Wisconsin Badgers blast Western Illinois after sluggish 1st half


The Wisconsin Badgers came into Camp Randall Stadium Saturday morning fresh off a demoralizing loss to LSU in Houston and played, at least in the first half, like a team waiting for a wake-up call.

Stuck with an 11 a.m. kickoff for television purposes, Wisconsin led the visiting Western Illinois Leathernecks, an FCS school, just 9-3 at the half.

But the Badgers (1-1) woke up after intermission, with junior quarterback Tanner McEvoy completing 17 straight passes at one point and throwing for three second-half touchdowns as Wisconsin hammered Western Illinois 37-3.

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  • McEvoy finished 23-for-28 for 283 yards and three scores, with one interception.

    The Leathernecks (1-1) got off to a rough start of their own, falling behind 2-0 on the opening kickoff. Kyle Hammonds mishandled the kick near the goal line and tried to kneel in the end zone, but the play was ruled a safety and the Badgers were up 2-0 with one second elapsed.

    It remained 2-0 until late in the first half, when Wisconsin took a punt at its own 46 and needed just three plays to punch it into the end zone.

    McEvoy hit Sam Arneson for 37 yards on the first play of the drive, then did the rest with his legs, running 10 yards on the second play of the drive and dashing seven yards for the score to put the Badgers up 9-0.

    Western Illinois put together its only scoring drive to end the half, taking the ball from its own 21 down to the Wisconsin 12 before Nathan Knuffman hit a 29-yard field goal with one second remaining in the half.

    Wisconsin had 198 yards, but only the one score to show for it in the first half. The Badgers punted twice, turned the ball over on an interception and lost the ball on downs at the Western Illinois 7.

    The second half was a different story. The Badgers took the opening kickoff and converted a 10-play, 75-yard drive into a touchdown when McEvoy hit fullback Austin Ramesh in the flat for a 3-yard score. McEvoy started the drive with a 24-yard pass to Alex Erickson and Melvin Gordon had a 21-yard run on the drive.

    After holding the Leathernecks to a three-and-out, the Badgers needed just three plays to score. McEvoy hit Erickson for gains of 25 and 16, with a Western Illinois personal foul penalty adding yards to the second play, before McEvoy hit Gordon for an 8-yard scoring pass.

    Wisconsin gained 162 yards in the third quarter alone to just 10 for Western Illinois in the period.

    Rafael Gaglianone missed a 33-yard field goal on Wisconsin’s next possession, but the Badgers put it in the end zone the next time they had the ball, with McEvoy connecting with Erickson for a 10-yard scoring pass.

    The Badgers last score came with 3:42 left on a 6-yard pass from backup quarterback Bart Houston to running back Corey Clement.

    Clement led the Badgers’ ground game with 57 yards on nine carries. McEvoy finished with 55 yards on nine attempts, while Gordon was held to 38 yards on 17 carries.

    Erickson caught 10 passes for 122 yards, while Arneson had four grabs for 87 yards.

    Western Illinois finished with just 162 total yards while Wisconsin had 456 yards on the day.

    Coach Gary Anderson told reporters after the game that McEvoy’s performance was big.

    "“We’ll see as we move forward. But Tanner did what we thought he could do. He did some nice things with his legs. He had good command of the offense. He threw the ball very, very well. He seemed to be pretty poised. When there wasn’t something there, he got out of it, which was good to see. Didn’t seem to be pressing.”"

    Anderson also said that backup fullback Ramesh—starting in place of injured Derek Watt—was not why the Badgers had some issues in the run game.

    "“The reason we could not run the ball effectively was, trust me, not because of Austin Ramesh. Just the fact, obviously Derek Watt is a great player, like I said earlier. But he executed his assignments well. I’m sure he grew up. I’m sure he had some great plays and some that he would look at and like to have back, just like every player on the offensive side of the football. So he’s really grown and developed.”"

    The Badgers will be idle until Sept. 20, when they host Bowling Green at Camp Randall Stadium.