Wisconsin 31, UI 14: 'We have to keep working'
MADISON, Wis. — When the Wisconsin student section bounced up and down to House of Pain’s “Jump Around” at the start of the fourth quarter, the Illinois players confidently bounced around with them.
Trailing 10-7 entering the final period at Camp Randall is a position most teams would accept if it was offered up in the pregame.
But 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist Montee Ball (19 carries, 116 yards, two TDs) found the end zone 90 seconds later and Jared Abbrederis (seven receptions, 117 yards, TD) added a touchdown reception two minutes after that as Wisconsin extended its home win streak to 20 games with a 31-14 win in front of 80,096 on Saturday.
“I was proud the way we played the first half. We didn’t come out and do what we needed to do in the second half,” Illinois coach Tim Beckman said. “I know that this football team is hurting, there’s no question about that. We’ve just got to be able to respond when something doesn’t occur the way we want it to occur; it kind of snowballs on us.”
The Illini (2-4, 0-2 Big Ten) maintained all week that back-to-back blowout losses at home to Louisiana Tech and Penn State didn’t shake their confidence. And for three quarters, Beckman’s squad played like a self-assured one.
But the result was the same. The trick now is to muster fortitude to compete on the road next at Michigan.
“We’ve just got to keep doing the right things,” defensive tackle Akeem Spence said. “We can’t have (any) dropoff. I know we all hate this feeling, but at the same time we have to keep working, even though we’re losing. If we slack off, this thing can get ugly.”
There was an ugly moment midway through the third quarter when Illinois cornerback Terry Hawthorne lay motionless on the Camp Randall turf after delivering a big hit.
Hawthorne was taken from the field by an ambulance, but his prognosis is good.
“Great news, I mean a blessing. Great news for Terry,” Beckman said. “The CT scan was negative and he will be on the flight back home with us, so that’s great news.”
The rest of it wasn’t so great for Illinois, which showed some desperation with its offensive personnel packages at times. A spread offense, Illinois showcased formations featuring multiple tight ends and a fullback in an effort to create a spark.
But the leading Illini rusher was quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase (22 carries, 84 yards, TD; 18-for-29 passing, 178 yards, TD) while running backs Donovonn Young and Josh Ferguson combined to carry the ball 11 times for 16 yards against the Badgers (4-2, 1-1).
“We’re trying to find things that can be successful for us; if that’s getting in the I (formation) or getting in the (wish) bone, the three-back set, just trying to find ways to utilize the personnel that we have and try to get things that can be successful,” Beckman said.