Bush benched, Illini lose second straight


Austin Yattoni

Illinois quarterback AJ Bush (1) gets tackled during the game against Western Illinois at Memorial Stadium on Sept. 8.

By Tatiania Perry, Staff writer

Illinois football thought it could weather the storm, but as the snow fell in Madison, Wisconsin, so did the Illini in a 49-20 loss.

No. 23 Wisconsin opened up the game with a five-minute drive down the field to score in 11 plays.

As for the Illini offense’s opening drive, the group held onto the ball for all of 94 seconds before quarterback AJ Bush threw for an interception that led to a quick Wisconsin score. 

After two interceptions, only offset by two completions for ten total yards, Bush was subbed out for true freshman M.J. Rivers.

After struggling through last week’s game against Purdue with 12 completions throughout the game, Bush’s problems spilled over into Saturday’s game. The grad-transfer quarterback couldn’t find his receivers and has had issues through the air all season. 

“We felt like we needed to go a little bit different direction passing the football,” Lovie Smith said. “I thought he (Rivers) would give us the best chance to do that.”

Rivers paced the offense to a 20-point performance, going 7-13 with 80 yards and one interception.

The running game once again looked like the team’s strongest attribute. Reggie Corbin had an 80-yard breakaway run for the first Illinois touchdown of the game. The run marked the team’s longest rushing touchdown since Rashard Mendenhall’s 86-yard run in 2006. 

Corbin went on to finish the day with 100 yards rushing for only the second time in his career.

At the end of the second half, a Stanley Green interception off Wisconsin’s Alex Hornibrook that was returned 49 yards gave a glimmer of hope for the Illini. Chase McLaughlin kicked a 52-yard field goal to send Illinois into the locker room down 28-10. 

The second half saw little progress for Illinois, and the Wisconsin rushing attack proved too much for a struggling Illinois defense. Smith commented on the defense’s recent problems, stating the changes that need to be made are still in the works.

“We will keep searching for that,” Smith said. “The things we felt like we should do differently are the things we tried to do today.”

Badger running back Jonathan Taylor ran for the 159 yards, averaging 5.9 yards per carry. Wisconsin’s Taiwan Deal followed right behind with 111 yards on the day, averaging 9.3 yards per carry.

Jimmy Marchese and Stanley Green each snagged an interception for a collective 52 yards, extending the streak of forced opponent turnovers to 21 games, the longest among Power 5 schools. 

Green also scraped together a career-high 16 tackles.

The Illini were able to post one final touchdown following Marchese’s interception in the third quarter with a two-play, 25-second drive.

A Rivers 25-yard throw to Trenard Davis lead to a Ra’Von Bonner 18-yard touchdown run.

After a final field goal by Chase McLaughlin, Wisconsin claimed the win.

Illinois is on the road again next week to face off against Maryland.

“There is absolutely frustration, there should be when you play that way,” Smith said. “And when you have frustration, you keep searching for answers and some of that involves personnel changes, and that’s what we are going to do.”


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Editor’s note: In a previous version of this story, M.J. Rivers was incorrectly spelled as MJ Rivers. The Daily Illini regrets the error.