Put another feather in the cap of Brett Bielema and another notch in the gunbelt of the Illini defense. The Fighting Illini, who has not won IJN Wisconsin in 20 years. From how it opened not only won Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin but opened a can of Whoop-Ass on the Badgers 34-10.
The Illinois defense was relentless, and the offense took advantage of its opportunities. It looked like a legit Big Ten Heavyweight Prize Fight. With both teams trading opening blows in the first two quarters.
Wisconsin opened the game by scoring on their first possession, going 53 yards in 7 plays, on a TD pass from Graham Mertz to Isaac Guerendo for 21 yards. The point after made it 7-0.
Illinois's first possession ended in a punt after five plays. The Illini defense got the ball right back on a Kendall Smith interception of Mertz at the Badger 35. Smith would return the pick 19 yards to the 16. Illinois had the ball 4th and goal at the 1. Illinois QB Tommy DeVito tried to hit Isaiah Williams with a pass interference penaltBielema'se Bielema's Boys a fresh set of downs. They only needed one, as DeVito took it in for the score. The point after made it a tie game at seven all.
Wisconsin took the ball down to the Illinois 21 as the first quarter ended. They opened up the second quarter with a field goal at the 14:56 mark to make it 10-7 In favor of the Illini.
Illinois's next possession was 5 plays, then a punt, and just like after the last Illini punt, Mertz was intercepted again, this time by Tahveon Nicholson at the Wisconsin 47-yard line.
Once again, the Illini Offense did not squander the opportunity. Taking the ball to the house in 6 plays ending in yet another DeVito QB Sneak into the end zone. There were five penalties on that drive. After a Wisconsin pass interference and four plays later, a defensive offsides put the ball at the 2-yard line. Back-to-back penalties from Illinois put the ball back to the 12, but a Chase brown run Set up DeVitto for his second score of the day.
The teams traded punts until the end of the half, which showed the Illini up 14-10. The 3rd Quarter was ALL Illinois as they outscored the Badgers 17-0 and outgained Wisconsin 163-10. Time of possession was Ill from 12:09 to 2:51. To say the least, it was total 3rd quarter domination. IllinoisDeVito'son DeVito's 3rd rushing TD, a field Goal after recovering a fumbled kick return, and a 49-yard run by Chase Brown. They would add a field goal early in the 4th quarter to make the final score 34-10.
Tommy DeVito was 18 of 24 for 167 yards.
For Wisconsin's Graham Mertz was 17 of 32 for 207 yards.
Illinois held the Badgers to 2 rushing yards while Brown and company rushed for 137 net yards, Brown getting 129 of those on 25 carries.
Wisconsin held Isaiah Williams in check 7 catches for 31 yards. But the combo of Brian Hightower(9-59) and Pat Bryant(4-51) gathered in nine balls for 110 yards.
Illinois defense had 5 sacks, 9 tackles for loss, and 2 INT
Jartavius Martin led all Illini tacklers with 7 solo tackles 1 sack, and 1 TFL
Tahveon Nicholson had 6 Solo tackles 1TFL, and 1 INT
Keith Randolph Jr had 3 solo tackles, 3 Assists,1 sack, and 1 TFL.
Again this was total domination by Illinois on an opponent's home field, in a place they have not won in 20 years!
In his post-game press conference
Bielema said, "I told them(the Team) last night in a team meeting at the end, I had a feeling they were going to play well, and if we played our kind of football and played the way that I've seen them play and the way that we asked them to be coached, I thought we could have success."
Up next for Illinois is yet another winless streak to end. Illinois has not defeated Iowa since 2008.
Bielema, by beating Wisconsin, has become the First coach at Illinois to win at both Wisconsin and Penn State!
Illinois is now 1st in the Big Ten in Scoring Defense, Rush Defense, and Pass-Efficiency Defense.
Chase Brown is the D1 FBS rushing leader with 733 net yards from scrimmage and has 6 consecutive 100+ yard games dating back to last year.
Illinois is now 4-1 overall and 1-1 in the Big Ten Wisconsin is now 2-3 overall and 0-2 in the Big Ten. Wisconsin's other two losses are to Washington 17-14 St Sept 10th at home, and last week at #3 Ohio St 52-21. The loss puts Wisconsin in a do-or-die situation. They do catch a break the next two games as they go to the road to Northwestern, losers of their last 4, and Michigan State 0-2 in Big Ten play and losers of their last 3. They will face Iowa NOV 12 and Minnesota Nov 26. So they do have some time to regroup. While Jumps right back into the fray with back-to-back home games vs. Iowa and Minnesota(the gophers are 4-1 just like Illinois). Everyone in the Big Ten West except for Wisconsin is 1-1 in the conference. At 0-2, Wisconsin has dug a hole that could be tough to crawl out of. By the same token, the next two weeks in Illinois with Iowa and Minnesota could be middle of the pack looking up. I don't think they will win at Home vs. Iowa, and if things hold could be looking at a very critical game that might decide the Big Ten West.
In a somewhat related side note:
Paul Chryst is out in Wisconsin!
Sunday, Wisconsin AD Chris McIntosh announced that they were parting ways with Head Coach Paul Chryst.
In a statement, McIntosh said, "after a heartfelt and authentic conversation
with Coach Chryst about what is in the long-term best interest of our football program. I have concluded that now is the time for a change in leadership."
This marks the first time Wisconsin has fired a football coach since 1990.
He praised Chryst saying, "Paul is a man of integrity who loves his players. I have great respect and admiration for Paul and the legacy of him and his family at the University of Wisconsin."
Defensive Coordinator Jim Leonhard will serve as interim Head coach for the rest of the season. "I appreciate Chris McIntosh placing his trust in me to lead our team." Said Leonhard, "My focus right now is on our players and moving forward with preparing them for our game Saturday at Northwestern." Leonhard is a former Wisconsin QB from 1986-1988.
The loss to Illinois was not the only reason Chryst was let go. The loss to Washington state at home was a "Red Flag." And while playing Ohio State in Columbus is not for the faint of heart. However, losing by 31 and that fact many people picked up on and noted a lack of competitiveness by Wisconsin. The 24-point drubbing by Illinois was the proverbial final straw.
· Chryst was 67-26 at Wisconsin. Although just 15-10 since the shortened 2020 pandemic season.
· Chryst won 10 games or more four times in seven seasons at Wisconsin.
· He won three Big Ten West titles but lost three Big Ten championships.
· He won six out of seven bowl games, only losing the Rose Bowl in 2019.
Chryst is now the 4th college coach to be let go this year. Following Scott Frost(Nebraska), Herm Edwards (Arizona St), and Karl Dorrell(Colorado), early reports have Chryst's buyout at $$16 Million. However, Chris McIntosh said that the buyout is significantly less. So it could be more in the $8 million to $$10 Million range.
Many have thought that Leonhard was the heir apparent to the head coaching job. He has been there since 2016, starting as Defensive backs coach, then moving to the Defensive Coordinator in 2017
Other names are being mentioned, but of course, with five power 5 jobs available, many names will be sought after by multiple jobs.
The top two outside candidates people are talking about are:
Lance Leipold Kansas Coach - Leipold has won at every stop he has made and currently has the Jayhawks at #25. No stranger to the state of Wisconsin, coaching Wisconsin Whitewater from 2007-2014, he compiled a record of 109-7.
Then he Coached the University of Buffalo for 6 years, getting two MAC Titles and 3 bowl bids, winning two of them.
Matt Campbell, Iowa State Head Coach – Campbell is 80-51 as a college coach, 45-36 at Iowa State, and 31-25 in conference play. He has one Big 12 Conference title and 2-3 in bowl games. Outside of 2016, he has had a winning record for five consecutive seasons.
Other names mentioned are Dave Aranda, Baylor Head Coach Sean Lewis, Kent State Head Coach, and Dave Doeren, North Carolina State. It will be interesting to see which way Wisconsin goes.
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