Grading Illinois football after its Homecoming loss to Wisconsin

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Illinois running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn makes a long run culminating in a touchdown against Wisconsin during the Homecoming game at Memorial Stadium on Saturday. Illinois lost 13-24.

By Daily Illini Football Staff

Editor’s note: Every week, The Daily Illini football staff will be giving out grades following the Illinois football game each week. The staff will be grading offense, defense, special teams and coaching.

Offense: C-

The offense failed to get into a rhythm, relying on just a few big plays and scoring only one touchdown. Illinois could not keep the ball for, maintaining possession for only 19 minutes compared to Wisconsin’s 40 minutes.

Freshman running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn was the only Illini to record rushing yards, totaling 55 yards on 13 carries. He scored the team’s lone touchdown in the third quarter on a 36-yard run.

Quarterback Wes Lunt finished with 278 yards and one interception. But once again struggled to connect with his wide receivers. Geronimo Allison led the receivers with 99 yards on eight catches followed by Malik Tuner who had 80 yards on four grabs.

Defense: B-

The defense started strong, forcing two three-and-outs, but failed to keep up that intensity throughout the game.

A large part of the issues came when Wisconsin switched quarterbacks. Quarterback Joel Stave left the game in the second quarter after getting sacked on two consecutive plays by defensive end Carroll Phillips. He was replaced by Bart Houston, who went 22-for-33 through the air with 232 yards and one touchdown.

Illinois once again struggled to prevent big plays. The worst of the day was a 56-yard Alex Erickson run on the first play from scrimmage following Vaughn’s rushing touchdown. Head coach Bill Cubit mentioned postgame that Erickson’s play was a big momentum killer for the Illini.

Clayton Fejedlem finished with 19 total tackles to lead the Illini. He and Eaton Spence had an interception apiece, but the Badgers still finished with 419 total yards.

Special teams: B-

Wind played a large role in the fourth quarter, according to Cubit. His team didn’t go for it on fourth down until the final two drives of the game.

V’Angelo Bentley had 38 return yards.

Senior Taylor Zalewski extended his field goal streak to four by kicking a pair of first-half field goals, one from 37 yards out and one from 25 yards out. He is now 10-for-15 on the year and is approaching the career record of 12 field goals made that he set in his sophomore year.

Coaching: C-

Cubit and his staff made some poor decisions in Illinois’ first home loss since its 38-27 defeat to Purdue last season.

When Eaton Spence intercepted Houston with 33 seconds left in the first half, Illinois let the time run out and headed to the locker room. The Illini, however, had two timeouts available and Wisconsin got the ball back at the start of the second half.

The fourth quarter play calling was ineffective and Cubit continued to send receivers on routes that the Badgers had covered all day. Using Ke’Shawn Vaughn as the lone tailback made the offense one-dimensional. The Illini are hard-hit by injuries, but Cubit and Co. might need more creativity going forward if their team is to score more.

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