October 25, 2008

Win first since victory at Fresno

MADISON, Wis. - Words such as relieved, excited, fun, and happy came from the mouths of several Wisconsin football players Saturday afternoon in the home team's weight room. Plenty of pearly whites were visible from multiple smiles as the football team earned a hard-fought, physical 27-17 victory- its' first in over a month.

Quarterback Dustin Sherer led a 10-play, 80 yard touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter that saw David Gilreath collect his second touchdown grab of the day and padded the Badgers 10-point lead.

"Gilreath had a heck of a game; two touchdowns and everything like that," senior offensive lineman Andy Kemp said following the game. "The coaches always say "compete, compete, compete," and he definitely competed his butt off today."

Gilreath gave the offense a much needed boost midway through the third quarter when he scored from 49-yards out. Sherer, who finished the game 12-of-22 with 174 yards and two touchdowns, found an open Gilreath crossing the middle of the field.

He delivered a perfect pass in stride and Gilreath's slick juke and blazing speed helped to break away from defenders for the tying score.

"I gave him (Illinois' safety) a little inside jab and he got off balance," Gilreath, who finished with 71 yards on three receptions and two touchdowns said. "When he came inside he tried to reach back to me, got a little piece of me. I just seen somebody to my left and I was like, 'I can't let this guy catch me,' and I took off."

But it was the Badger defense that played its best game since the losing streak began. Illinois' version of the spread offense presents one of the most lethal attacks in the conference and the UW defense held them in check, forced turnovers and gave the offense opportunities to cash in.

And in a turn of events from recent weeks, the offense converted touchdowns rather than field goals.

"I think it really loosens up the coaches, especially with some plays they want to call," UW safety Chris Maragos said following the game in regards to the offense helping improve the defensive play. "Just being more aggressive on the pass rushes and doing more things like that.

"I think that gives us a lot more leeway to kind of do and to make calls like that."

The Badger defense never let Juice Williams settle into a comfort level throughout the course of the game. Early on, Maragos intercepted an overthrown pass and returned it 51 yards to set up the offense in favorable field position and set up Philip Welch's first of two field goals.

Then Niles Brinkley and Allen Langford joined in on the interception parade and swung the momentum in UW's favor. In total, Williams was sacked twice and finished with only 225 total yards with three interceptions.

"Obviously Juice didn't play very well," Illinois head coach Ron Zook said following his team's loss. "I think that's the thing as a coach you constantly try to guard against. You know, he had a couple big games and then de didn't play very well.

"You can't throw three picks and be a good quarterback."

The Badgers improve to 4-4 overall and 1-4 in conference play. Next weekend they head to East Lansing, Mich. to take on the Michigan State Spartans.

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