Oct. 6, 2012
BY ANNA POULTER-HENDRICKSON
UW Athletic Communications
MADISON, Wis. -- The Badgers proved they have the ability to close on Saturday, scoring 21 points in the fourth quarter to earn a 31-14 win over Illinois at Camp Randall Stadium.
Through the first five games of the season, Wisconsin had scored 28 total fourth-quarter points.
It was a final-period performance UW head coach Bret Bielema enjoyed.
"It was nice to see our guys kind of take control in the fourth quarter and kind of manhandle the guys up front," Bielema said. "I think, offensively, there were some nice plays that were opening up. I think the play that broke it wide open was (James White's) screen play."
Junior WR Jared Abbrederis noted the importance of the Badgers' strong fourth-quarter performance.
"It felt really good, especially that it was at the end of the game made it a little bit more special," Abbrederis said. "Being able to finish the game, especially after last week, when we had a bad second half, this week it kind of switched.
"We didn't have the greatest first half, but we came out in the second half. The defense played really well today, but it was good to see the offense move the ball, especially when it counted."
Ball flashes back to the past
Senior RB Montee Ball scored two rushing touchdowns in the second half, using cuts and runs that were reminiscent of his jaw-dropping efforts from his record-setting 2011 season.
Ball put in some hard work by earning his first touchdown with a 9-yard run, and then touching the ball five times, the last for a 19-yard score, to put the Badgers up 31-14 with 3:22 remaining.
It was a fourth-quarter performance that Ball sees as pivotal to the Badgers' season.
"If everything goes as planned, if we end up where we want to end up at the end of the season, we'll look back at that fourth quarter," he said.
The touchdowns moved Ball into a tie for third in NCAA history with Texas Tech's Taurean Henderson with 69 career TDs. Ball needs just 10 TDs to break the NCAA record of 78 held by Miami (Ohio)'s Travis Prentice.
Abbrederis continues to shine in return
After leaving the Oregon State game early and missing the Utah State game with an injury, Abbrederis continues to maximize his time on the field since returning. Abbrederis finished the day with seven catches for 117 yards and a touchdown.
It was a performance he had to work for.
"I had to work for that one," he said of his touchdown reception. "I saw (the defender) coming and I had to slow down a little bit for the ball just because (Joel) Stave didn't want to overthrow me since I was so wide open.
"I had to make sure I got in because I didn't want to get caught, but it was close."
A 59-yard reception sent Abbrederis over the 100-yard receiving mark for the third-straight game, a feat last accomplished by a Badger when Lee Evans did so in 2001.
Abbrederis has caught a TD pass in each of the last three games. He now has 16 career receiving TDs, tying Chris Chambers and Garrett Graham for sixth-most in school history.
An afternoon of firsts
The Badgers picked a great afternoon to cross some items off of their list.
Senior CB Devin Smith recorded the Badgers' first interception of the season, picking off Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase in the second quarter.
It was a play Smith had a good feeling about.
"It was a third-down play and we caught man coverage, and it was one-on-one backside and I had a good feeling that they were going to go back side to me," Smith said. "So I just anticipated a route and, as soon as he set his feet, I dove at the ball."
Senior SS Shelton Johnson made his first appearance since breaking his arm against Oregon State on Sept. 8. Johnson's return was a huge positive in Bielema's eyes.
"Good to get Shelton Johnson back," Bielema said. "He's not quite there I don't think, but to be able to give us some depth at the safety position was huge."
Senior QB Curt Phillips made his first appearance as a Badger since playing against Purdue on Oct. 31, 2009. It was an opportunity Bielema wanted to give Phillips.
"The offensive coaches and myself felt that we wanted to give Curt an opportunity to get out there and show what he's got," Bielema said.
Freshman SS Michael Caputo got his first start as a Badger.
Freshman TE Sam Arneson made his first career reception, a 5-yard catch in the first quarter.