Illinois Football: 5 observations from the Illini win over Wisconsin

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Illinois football

Illinois defensive lineman Keith Randolph Jr. (88) tackles Wisconsin running back Chez Mellusi (1) on Saturday, October 1, 2022, at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis. Tork Mason/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
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Illinois football went up to Madison, Wisconsin, and took down the almighty Badgers on Saturday.

This was a close game in the first half with the Illini defense forcing turnovers and the Wisconsin defense keeping Chase Brown in check.

But there was a point in the game where things broke open. Brown started to bust loose, and the Badgers’ offense stopped moving the ball. This equaled to Illinois expanding their 14-10 halftime lead into a 34-10 victory. Illinois gave up a total of zero points in the second half.

Here are five observations from the Illinois football win over Wisconsin.

1. Best run defense I have seen

I have been watching Illinois football for a long time. I know, I know, there are some of you who watched in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, but most of my memories of the Illini start in the late 1990s.

Since the late 1990s, which is just north of 20 years, I don’t think I have ever seen a better run defense for the Orange and Blue. I think this is an all-time caliber defense, and we need to appreciate what we are watching.

Coming into the game on Saturday, Illinois had one of the top rush defenses in the nation. We were only giving up 94.3 yards per game on the ground, and that ranked No. 16 in the country. With that being said, we hadn’t gone up against a running back like Braelon Allen this season.

Before the Illinois game, Allen was averaging a cool 125.3 yards per game, and he was coming off a contest against No. 3 Ohio State where he rushed for a season-high 165 yards and a score. He did that against the No. 3 team in the nation. This was going to be the first true test for the Illinois defense.

AND WE PASSED WITH FLYING COLORS.

Illinois’ rush defense was, what is the word I am looking for? INSANE. Wisconsin would finish the game with 24 carries for 2 yards. No, that is not a typo. I didn’t forget to put another number next to 2. 2 YARDS.

And for the All-American caliber running back in Allen, he would mirror the team on the day and would finish with eight carries for two yards. It was an incredible showing for the Illinois rush defense.

I have to give all of the credit in the world to the front lines. Illinois has monsters up front who aren’t just big, but they are agile as well. Johnny Newton is a future top-three-round NFL Draft pick. I love the speed that Keith Randolph Jr. brings. These two finished with a combined 11 tackles, one sack, and one tackle for loss. It makes me happy to see Calvin Avery start to emerge as well.

Honestly, I could go on and on about the Illinois rush defense. They deserve their own article that is 10,000 words. But I will end this slide with this note. If we can continue this type of rush defense, then there is no doubt in my mind we could be playing for a Big Ten title in Indianapolis later this year. Goosebumps.

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