Illinois hits game-winning FG to knock off 30-point favorite Wisconsin

Blake Schuster
·Yahoo Sports Contributor

The fumble from Jonathan Taylor was concerning. The interception from Jack Coan on the following drive was devastating. And in between Illinois put together a stunning offensive attack in its first victory over a top-10 ranked team since 2007.

Illinois 24, No. 6 Wisconsin 23.

Kicker James McCourt nailed a 39-yard field goal for the win after a wild fourth quarter. Four seasons into his tenure, head coach Lovie Smith finally has his signature win at Illinois.

After becoming one of the few players to rush for 5,000 yards before the end of his junior season, Taylor committed what could amount to his most costly mistake as a college athlete, fumbling in Illinois territory with the Badgers up by nine and still seven minutes left on the clock. A four-play, 75-yard drive capped off with a touchdown to Josh Imatorbhebhe made it a one-score game. Wisconsin was about to make things even worse.

With his offense back at midfield, Coan (24-for-32 with 264 yards, one touchdown and one interception) was picked off on third down with just two minutes left on the clock. The Illini countered with a running attack by Reggie Corbin (17 carries for 83 yards and a touchdown) to get them in field-goal range for McCourt to play hero. Despite completing just 9 of 21 pass attempts, Illinois quarterback Brandon Peters finished with 174 yards and two key touchdowns to lead his team to victory.

Wisconsin entered Saturday as a 30-point favorite, but it ended the day trailing for the first time all year and wondering about its playoff future.

As the Badgers blew a 20-7 lead in Champaign, its fellow playoff contenders all came away with convincing wins. No. 5 Oklahoma, No. 4 Ohio State and No. 3 Clemson all finished with double-digit victories while No. 2 LSU and No. 1 Alabama are playing later Saturday.

Regardless of what happens with the top two teams this week, the road back into playoff contention won’t be easy for Wisconsin. Following Saturday’s loss, the Badgers will travel to face Ohio State before entering a bye week. Depending on how the Badgers fare against the Buckeyes, the final four games of the season — two against ranked teams in Iowa and Minnesota — will either provide the Badgers with a chance to sneak back into the playoff conversation or knock them out entirely.

History doesn’t seem to be on Wisconsin’s side. The last time Illinois defeated the Badgers was when No. 5 Wisconsin visited Champaign in 2007. The Badgers would finish the regular season ranked 18th before falling to No. 16 Tennessee in the Outback Bowl.

James McCourt #17 of the Illinois Fighting Illini is lifted up after a 39-yard field goal against the Wisconsin Badgers as time expired to win the game. (Getty)
James McCourt #17 of the Illinois Fighting Illini is lifted up after a 39-yard field goal against the Wisconsin Badgers as time expired to win the game. (Getty)

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Blake Schuster is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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