Illinois tight end Jon Davis (3) holds onto a pass against Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland (44) and linebacker Kevin Claxton.
Nov. 19, 2011
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - Montee Ball rushed for 224 yards and scored three times, and No. 15 Wisconsin forced four turnovers in a 28-17 comeback victory against Illinois on Saturday.
On a day when stiff winds limited Wisconsin's passing attack, Ball was dominant. He had 164 yards on the ground as Wisconsin scored 21 unanswered points in the second half.
Donovonn Young rushed for two TDs for Illinois (6-5, 2-5 Big 10), which has lost five straight. He finished with 43 yards on eight carries.
Illinois outgained Wisconsin 301-285, but the turnovers -- a fumble and three interceptions -- combined with special teams mistakes doomed the Illini.
The Badgers (9-2, 5-2) scored on drives of 44, 39, 30 and 2 yards. Their first 10 points were set up by an Illinois turnover and a badly botched punt.
Wisconsin trailed 14-0 before Illinois punter Justin DuVernois dropped a snap at his own 2-yard line, setting up a 1-yard run by Ball with 2:55 left in the first half.
Derek Dimke kicked a 41-yard field goal to make it 17-7 at halftime, but it was all Wisconsin from there.
Badgers linebacker Chris Borland hit receiver Darius Millines on the Illini's first possession of the third quarter, forcing a fumble that the Badgers recovered on the Illinois 30. Ball scored again, this time on a 5-yard pass from quarterback Russell Wilson with 6:27 left in the period.
The Badgers had to work a little harder for it, but the go-ahead touchdown came courtesy of an Illini mistake, too.
Illinois' Terry Hawthorne let a punt sail over his head and toward his end zone. The 74-yarder finally stopped at the 3.
After a fast three-and-out, the Badgers took over at the Illini 44. Two plays later, Wilson faked an inside handoff to Ball and trotted around the left side to make it 21-17 as the third quarter ended.
Illinois opened the final period with another costly turnover on freshman quarterback Reilly O'Toole's interception. Ball capped the ensuing drive with a 17-yard run for his 30th touchdown of the season, extending his conference record.
Alternating quarterbacks, Illinois got off to a fast start and scored a pair of first-half touchdowns, one with each quarterback.
Nathan Scheelhaase was behind center for the first score, Young's 12-yard run early in the second quarter.
Defensive end Whitney Mercilus set up O'Toole later in the period.
With the wind finally at their backs, the Badgers offense started to move. Wilson hit Nick Toon for two quick, deep passes and Wisconsin was suddenly at the Illini 36.
When Wilson dropped back again, Mercilus hit him hard, forcing the ball loose. Illinois linebacker Jonathan Brown grabbed it and returned it to the Wisconsin 36.
O'Toole and the Illini drove to the Badgers 1, where Young punched the ball in again.
The win means the Badgers will head to the Big Ten title game if they knock off Penn State next weekend.