Davis leads Wisconsin’s badgering

Shira Weissman

Shira Weissman

By Lisa Koulias

Anthony Davis may have missed three games with an eye injury, but the Wisconsin tailback saw the field clearly on Saturday. Davis led the Badgers to their fifth straight win with a 24-7 victory over the Illini in front of a record crowd of 82,306 at Camp Randall Stadium.

Davis rushed for 216 yards on 27 carries and scored three touchdowns. It was the senior’s fifth career 200-yard rushing game. He also led the team in receiving with three receptions for 36 yards.

“He’s a special player. He brings the dimension of a home run every play,” Illinois head coach Ron Turner said. “We knew that not only was he back and healthy, but he was back and healthy with fresh legs. They were going to do what they do, run the ball and do all that, but he brings a different dimension. He brings a big-play threat. There were times it looked like we played pretty good defense, and it looked like we had the chance to get a tackle for a minimal gain, (but instead) it turned into a big gain. He’s just a good player.”

The game started off slow, as neither team could get its offense going, but Wisconsin soon found its game in the second when Davis scored on a 16-yard run. Eight minutes later, the Badgers’ Mike Allen nailed a 48-yard field goal to give Wisconsin a 10-0 lead.

The Illinois offense, however, struggled all game as Wisconsin’s nationally ranked defense kept the Illini to only 42 yards rushing. This was the fewest allowed by a Badger team since it held Fresno State to 34 yards on Aug. 23, 2002.

“Obviously we know we’re going against a great defense,” Turner said. “They’ve got an experienced defense – seven seniors, and I know most of them started against us two years ago. They’re tough to run the ball against, but if you can’t make plays in the passing game, or aren’t making plays in the passing game when you have opportunities, then they’re even doubly tough to run against, and that’s what happened today.

“We had some opportunities to make some plays in the passing game that would have helped open everything up. We didn’t make them, and if you’re going to do that against this team, you’re in trouble,” he said.

Illinois’ passing game struggled all day, as the Illini were held to 164 yards passing. Turner tried to spark the offense by switching up quarterbacks. Redshirt freshman Brad Bower replaced starter Jon Beutjer in the third quarter. Beutjer completed only 12-of-27 passes for 85 yards. Bower was 1-of-4 passing for 12 yards.

“We were trying to move the ball and score points,” Turner said. “So we wanted to see if making the change would help us do that.”

In the quarterback shuffle, Chris Pazan, who entered the game in the fourth, proved to be the most efficient of the three, as the sophomore was 7-of-10 passing, leading the Illini to their only touchdown. This was Pazan’s first playing time of the year.

“I was ready to go either way. I was ready the whole time and I just happened to get in there and get some reps today,” Pazan said. “I felt real comfortable and confident. The guys looked to me and I was ready to make some plays.”

Turner said he would wait to look at the film to evaluate which of the three quarterbacks will start next week against Michigan State.

“I always expect to be the guy,” Beutjer said. “I feel like I am the best quarterback and I feel like I made some mistakes out there today that are definitely correctable, but I need to start making those plays. As a competitor, I can’t not say that I’m not the guy. If I am really confident in myself, I know the team is as well.”