CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Alec Ingold and Garrett Groshek scored on short runs in the first half, offensive lineman Michael Deiter added another touchdown on a trick play late in the game, and No. 5 Wisconsin beat Illinois 24-10 on Saturday to remain unbeaten.
Star running back Jonathan Taylor rushed for just 73 yards but didn’t appear in the second half for Wisconsin because of a left leg injury. The freshman entered the game averaging 158.6 yards rushing.
Despite Taylor’s absence, Alex Hornibrook made enough throws to get the team’s eighth win. None was better than on the trick play that freed Deiter for his first career touchdown.
Hornibrook dropped back on third-and-goal from the 4 and rushed right before throwing a backward pass to Deiter on the other side. Deiter caught it and hustled his 328-pound frame in for the score.
Wisconsin (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten) gained 306 yards, well below its season average of 462.7 yards, but was able to overcome a sluggish performance for its 11th consecutive conference victory.
After starting with consecutive three-and-outs, Wisconsin came alive behind Taylor, who gained 52 yards to set up Ingold’s 1-yard plunge on his only carry of the game. That capped a 15-play, 92-yard drive that took just over eight minutes.
The Illinois defense proved tough for the rest of the game, keeping the score at 17-3 until the fourth quarter, but the Illini offense never found a rhythm.
Jeff George Jr. and Cam Thomas both struggled passing, combining to go 9 of 31 for 152 yards. They were sacked five times. Thomas threw two interceptions.
The Illini (2-6, 0-5) finally scored a touchdown on a 3-yard run by Kendrick Foster late in the fourth periods, but Thomas threw his second interception that ended any hopes of a comeback.
Wisconsin: The Badgers’ hopes for a Big Ten title remained intact despite losing Taylor in the first half. They didn’t look worthy of making the playoffs, though.
Illinois: The Illini have the worst scoring offense in the Big Ten and it showed. Lovie Smith’s dual-quarterback approach doesn’t seem to be the answer. In the past two games, George has thrown just one touchdown pass and Thomas has thrown three interceptions.
Illinois hits the road to face Purdue next Saturday.
Wisconsin is on the road against Indiana next Saturday.
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