So much for that.
No. 4 Ohio State easily took care of business Friday night in Evanston, taking Northwestern to the woodshed in a 52-3 shellacking of the Wildcats. A day later, heavily-favored and sixth-ranked Wisconsin was set to face Illinois, with Badgers expected to take care of its business in helping to set up a titanic UW-OSU matchup in Columbus in Week 9.
Somebody, though, forgot to give the Illini that script as, down 20-7 late in the third quarter, the Illini went on a 17-point run to secure a huge 24-23 upset of the previously-unbeaten Badgers in Champaign. The game-winning points came off the right leg of James McCourt, who connected from 39 yards out as time expired.
Entering the game, UW was listed as 31-point favorites; exiting it, UI claimed its first win over a team ranked in the Top 10 since knocking off No. 1 Ohio State in 2007.
The Badgers, who were first nationally in scoring defense at 4.8 points per game prior to Week 8, allowed their first first-half touchdown of the season on Michigan transfer Brandon Peters‘ 48-yard hookup with Donny Navarro with less than six minutes left in the second quarter.
The Fighting Illini’s second touchdown of the day, a Reggie Corbin 43-yard run, cut the lead to 20-14 with under a minute left in the third quarter. Following a Jonathan Taylor fumble midway through the fourth, Peters’ second touchdown pass of the day, from 29 yards out to USC transfer Josh Imatorbhebhe, pulled the Illini to within two at 23-21.
Yet another Badger giveaway, this one a Jack Coan interception, gave the Illini possession of the ball at their own 47-yard line with 2:32 left in the contest. Eight plays and 32 yards later, the stage was set for McCourt’s late-game heroics.
Lost amidst the loss and his fumble was Taylor making some history.
Taylor came in four yards shy of 5,000 rushing yards in his career. Any suspense related to the running back hitting that mark Saturday afternoon was quickly erased as Taylor ripped off a 16-yard run on UW’s first play from scrimmage to eclipse that the 5k plateau.
In hitting that mark, Taylor became just the fourth FBS back to reach 5,000 yards prior to the end of their junior season. The first three were Georgia’s Herschel Walker (5,596 yards at the end of his third year), Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne (5,091*) and Oregon’s LaMichael James (5,082).
More impressively, Taylor became the quickest ever to reach 5,000 yards.
For this game, Taylor finished with 132 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries. It was the 28th 100-yard game of Taylor’s career, six (in seven games) this season.
(*I don’t care that the NCAA asininely doesn’t go back and retroactively add bowl stats, which they have officially counted since 2002.)
(Writer’s note: this post will be updated, as needed, over the next hour or so.)