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JEFF SCHORFHEIDE/Herald photoCHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Last season, Wisconsin fell behind Illinois early but managed a spirited second-half comeback to pull out a win at home. Playing on the road Saturday, the Badgers were unable to pull off a similar escape act, losing to the Illini 31-26.The loss snapped Wisconsin’s national-best 14-game winning streak and left a big impression on the Badgers.”After the game I was standing on the sidelines and couldn’t move for awhile because I’m not used to this,” cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu said.Wisconsin fell behind early, as Illinois drove 80 yards in only six plays — running three times for 65 yards — to take a 7-0 lead on its third drive of the game.The scoring drive was capped by a 32-yard touchdown run by Illinois running back Rashard Mendenhall.”I don’t think ever since I’ve been a head coach … when he turned the corner I said, ‘He’s gone.’ And I don’t ever think I’ve said that,” Illinois head coach Ron Zook said.That possession set the tone for the game. The Wisconsin defense was unable to stop Illinois’ spread rushing attack, which gashed the Badger defense for 289 yards.”We ran our offense and those guys, our offensive line, did a great job, Rashard (Mendenhall) did a great job and (quarterback) Juice (Williams) made good decisions with the football,” Illinois offensive coordinator Mike Locksley said.”As a team and as an offense, we had to go out and execute what we do and not beat ourselves.”Most of the damage on the ground was created by Mendenhall (160 yards) and Williams (92).”We just got out of position against guys like Juice Williams and (Rashard) Mendenhall,” Ikegwuonu said. “They’re going to make you pay and they did.”That duo, along with wide receiver Arrelious Benn give the Illini a trio of great playmakers.“They have three players on offense that can change the game on one play,” UW head coach Bret Bielema said.The Badgers’ offense looked to respond on their next possession, driving the ball 56 yards down the field before it stalled at the Illinois 21-yard line.But kicker Taylor Mehlhaff missed a 38-yard attempt — his first misfire of the season–and UW gave the ball back to the Illini.Illinois ran its lead to 17-0 before Wisconsin was able to tally a score. With Illinois committed to stopping the Wisconsin running game, the Badgers turned to the air and its tight ends.Quarterback Tyler Donovan found Garrett Graham for two catches and Travis Beckum for one long completion to move the ball into position for another 38-yard Mehlhaff field goal attempt, which was good.The amount of emphasis the Badgers placed on the air attack at the expense of pounding the ball — Donovan threw 27 times in the first half and 49 times for 392 yards in the game, while Hill ran the ball only 21 times — surprised the Illinois defense.”We thought they were going to play big boy ball more,” Illinois linebacker J Leman said. “Wisconsin’s known for running the ball, powers and leads, and it seemed like they wanted to start throwing the ball on us.”That makes a linebacker a little upset.”While Donovan was able to amass a career-high in yardage through the air, the passing game ended up being the undoing of the Badgers. After pulling to within five points at the end of the third quarter, the Badgers had two possessions to pull closer or take the lead.On the first play of the fourth quarter, Donovan dropped back and heaved a long pass to a fully-extended Beckum for a 35-yard gain. The play was reviewed, but the catch stood. Four plays later, however, Donovan fired a poor pass over the middle, which was intercepted by Kevin Mitchell.The Wisconsin defense forced Illinois to punt after a three-and-out, and on the second play of the Badgers’ ensuing possession Donovan tried to hook up with Beckum again on a similar route.Beckum was tightly covered by Vontae Davis, however, and the pass was intercepted. “Whenever we get Travis one-on-one, we’re going to take advantage of it,” Donovan said. “The DB made a good play on the ball and — I didn’t even see it — but he must have sealed Travis pretty good and made a play on the ball.”According to Leman, Davis wasn’t going to be beaten a second time.”He made a great catch down the sideline — Beckum did down the sideline — and Vontae said, ‘I’ve got something for him next time,’” Leman said.Illinois pounded the ball for a 9-play, 71-yard drive on the next possession, which extended the lead to 31-19.The Badgers made one last-ditch effort near the end of the game, scoring on a Donovan-to-Graham nine-yard touchdown pass with 1:31 to go, but the ensuing onside kick failed, and the Illini ran out the remaining time for the win.