MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Their playoffs hopes are all but gone. The defense is banged up. The offense struggled in a blowout loss to Michigan.
At least one big goal is still in play for No. 23 Wisconsin: the Badgers still control their destiny to win the Big Ten West and get to the conference title game. The easiest path is to win their last six regular-season games.
“We’ve got to build on the things that we have been doing well,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. “We’re six games in, have six to go and hope to earn the right to play more.”
Wisconsin (4-2, 2-1) hosts Illinois on Saturday, when they hope to improve on a season-low 283 yards in total offense in the 38-13 loss at the Big House last week.
Quarterback Alex Hornibrook completed just 7 of 20 passes for 100 yards with two interceptions. But guard Michael Deiter said there was plenty of blame to go around.
Protection issues played a role in Wisconsin converting just 2 of 11 on third downs.
“When you’ve got guys in your face, it’s hard to play quarterback,” Deiter said. “You’re avoiding getting crushed. You’ve got guys running free off the edge, it’s going to be hard to stand in there and throw the ball around as good as you can because you’re getting hit.”
Hornibrook was sacked twice, but he was under constant pressure.
“If we’re going to be as good an offense as we can be, we’ve got to protect better,” Deiter said.
Linebacker T.J. Edwards, who finished with 10 tackles against Michigan, said that while the division title and league championship are still in play, the Badgers need to concentrate on just beating the Illini.
“That’s all we can control,” Edwards said.
NOTES: The secondary continues to be hampered by injuries, with starting safeties D’Cota Dixon (right leg), Scott Nelson (right leg) listed as questionable on the injury report, along with starting cornerback Faion Hicks (left leg). Also questionable are S Reggie Pearson (left leg) and CB Travian Blaylock (right leg), along with ILB Griffin Grady and RB Bradrick Shaw . DE Isaiahh Loudermilk (left leg) will miss the Illinois game. . The Badgers have won 15 straight games over division rivals. . Wisconsin is 7-1 following a loss under Chryst.