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Badgers run behind Gordon to victory over Illinois

first_imgThere were plenty of questions surrounding the Wisconsin football this week after their Big Ten opener loss to Northwestern last Saturday.But for the time being, some doubt can be put to rest as the Badgers (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten) bounced back, defeating the Illinois Fighting Illini (3-4, 0-3 Big Ten) Saturday by a score of 38-28 at Camp Randall Stadium.“It’s great to win; bottom line,” Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen said. “I’m excited about it. Great victory in front of a tremendous crowd.”It was once again the Melvin Gordon show at Camp Randall as he rushed for 178 yards on 27 attempts and scored four touchdowns.Gordon’s first touchdown of the day, which came from 15 yards out, put UW up early in the first quarter, 7-0. However, the upset-minded Illini would battle back and take a 14-7 lead on the Badgers after two touchdown throws from quarterback Reilly O’Toole. Both scoring drives for Illinois in the first quarter started in Wisconsin territory.But after Illinois took the lead, Wisconsin would go on to score the next 31 points of the game to take a commanding 38-14 lead.Gordon found the end zone for his second score of the game in the second quarter on a six-yard rush. The touchdown capped off a 10-play, 75-yard drive for the Badgers that was aided by three straight completions from quarterback Joel Stave to tight end Sam Arneson.Stave, who made his first start of the season Saturday, saw the drive that ended in Gordon’s second touchdown of the day as one where the offense really started to click. Stave finished the day 7-for-14 for 73 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions, but four of Stave’s seven completions came on the drive that tied the game at 14.“Yeah I felt good that drive,” Stave said. “I felt like we were really able to get something … that was the [drive] with the quarter change in the middle, but we hit the big third down to Alex Erickson on third and 10 and that’s absolutely what we needed because after going three-and-out on the drive before that, that’s what we needed was to get the ball moving.”The two-quarterback system that was expected coming into Saturday’s game ended up being more one-sided with Stave taking the majority of the snaps as quarterback. Tanner McEvoy did, however, take over after the 10-play, 75-yard drive and led the Badgers on an 11-play, 50-yard drive of his own in which he ran for 13 yards and completed three passes for 24 yards. The drive ended on a missed 47-yard field goal by Rafael Gaglianone. It was the only action McEvoy saw during the day.After the stalled drive led by McEvoy, the Badgers’ defense turned the tables and made a huge play on fourth down. With Illinois driving down the field, looking to take a 21-14 lead, Vince Biegel stuffed Illinois running back Josh Ferguson on a fourth down and two run on the Wisconsin 36-yard line that gave the ball back to the Badgers.“Very proud of the fourth down stop that shifted the momentum back in our favor,” Andersen said. “[Biegel] made that play on fourth down and we were able to get 10 points quickly.”It did not take long for the Badgers to respond after the fourth down stop as they needed just two plays to score and regain the lead. Kenzel Doe took an end around on the first play for 34 yards before Gordon added his third rushing score of the day from 30 yards out that put Wisconsin back on top at 21-14 with more than two minutes left in the first half.The Badgers would then tack on a 44-yard field goal from Gaglianone just before the end of the second quarter to take a 24-14 advantage at halftime. The field goal was set up by a 46-yard run from Gordon that put him over the 1,000 yard plateau for the season, making him the fastest player in program history to eclipse the century mark in a season.In the second half, the Badgers would score the only points of the third quarter and the first touchdown of the final quarter. In the third, Gordon added his fourth and final touchdown of the game on a one-yard run, before fellow running back Corey Clement busted off a 72-yard rushing touchdown to put the Badgers up for good, 38-14, just 10 seconds into the final quarter of play.However, Illinois would not go down without a fight and rattled off 14 straight points after the Clement touchdown to pull with 10 at 38-28.  An interception by Peniel Jean off Illinois quarterback Aaron Bailey at the 2:10 mark of the fourth quarter ultimately put an end to any comeback attempt from the Illini and sealed the deal for Wisconsin’s first Big Ten win this season.“It means a lot to come back after a loss and be able to bounce back like that,” Gordon said. “It just shows what kind of team we are. So I’m glad guys came out here. It was a little shaky but we got the win and that’s all we can ask for.”Gordon and Clement admitted they were looking forward to going up against the Big Ten’s worst rushing defense. The Illini came into Saturday’s game giving up a conference worst 249.5 rushing yards per game. They gave up a total of 401 rushing yards to the Badgers Saturday including a career-high 164 rushing yards to Clement.“We knew we were going to run the ball,” Gordon said. “We knew we could do that against Illinois.“We were excited. We knew we’d get after [Illinois] a little bit.”Unlike the rush defense for the Illini, their passing attack came into Saturday’s game as the best in the Big Ten, averaging 332.8 passing yards per game. While Illinois starting quarterback Wes Lunt missed Saturday’s game with a broken leg, the Wisconsin defense still held both O’Toole and Bailey to only 137 total passing yards and sacked them a total of six times. Leon Jacobs, who filled in as linebacker due to injuries to both Marcus Trotter and Derek Landisch, recorded a team-high 12 tackles and led the Badgers with 1.5 sacks.For Landisch, despite giving up 14 fourth quarter points to Illinois, he was happy with the defensive pressure they got on Illinois.“Coach Aranda kind of got after [Illinois] as far as some of our pressures and stuff,” Landisch said. “We got some sacks, got some hits on the quarterback and that’s something we always want to do and affecting the quarterback was a big goal of ours coming into this week.”The Badgers will enter their second and final bye week of the season after the win over Illinois Saturday. Awaiting them after the bye week will be the always-tough road that is the remaining Big Ten schedule, beginning with conference newcomer Maryland Oct. 25.last_img

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