Grading Illinois football’s loss to Wisconsin


Austin Yattoni

Wisconsin running back Corey Clement (6) runs through the Illinois defense for a touchdown during the first half of the game against Wisconsin at Camp Randall on Saturday, November 12. The Illini are losing 31-3 at half after the first half.

By The Daily Illini sports staff

Editor’s note: The Daily Illini football writers graded each facet of the Illinois football team’s 48-3 loss at Wisconsin on Saturday. The Illini offense, defense, special teams and coaching were graded.

Offense: D

This one wasn’t pretty for Jeff George Jr. and the Illini offense. In the first half, the redshirt-freshman play-caller only had one more completion than interceptions, with four of his 16 attempts landing in the arms of Wisconsin defenders. The only player to catch more than one ball thrown by George was Wisconsin safety Leo Musso, who grabbed two first-half picks.

Wes Lunt finally returned from a month-long hiatus in the second half but managed just 22 yards on 2-of-8 passing. The 101 total passing yards was the third-lowest mark on the season, and the Illini’s 200 total yards of offense was their second-worst performance on the year. A few big Kendrick Foster runs were the only highlights from an Illinois running attack that has eclipsed 100 yards just once in the last four games. 

Defense: C

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For the second straight week, the Illini defense was on the field for over 40 minutes of game time and didn’t have a shot against a Badgers offense that was clicking from the onset. Wisconsin did most of its heavy lifting in the first quarter, piling up 161 yards for 21 points before the Illinois defense could even settle in. The Badgers ran all over the gassed Illini defense en route to 363 total yards, the most Illinois has allowed on the ground all season. Wisconsin’s 48 points was the most Illinois has allowed since Week Two against North Carolina — 17 points came off Illini turnovers. 

Special Teams: C+

David Reisner and Ryan Frain shared punting duties, and although it’s not exactly the position battle the Illini coaching staff wants to be having, Reisner outperformed Frain on Saturday. Foster couldn’t find much wiggle room in the return game, and kicker Chase McLaughlin pulled a 39-yard field goal attempt wide right in the second quarter.

Coaching: B

The seeds for a quarterback controversy in Champaign have been long planted, and they came into bloom Saturday with George’s second-half benching. Lovie Smith’s decision was well-warranted, especially considering the mental blow throwing more than four interceptions could have taken on the young quarterback. But now with Lunt back in the fold a week after George reported sky-high levels of confidence, Smith and his coaching staff have a decision to make for the final two games of the season. 

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