CHAMPAIGN — Braedyn Locke threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to lineman Isaac Townsend with 27 seconds left Saturday, capping an 18-point fourth-quarter explosion that gave the Wisconsin a stunning 25-21 come-from-behind win over Illinois Saturday.
Illinois build a 14-7 lead in the first half at halftime, then added a 12-yard touchdown run in the third quarter by Kaden Feagin for a 21-7 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Locke was 21-of-41 passing for 240 yards and two touchdowns in his first start since taking over for the injured
Tanner Mordecai. Braelon Allen, the Big Ten’s leading rusher, ran for 145 yards for the Badgers.
Luke Altmyer threw two short touchdown passes and ran for 103 yards for Illinois (3-5,1-4 Big Ten). Feagin rushed for 97 yards as Illinois gained 226 yards on the ground.
Wisconsin (5-2, 3-1) scored on a 41-yard field goal by Nathanial Vakos and a 20-yard pass from Locke to Will Pauling in the fourth quarter that was followed by a two-point conversion pass from Locke to Riley Nowakowski before Locke’s pass to a wide-open Townsend in the end zone.
Pauling (seven catches for 95 yards) was Locke’s favorite target.
Wisconsin was plagued by mistakes in the first half, but trailed by just a touchdown.
Illinois got an early turnover when Locke scrambled out of the pocket, was hit from behind by All-American Jer’Zhan Newton, and fumbled. Miles Scott fell on the ball on the Illinois 46.
That launched a six-play, 54-yard drive that began with a 27-yard pass from Altmyer to Pat Bryant and ended with a 1-yard TD pass from Altmyer to a wide-open Tanner Arkin in the end zone. It was Arkin’s first career catch.
Wisconsin botched an opportunity to score in the second quarter when Gavin Myers dropped the snap on a 27-yard field goal attempt by Vakos and Illinois recovered on the Wisconsin 18.
The Illini took advantage of the miscue, cashing in with a 12-play, 82-yard touchdown drive that took 7:53. It was the longest TD drive of the season for Illinois in both time of possession and yardage.
Altmyer’s 17-yard run to the Wisconsin 4 on a fourth-and-two play set up a 3-yard TD pass from Altmyer to Tip Reiman, who wrestled the ball away from Alexander Smith at the goal line.
Wisconsin’s offense suddenly came to life late in the first half. The Badgers went 73 yards on eight plays and scored on a 4-yard run by Allen, who ran untouched into the end zone with 31 seconds left.
Wisconsin: With the comeback win, the Badgers moved into first place in the Big Ten West. First-place Iowa lost to Minnesota 12-10 to slipped to 3-2 in the conference. Iowa and Wisconsin are the only Big Ten West teams with a winning conference record.
Illinois: The Illini will take a week off after the gut-wrenching homecoming defeat. How will they respond after two weeks to think about the loss?
Wisconsin: The Badgers will play host next Saturday to No. 3 Ohio State.
Illinois: After a bye week, the Illini will travel to Minnesota on Nov. 4.