October 27, 2008

Series by series: UW offense against Illinois

MADISON, Wis. - In snapping its four game losing streak, the Wisconsin offense was able to score touchdowns on a regular basis instead of settling for field goals. They also had a couple big plays that stretched the Illini defense and swung the momentum in favor of UW. In the end, better offensive production and consistency helped UW earn the 27-17 homecoming win.

The following is a look back at UW's offensive possessions:

First quarter:

Drive No. 1: Started on own 35 yard line following opening kickoff.
Plays: 7
Yards: 9
Result: Lost Dustin Sherer fumble.

Best play: There was no question UW wanted to come out and establish a running game. On three straight plays, John Clay took the Sherer handoff and broke runs of 14, seven and six yards.

Worst play: On Clay's fourth straight carry, he found a seam and broke free for another chunk of yardage, but an illegal block from Travis Beckum backed UW up and killed the momentum of the drive. Then, three players later Sherer was hit from behind and fumbled.

Drive No. 2: Started on Illinois 31 yard line following Chris Maragos interception.
Plays: 4
Yards: 8
Result: 40-yard Philip Welch field goal. (3-0 Wisconsin)

Best play: On first and ten, Clay rushed for a seven yard gain to set up second and short.

Worst play: On third and a short one, Clay ran off tackle and was brought down short of the first down by Sam Carson. The negative gain forced UW to settle for a field goal.

Drive No. 3: Started on own 33 yard line following Anthony Santella punt.
Plays: 3
Yards: 5
Result: 46-yard Brad Nortman punt.

Worst play: On first and ten on the first play of the drive, Clay rushed for no gain. UW would go three and out on the possession.

Second quarter:

Drive No. 4: Started on own 29 yard line following kickoff. (7-3 Illinois)
Plays: 6
Yards: 26
Result: 45-yard Nortman punt.

Best play: On third and two, Sherer found Garrett Graham across the middle for a 13-yard gain and a first down.

Worst play: Sherer was unable to connect with Beckum after Dere Hicks hurried the quarterback.

Drive No. 5: Started on own 34 yard line following Santella punt.
Plays: 3
Yards: 1
Result: 61-yard Nortman punt.

Worst play: On third and nine, Sherer hit a wide open Beckum in stride for the sure first down, but the star tight end dropped the pass, forcing UW to punt.

Drive No. 6: Started on Illinois 44 yard line following Santella punt.
Plays: 7
Yards: 44
Result: Touchdown. (10-7 Wisconsin)

Best play: Facing second and ten from the Illini 15, Sherer eluded a collapsing pocket and sprinted to the corner of the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown. The score was Sherer's first career touchdown of any kind.

Drive No. 7: Started on own 26 following kickoff. (10-10)
Yards: 0
Result: 64-yard Nortman punt.

Worst play: With time running out in the half, Sherer forced a pass to a covered Graham. Illinois linebacker Brit Miller nearly intercepted the pass that would have been returned for a momentum-altering touchdown.

Third quarter:

Drive No. 8: Started on own 20 yard line following kickoff. (17-10 Illinois)
Plays: 8
Yards: 80
Result: Touchdown. (17-17)

Best play: Throughout the four game losing skid, UW was not generating many big plays. On third and seventeen near midfield, David Gilreath changed that. He caught Sherer's pass across the middle, broke a tackle and simply outran everyone to the end zone for the game tying 49-yard score.

Drive No. 9: Started on own 20 yard line following Allen Langford interception.
Plays: 3
Yards: -6
Result: 38-yard Nortman punt.

Worst play: Sherer was sacked for a loss of six yards when Doug Pilcher came off his tackle and nearly forced a fumble. UW was forced to punt two plays later.

Drive No. 10: Started on own one yard line following Santella punt.
Plays: 3
Yards: 2
Result: 56-yard Nortman punt.

Recap: It was evident UW was just trying to give Nortman some breathing room to punt and change field position.

Fourth quarter:

Drive No. 11: Started on Illinois 36 yard line following Niles Brinkley interception.
Plays: 6
Yards: 16
Result: 38-yard Welch field goal. (20-17 Wisconsin)

Best play: Zach Brown took a draw seven yards before he tripped up and fell on the Illini 20 yard line. However, UW could not convert the third down and settled for the field goal.

Drive No. 12: Started on own 20 yard line following Santella punt.
Plays: 10
Yards: 80
Result: Touchdown. (27-17 Wisconsin)

Best play:After continually pounding the ball and running shorter passing routes, the Badgers caught Illinois napping when Sherer hit Graham downfield for a 45 yard gain to set up the game clinching touchdown.

Drive No. 13: Started on own 33 yard line following Illinois turnover on downs.
Plays: 6
Yards: 28
Result: End of game.

Best play: There are not many times an incomplete pass is the best play. But, Sherer's throw out of bounds with six seconds left, lasted long enough to end the game and give UW its first win in a month and a half.

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