Illinois fell to Wisconsin again, this year on Homecoming. You obviously never want to see an opposing player go down with an injury, but it admittedly seemed like a good thing for the Illini when Joel Stave, Wisconsin's starting quarterback, exited after the first drive. But this is Illinois Football, so it was a bad thing. Bart Houston came out firing, and Wisconsin's stagnant offense found new life.
The Fighting Illini couldn't stop the Houston-to-Alex Erickson connection, which proved to be deadly. Saturday afternoon reminded me of the Illinois vs. Wisconsin game in 2011: a big crowd ready to erupt, Illinois holds a lead in the second half, but they couldn't stop one player (Montee Ball).
Illinois displayed some improvement, though. In 2014 this was a game that saw a score of 38-10 in the second half. The Illini were in the game the whole way, but a late turnover combined with Erickson's incredible second half performance proved too much. Here are our Players of the Game:
1. Clayton Fejedelem
The gaping holes Wisconsin's receivers found yesterday certainly weren't Clayton Fejedelem's fault. Fej had 19 tackles on the day to go along with his second interception of the season. Fej was all over the field cleaning up others' mistakes and he delivered some bone-bruising hits. He has become one of the better safeties in the Big Ten, and a bruiser on the back end of Illinois' defense.
2. Geronimo Allison
For the second week in a row, Geronimo Allison has made 'Players of the Week'. And for the seventh week in a row opposing teams have been unable to stop him. Allison, who came in leading the Big Ten in receptions per game and second in yards per game, showed once again why he is one of, if not the, top receiver in the conference.
Wisconsin couldn't cover him. Even though drops still remain prevalent, it seems G-Mo is getting a little bit more help now as Malik Turner, Desmond Cain, and Dionte Taylor combined for 11 catches. With the running game battered, the Illini will need Allison while Josh Ferguson remains out. But the good news is that he's been a constant on the outside this year.
3. Rob Bain
Rob Bain has really come on this season, but his last two games have been especially great. Iowa and Wisconsin have some of the best offensive lines in the Big Ten, and Bain has shredded them both. On Saturday he had 5 tackles, a sack (while he was being held), and another TFL.
Bain gives the Illini good strength on the inside, which something they haven't had in recent years. But Bain isn't just a strong guy in the middle anymore -- he's improved his speed. Bain and the entire defensive line should have a BIG day against Penn State next weekend, who has one of the weakest offensive lines in the Big Ten.
Honorable Mentions: Eaton Spence, Chris James, Dionte Taylor, Gray Ghost uniforms
As I just said, Penn State has an offensive line that Illinois should kill next week. But will Wes Lunt and the offense be able to put enough points on the board?