Gordon, Wisconsin run over Illini in 38-28 loss

Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon (25) runs the ball during the game at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis. on Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014. The Illini lost 38-28.

By Sean Neumann

MADISON, WIS. — Wisconsin did what everyone expected it to do.

The Badgers ran their way to a 38-28 win over Illinois, rushing for a total of 401 yards.

Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon found holes in the Illini defense, running for four touchdowns on 175 yards. The junior broke 1,000 yards rushing on the year Saturday — his second season doing so in a row.

Sophomore running back Corey Clement also added 164 rushing yards and a touchdown.

“We have to tackle better,” head coach Tim Beckman said. “Everybody can see that.”

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Illinois (3-4, 0-3 Big Ten) was tied with the Badgers (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten) nearing the end of the first half, 14-14, before allowing Wisconsin a 31-yard run and a 30-yard run on back to back plays for a touchdown with two minutes left.

The Badgers then added a field goal after a 46-yard rush by Gordon with a minute left set up the scoring opportunity. Wisconsin led 24-14 at the half.

Illinois was never able to recover, despite a fourth quarter surge for two touchdowns captained by sophomore quarterback Aaron Bailey. Bailey rushed for 75 yards and a touchdown in the final quarter.

“There’s a lot of negativity that surrounds this program right now,” Beckman said.

Illinois has now lost three consecutive games and four of its last five.

“A great running back has a great line. Without an O line, they’re nothing,” Illini linebacker Mason Monheim said. “I think at times we won the battle up front, but there were obviously times where they hit a big one and they won. The credit goes to the offensive line.”

Wisconsin had five rushes for more than 20 yards, including two for 30-plus yards and two of more than 45 yards.

“We knew he was going to get some yards, we just had to be able to manage it,” Banks said. “I thought we played decent that way.”

The Badgers had 223 rushing yards by halftime and ran the ball 47 times out of their 65 plays.

Illinois defensive lineman Jihad Ward said the defense lacked communication and didn’t fill in the gaps created by the Wisconsin offensive line.

“We’re just now feeling the vibe and we’re getting to know each other,” Ward said. “Earlier in the season, we really weren’t talking like that.”

For the first time this season, the Illini didn’t record a sack.

“Everything starts up front and we just need to dominate them,” Ward said. “We just have some wrinkles we have to iron out.”

Illinois will look to end its three game skid against Minnesota at home on Oct. 25.

“We battled,” Monheim said. “There’s not a guy in there (the Illini locker room) that is going to give up. And we don’t plan on it ever.”

Sean can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @neumannthehuman.