win on Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.
Running back Melvin Gordon led the way for the Badgers (5-2, 3-1 Big Ten) against a porous Illinois rushing defense, picking up 142 yards on just 17 carries, eclipsing 1,000 rushing yards for the season in the process. Gordon also combined with fellow running back James White to score five touchdowns against the Illini, who fell to 3-3 on the season.
Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen said he was proud of how the offense performed, but the 15 fourth quarter points his defense allowed to the Illini were 15 too many for Andersen.
"We're better than that on defense, and we're going to have to be better than that on defense," Andersen said. "Give a lot of credit to Illinois. They're hard to stop and it's a difficult scheme."
The Badgers had trouble slowing down Illinois' no-huddle offense in the second quarter and at the end of the game, and allowed Illini quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase to complete 20-of-27 passes for 249 yards in the game. But the Badgers held the Illini to just 2.5 yards per carry on the ground, and limited Illinois to just three touchdowns in five redzone chances.
"It's a great victory," Andersen said. "We can correct the [mistakes]. We're going to take advantage of the bye week, get kids back and continue to progress."
The Badgers also played without veteran linebacker Chris Borland for most of the game, after Borland left the game with a right leg injury during the second quarter. The Badgers allowed 17 points to the Illini on their next three drives after Borland left the game, but Wisconsin's defense regrouped in the second half to allow just 15 points on five Illinois drives.
The Badgers had to buckle down without Borland, but the senior linebacker said he expects to be ready to go in two weeks when the Badgers head out on the road to face Iowa in Iowa City.
"I think I just tweaked my hamstring, so it was kind of a fluke play but it's not too bad," Borland said after the game.
Quarterback Joel Stave had an efficient game against the Illini, completing 16-of-21 passes for 189 yards and throwing two touchdown passes. Stave didn't throw an interception in the game, but he still had a few underthrown or inaccurate throws. The sophomore quarterback said the wind was a factor at times on some of his deeper passes, but if he had made better throws the ball wouldn't have gotten away from him.
"It got me on that one deep ball," Stave said. "I just need to make sure it comes out cleaner and on more of a line. If the ball's coming out clean with a good spiral it shouldn't affect it too badly."
The Badgers will take their second and final bye week of the season to close out the month of October, before renewing their rivalry with the Iowa Hawkeyes on Nov. 2.
And even though the Badgers gave up two scores at the end of the game, some players think it could help them keep their edge during the bye week before heading out on the road for their first trophy game of the season.
"I think that if anything [the two scores] shows guys that we cannot sleep on anyone," defensive end Ethan Hemer said. "There is no such thing as a quit on this team. We need to be sharp all the time, especially in this league. We need to be sharp and be perfect."
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