Wisconsin-Illinois: Badgers Squeeze the "Juice"

Adam LindemerSenior Analyst IOctober 25, 2008

The Wisconsin Badgers refused to start the season 0-5 in the Big Ten as they won their first conference game with a 27-17 victory over Illinois.

Juice Williams, who is probably the most athletic quarterback in the conference (sorry OSU), certainly didn't have his best game against the Badgers.

Williams threw for 221 yards and two touchdowns, but Wisconsin managed to force three interceptions, and won the all important turnover battle 3-1. Williams rushed eight times for a total of four yards.

The Wisconsin defense made the stops that they absolutely needed to make. There's one guy on the Wisconsin that all opponents need to keep an eye out for, and that's safety Jay Valai. If you have the ball, Valai will find you and make you pay for having that ball.

For all you people who haven't seen him on defense, find a way. This guy knocked out two Buckeyes on separate occasions in one game with bruising, but legal, hits.

Badger fans can now lift their heads a little bit, as the light at the end of the tunnel is back in sight.

Junior Dustin Sherer, who was starting his second collegiate game went 12-for-22 with 174 and two touchdowns. He never once turned the ball over. I'll take that any day of the week.

John Clay was starting in the back field for the banged up P.J. Hill and got 88 yards off 25 carries. Not Clay-like numbers by any means, but if he continues to get 20 touches a game, he will break the 100-yard mark consistently.

The man who really stepped up for the Badgers was receiver David Gilreath. Gilreath is the kick/punt returner, but with his speed, he needs to get more looks on offense. He has the ability to shift the momentum of a game in a heartbeat.

He caught just three passes for 71 yards Saturday, but two of them were for touchdowns.

There was no real advantage in total yards between the two teams, but Wisconsin doubled up Illinois in the rushing game by playing Badger football. That is when even though your running game stalls, you still pound it up the middle.

Another big reason that Wisconsin was able to get the upper hand was because Brad Nortman had a much better day punting than in weeks past. He booted the ball six times for a 52-yard average. I'm sure some of those kicks were wind-aided, but anything helps to get that young man's confidence on the rise.

This win also helped the entire Wisconsin team's confidence. Maybe, just maybe, the Badgers can use this victory to find a way to salvage their season.

The Badgers have four games left, with three of those in the Big Ten, so Wisconsin still has an outside chance to become bowl-eligible. And I know for a fact, that Sconnie Nation would welcome any bowl invite right now.