Wisconsin-Illinois grades: Houston comes up big off bench
Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from Wisconsin’s 24-13 win at Illinois.
– When Joel Stave (0.0) was injured on the 12th offensive play for the Badgers, red-shirt junior Bart Houston (+1.9) had to come in off the bench. The Badgers used quite a few rollouts to keep the Illini guessing on Houston’s dropback points, and it work well. Houston managed to keep the chains moving by being very consistent on passes under 10 yards (16-of-21 for 129 yards).
– Houston’s best connection came with Alex Erickson (+2.2); Erickson was targeted 14 times and came down with 10 catches for 95 yards and a touchdown. 10 of those 14 targets came on routes between the hashes, as Houston was able to break down the weak points in Illinois’ zones. While Erickson was very good as a receiver, the Badgers also used him on four jet sweeps, where he recorded 80 rushing yards off of four carries and a +2.5 run grade. Erickson was clearly the most dangerous Wisconsin player with the ball in his hands, and the Badgers found creative ways to make sure he had plenty of touches.
– Coming into Week 8 of the college season Joe Schobert (+5.3) had the highest pass rushing productivity for all 3-4 outside linebackers. Against the Illini, Schobert was again very dominant, grading above +1.0 in run defense, pass rush, and pass coverage. While Schobert is a good all-around player, the Badgers may benefit from allowing the linebacker to rush the pass more often; for the season, he has been asked to drop into coverage on 50 percent of passing plays.
LB Joe Schobert (+5.3)
WR Alex Erickson (+4.7)
LB T.J. Edwards (+4.5)
LB Vince Biegel (+3.1)
DL Alec James (+3.0)
– Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt (-2.4) struggled when the Wisconsin pass rush was able to get pressure on him; on such plays, Lunt was 9-for-20 for 155 yards, one interception, and earned a -2.5 grade. When he was able to throw without any pressure, he had a 0.0 grade.
– While the defense, as a whole, had some difficulties against the Badgers, the play from Dawuane Smoot (+8.2) was one of the bright spots for Illinois. Smoot was able to build upon his +5.3 grade from two weeks with another impressive showing against Wisconsin. He has recorded 15 QB hurries through eight weeks of the season: last season, he posted a total of 13.
– Inside of Smoot was Rob Bain (+6.2), both of whom were nearly unblockable at points, Bain was able to apply an aggressive presence against the Badgers’ run game that only managed 2.5 yards per carry on non jet sweeps. Bain had a 16.0 run stop percentage due to four stops in the run game; he also ended the contest with one sack and four hurries, grading above +2.5 as both a run defender and a pass rusher.
DL Dawuane Smoot (+8.2)
DL Rob Bain (+6.2)
OL Ted Karras (+3.7)
DL Carroll Phillips (+2.4)
FS Clayton Fejedelem (+1.1)