Run and Shoot: Mendenhall Leads Illini to 17-6 Halftime lead

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Mendenhall Leads Illini to 17-6 Halftime lead

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. Illinois Jr. running back Rashard Mendenhall has been the story in the first half.

In the battle between two of the Big Ten's top running backs, Rashard Mendenhall of Illinois is outperforming Wisconsin's P.J. Hill. Mendenhall has 9 carries for 100 yards and a rushing TD, and 4 catches for 33 yards and a receiving TD. This may be the coming-out party for Mendenhall, who is well-known to opposing defenses but not the national media.

Mendenhall started the scoring when he broke a 32-yard TD run in the first quarter. In the second quarter, his five-yard TD catch capped a seven play, 75 yard, drive led by effective passing from QB Juice Williams. At that point, Illinois led 17-0. Williams is 9-15 for 107 yards and a TD.

Wisconsin answered with two field goals to make it 17-6, but Illinois retains the momentum heading into the locker room. The Badgers actually have more yards of total offense (231) than the Illini (225), but Wisconsin has failed to capitalize on five separate drives into Illinois territory. Third down conversions have bedeviled the Badgers; they are 1-6 in Illini territory, and 2-8 overall.

Thus far, The Illinois defense has succeeded in containing PJ Hill, who has carried the ball 12 times for 30 yards. Tyler Donovan has passed effectively (13-27, 192 yards) but hasn't broke into the endzone. TE Travis Beckum has 72 receiving yards for the Badgers.

The Illini played better in the first half than in the second in wins against Indiana and Penn State, so it remains to be seen if Illinois can continue their solid play.


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