CHAMPAGNE – It’s probably true that your weekend pizza wouldn’t taste quite the same if you looked at the preparation of the sausage.
But most of the 40,168 homecoming fans – Illini supporters, that is – came close to indigestion on Saturday afternoon as they watched Wisconsin huskies make porous sausages from them. Illinois offensive and defensive lines.
Illinois’ 24-0 loss to the visiting Badgers was particularly unsettling on a hot day that started off with so much optimism.
First of all, Brad Underwood’s open basketball practice lifted the spirits of those in attendance at the State Farm Center.
Then tailgaters and attendees from Grange Grove took to the venue, many remembering Illini’s 24-23 triumph on Wisconsin’s last football visit here in 2019.
But then the kickoff came. And if you thought Illinois could compare to the Badgers, forget it.
A Wisconsin team that lost to Penn State, Notre Dame and Michigan smothered the breathless Illini, and the stadium began to empty after halftime… another blow to the troubled program.
The Horrible Truth Here’s the summary:
- In the first three quarters, Illinois made four first downs, three on major penalties from Badger.
- Brandon Peters has been hassled with virtually every pass attempt as the Illinois blocking unit of three super-seniors could neither protect him nor create race lanes for last week’s star against Charlotte, Chase Brown.
- Peters started in the second quarter with an apparent injury, and Art Sitkowski came in to extend a streak of 14 consecutive incomplete passes, the streak ending on the last play of the third quarter.
- Wisconsin rushed for 25 first tries. Illinois rushed for one. A late march from Illini scored four first downs, bringing the team’s total yards to 93 against Wisconsin’s 491.
- The Illini had no penalties imposed and made no turnaround. Wisconsin had two turnovers and was called for nine penalties amounting to 101 yards, that number slightly higher than Illinois’ total offense. It’s unclear what the score would have been if the Badgers had avoided the kind of mistakes that plagued them all season.
Left Wondering After Another LossWith a week off before the trip to Penn State – a 23-20 loser to Iowa on Saturday night – Bret Bielema faces another agonizing reassessment.
The super-seniors who have built hopes with their return, have not made the weight physically with the Badgers. Four of Illini’s top five tackles weren’t seniors, including alert playmaker Kerby Joseph who combined for nine tackles, one interception and one fumble.
Offensively, one can only assume, without intensive video study, that no one stood out.
Bielema therefore embarks on recruiting during his week off, knowing that he needs help in virtually every position. And we’re all left wondering what it takes – or how long it takes – to create a program that showcases the physical athleticism that Wisconsin has demonstrated over a 30-year span.