Wisconsin improved to 2-0 in the Big Ten Universities Conference with a 34-15 win over Illinois in Madison, Wisc. Saturday. Illinois was competitive throughout the contest, holding the Badgers to just 10 points in the first half and remaining within a converted try of the lead through the game’s first 60 minutes.
The last time these teams met in a league contest, Wisconsin won 113-0. Coupled with the emotional drain following a big win over rival Minnesota last week and a resilient Illinois, Wisconsin's underestimation of the Illini enabled them to keep the score close.
“I think we were not playing as hard,” said Wisconsin head coach Skip Heffernan. “Minnesota was a big game for us, and we were up for that and we didn’t know what to expect from Illinois coming out of DII. They’ve got some good athletes. I think they’ll beat some teams in this league. They surprised us a little bit and we had to pull it back together to finish them off.
“They were scrummaging well, so they were running some of our ball. They have some good, hard-running backs. They broke a couple of tackles is how they scored. We would control the ball at times and they’d tackle the ball and take a turnover and run with it.”
Delivering three tries for the second week in a row was Wisconsin’s Tom Hemmings, an English back. He scored three as a wing against Minnesota in his A-side debut last weekend and three from fullback Saturday. And when Wisconsin’s regular flyhalf went down late in the second half, Hemmings filled in at standoff.
The loss drops Illinois to 0-1. The Illini and Badgers are on the road next week. Illinois goes to Minnesota and Wisconsin to Nebraska.