The magic the Illini showed in their last home game seemed more like a cheap party trick against Wisconsin. Illinois struggled to get much of anything going and the defense struggled to slow the Badgers’ second-string quarterback and running back in a 24-13 Homecoming loss.
With running back Josh Ferguson sidelined with a shoulder issue, freshman Ke’Shawn Vaughn was forced to shoulder the load of the running game. While competent, Vaughn did not excel or even excite much beyond a 36-yard touchdown run. He finished the day with just 55 yards total, forcing Illinois to look to the air for gains.
Unfortunately, Wes Lunt looked toothless. Geronimo Allison returned from injury, but despite totaling 99 yards, he failed to reach the endzone. The rest of the receiving corps matched his ineptitude, getting stymied by the Wisconsin defense throughout the game.
The defense, which excelled in previous contests, was exposed repeatedly. After the Badgers’ starting quarterback was knocked out of the game, back-up Bart Houston led the team to 281 yards receiving and a pair of touchdowns. Likewise, second-string running back Alex Erickson picked of 81 of Wisconsin’s 170 total rushing yards.
After a strong start, Illinois has to find what works again. Wisconsin exposed each flaw in Bill Cubit’s game plan and made a game that was close at the start look easy by the end. Illinois’s schedule still offers them the chance to qualify for a bowl game, but if they can’t exploit other teams’ weaknesses like Wisconsin did to the Illini, then the season could end early.
Photos courtesy of Travis McDade.