October 6, 2007

Streak over as Illini hold-off Badgers

Game Ticker | box score

CHAMPAIGN, Ill.(AP) Rashard Mendenhall led Illinois into unfamiliar territory Saturday, rushing for 160 yards and scoring two touchdowns in the Illini's 31-26 win over No. 5 Wisconsin.

The Illini ended Wisconsin's 14-game winning streak, the longest in the nation, and improved to 5-1 overall. Illinois is off to a 3-0 start in the Big Ten for the first time since 1990.

Mendenhall had 100 yards rushing in the first half, leading the Illini to a 17-6 lead. Wisconsin didn't score until less than three minutes were left in the half on a 38-yard field goal from Taylor Mehlhaff.

The Badgers (5-1, 2-1) hadn't lost since Sept. 16, 2006, at Michigan.

Wisconsin's P.J. Hill entered the game as the Big Ten's top running back, averaging 133.4 yards a game. But the Illini held him to 83 yards on 21 carries and a touchdown.

Illinois quarterback Juice Williams ran for another 92 yards on 14 carries - though it was the sophomore quarterback's relief, Eddie McGee, who essentially sealed the win.

For the second week in a row, Illinois coach Ron Zook sent McGee in during the second half. Against Penn State, the redshirt freshman ripped of a 53-yard run to secure a 24-19 win. This time, he scored on a 5-yard keeper that put the Illini up 31-19 with 5 1/2 minutes to go.

Before the touchdown, Wisconsin had grabbed the momentum and quieted the crowd of 57,078 who packed sold-out Memorial Stadium.

Hill leaned into the end zone from 1 yard out to cap a 78-yard drive that pulled Wisconsin within 24-19, the second of three second-half touchdowns given up by Illinois.

Wisconsin quarterback Tyler Donovan threw two interceptions in Illinois territory, the first to Illinois safety Kevin Mitchell and the second to cornerback Vontae Davis. The 6-foot Davis out-jumped the taller Travis Beckum at the Illini 29 with just over 10 minutes left in the game.

Donovan, though, led the Badgers to the brink of a comeback. The senior quarterback, who was high on several throws, hit tight end Garrett Graham for a 12-yard touchdown with 1:31 left in the game.

The Badgers tried an onside kick, but Illinois recovered it.

Donovan completed 27 of 49 passes for two touchdowns, with Beckum his favorite target. He caught 11 balls for 160 yards.

Williams was far more effective on the ground than in the air. He completed 12 of 19 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown - a pitch to Mendenhall that was ruled a forward pass.

The Badgers contained freshman sensation Arrelious Benn, who scored twice against Penn State. The Illinois receiver caught five passes for only 51 yards.



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