Calhoun annihilates Illini defense

first_imgMATTHEW KUTZ/Herald photoCHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Despite entering Saturday as heavy underdogs, Illinois’s offense seemed to have Wisconsin’s number. But Badger running back Brian Calhoun always had the answer, leading the UW to a 41-24 win at Memorial Stadium.Calhoun rushed for 197 yards and five touchdowns on 35 carries Saturday, tying the school single-game scoring record for the second time this season. The junior is now tied with former Wisconsin great Ron Dayne in the school record books for most touchdowns in a single season with 21 on the year, and is just two shy of matching Dayne’s mark for most rushing scores (also 21).Three of Calhoun’s touchdowns came directly after the Illini had cut the Wisconsin lead to 10 points or less. And, for an offense that wanted to re-establish its rushing attack, the win served as the perfect venue.”We came in wanting to establish the run,” Alvarez said. “That was one of our plans. We really squeezed down our game plan coming into this game. We limited just to a handful of runs, showed a lot of window dressing, but just wanted to condense the runs and execute them well. We thought maybe we were trying to do too much and not executing.”After taking the ball to start the game, Wisconsin did not attempt a single pass on its opening drive, an 80-yard march. Calhoun alone rushed for 53 of those yards, capping the score with a six-yard touchdown to give Wisconsin a 6-0 lead (via a missed extra point) and set the tone for the game.”Obviously we’ve gotten away from it the last couple of weeks, and we felt we could establish the run against Illinois,” Calhoun said. “Even if we had a couple losses or one-yard plays, we kept pounding it and pounding it, and eventually we had some long runs in the end.”In fact, the first 15 plays of the game were all runs — a bit of a reversal from the past several weeks when the UW coaching staff went to the air early on.When the Badgers did throw the ball, they did it effectively. Quarterback John Stocco’s first pass of the game went for a touchdown, a 62-yard strike to a seemingly uncovered Brandon Williams.”That was the exact same look that we had all week against the scouts,” Williams said of the play. “They did bring a blitz from the nickel back, but other than that it was exactly how we expected them to play it and it worked to perfection.”Stocco finished the day completing 14 of 22 attempts for 225 yards and the one touchdown.His counterpart, Illinois signal caller Tim Brasic, also enjoyed a career day, breaking the school record for quarterbacks with 116 rushing yards on the day to go along with 277 yards through the air. His ability to tuck the ball and scramble in passing situations repeatedly hurt the Wisconsin defense.Brasic led the Illini — who actually out-gained the Badgers in total yardage — on a pair of scoring drives to cut the Badger lead to 13-10 with 7:42 remaining in the first half, but as was the norm, Calhoun led the Wisconsin response. On the ensuing possession, he accounted for 45 of the 51 yards that the drive spanned, including his second touchdown of the game, a two-yard plunge to push the UW advantage back to 10 points.”Over the course of the game, there’s going to be a lot of momentum changes,” Stocco said. “It’s like a pendulum, it’s going to go back and forth, and any time we lose it we want to get it back and get it back fast. And I think we did a good job of that today.”Two possessions after Calhoun scored his third touchdown following UW freshman Jonathan Casillas’ second blocked punt of the season, Illini running back Pierre Thomas cut the lead to 10 points once again with 4:28 left in the third quarter. Yet again, though, Calhoun had an answer on the ensuing drive.Carrying the ball on the final five plays of a 73-yard scoring march, the junior slashed off right tackle for another six-yard touchdown.However, Calhoun saved his best run of the day for last.Just 13 seconds after Brasic connected with Kyle Hudson to pull within 10 for the second time in the half, Calhoun took a carry off left tackle, bounced outside and used a big block from fullback Chris Pressley to spring himself down the sidelines for a 46-yard touchdown, his longest run of the season.”Great patience, great vision, great burst,” co-offensive coordinator Brian White said of the run. “Chris Pressley just threw a phenomenal block, and he did an unbelievable job of tight-roping that sideline. I didn’t think it was humanly possible, that someone could stay in bounds as tight as he was to the sidelines, but that’s what makes Brian a special back.”Still, heading into next Saturday’s battle for first place in the Big Ten with Penn State, Calhoun knows both sides of the ball will have to be ready to answer the challenge.”It’s tough when you see the other offense put up points, but we can’t worry about that,” Calhoun said. “All we do is, we’ve got to go out there and score points, and today 41 was enough. So hopefully we can tighten things up on offense and defense next week and be ready to play.”last_img

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