Illinois upsets No. 6 Wisconsin, 24-23

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Oh my lord.

Wisconsin ain’t going to the College Football Playoff now, honey.

Anyone who thought Illinois would be down by two points with six minutes left against the most dominant defense in 40 years following a four-game losing streak at Memorial Stadium with fewer than 40,000 fans…. you get the point. You’re insane.

But that’s what Illinois did against No. 6 Wisconsin on Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium. It ended with an upset win on a James McCourt field goal, 24-.

It started out when Illinois was able to tally the first first-half touchdown on Wisconsin’s defense all season in the first half. A few goalline stances and two touchdowns later, and the Illini were within striking distance.

Wisconsin had shut out four of its six opponents in the first half of the season, but Illinois was able to get two touchdowns on the Badgers, including the first one they allowed the first half all season.

But the credit here goes to the Illini’s defense for keeping this one close throughout. They held a dangerous Wisconsin rushing attack to just 72 yards in the first half. The Badgers dominated the time of possession, but a costly fumble and a three-and-out inside their own 10 gave the Illini multiple opportunities to capitalize.

Illinois took advantage of the takeaway with a 48-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Peters to walk-on Donny Navarro, the first of the sophomore’s career. The other four first-half drives for the Illini ended in three punts and a missed field goal.

The Illini and the Badgers exchanged touchdowns in a long third quarter, including Reggie Corbin’s 43-yard touchdown run toward the end of the period. Corbin’s run made Illinois’ 80-yard drive worthwhile, after Peters missed a wide open Josh Imatorbhebhe a few plays earlier.

With minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Peters led the Illini down the length of the field, capping off the scoring drive with a 29-yard strike to Imatorbhebhe.


Missed Kick: James McCourt has a steady leg, but he missed a chip shot late in the first quarter. Facing a Wisconsin defense that literally doesn’t allow points, you can’t miss chances like that.

ILL-egal Man Downfield: Josh Imatorbhebhe had what many at Memorial Stadium considered to be a go-ahead touchdown on Illinois’ final possession of the first half, but it was called back for an illegal man downfield. Frustrating.

Pick of the Year: Tony Adams sealed it for the Illini with his interception at midfield. The rest was history.


The Lovie Era in a nutshell.


Is this the best sequence in years?


Now THIS is a stat.


Illinois hits the road next week to face off with Purdue.

That game is scheduled for 11 a.m. on BTN in West Lafayette.

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Stephen Cohn