Wisconsin runs over Illinois 24-0 as the defense dominates

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Wisconsin’s 24-0 win at Illinois looked like a performance we have seen a countless number of times, but one the Badgers had not yet put together against a Big Ten opponent this season.

From the start, it was a physical rushing attack led by an offensive line playing with renewed fight, Jim Leonhard’s defense pitching a shutout, and Illinois’ issues in every facet offensively that set the tone.

Wisconsin started the afternoon with a classic, lengthy drive that stalled with a Collin Larsh field goal after over nine minutes. Following a Graham Mertz interception and yet another Badger stop on defense, FB John Chenal extended the Badger lead to 10-0 on a 1-yard carry with 5:27 left in the first half.

The second half was more of the same, as the Badgers ran the ball at an Illini team with no answer. Mertz wasn’t asked to do much, finishing 10-19 with 100 yards and the interception. Wisconsin may have found the clear second back behind Chez Mellusi, as freshman Braelon Allen had a breakout day. The Fond Du Lac product finished with 18 carries and 131 yards as well as a touchdown. Mellusi had a productive day, running for 145 yards on 21 carries.

With two 100-yard rushers and a clean pocket for Mertz, the offensive line put together a bounce back performance as they finally looked like a Badger unit we have grown accustomed to seeing.

Wisconsin improved to 2-3 (1-2 BIG) while Illinois fell to 2-5 (1-3 BIG) as the Badger defense pitched their first Big Ten shutout since 2017.