Redshirt freshman Braedyn Locke, in his first collegiate start, hit lineman Nolan Rucci with a 3-yard touchdown pass with 27 seconds remaining as the Wisconsin Badgers rallied to beat Illinois 25-21 in a Big Ten West matchup Saturday, Oct. 21 in Champaign, Illinois.
Locke, a transfer from Mississippi State but never played there, started in place of injured Tanner Mordecai, who broke his throwing hand in last week’s loss to Iowa. The Badgers scored 18 points in the fourth quarter.
Wisconsin (5-2, 3-1 Big Ten), which trailed 21-7 after three quarters, pulled within 21-18 with scores on consecutive drives in the fourth quarter. Nathanial Vakos kicked a 41-yard field goal with 14:13 left to play, and Locke hit Will Pauling on a 20-yard touchdown reception, plus the two-point conversion.
The Badgers forced a punt and took over on their own 17-yard line with 3:24 remaining. Locke hit Skyler Bell deep up the left side for 30 yards and a first down on the Illinois 5 with 1:06 remaining. Two running plays picked up two yards, and Locke then found Rucci uncovered in the left side of the end zone.
Wisconsin moved back atop the Big Ten West with Iowa’s 12-10 loss to Minnesota on Saturday, but the Badgers host third-ranked Ohio State on Oct. 28.
Locke completed 21 of 41 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Braelon Allen ran for 145 yards and one score on 29 carries.
Luke Altmyer, a sophomore transfer from Ole Miss, completed 13 of 21 passes for 100 yards, including touchdowns of 1 and 3 yards to stake Illinois (3-5, 1-4) to a 14-0 lead. He also ran for 100 yards.
Kaden Faegin’s 12-yard touchdown run around the right end put the Illini up 21-7 with 4:30 left in the third quarter.
The Badgers threatened midway through the second quarter, but botched a 28-yard field goal attempt. Illinois responded with a 12-play, 82-yard scoring drive, capped by Altmyer’s 3-yard pass to Tip Reiman to make it 14-0.
Wisconsin answered with a 73-yard drive, pulling within 14-7 on Allen’s 4-yard run with 31 seconds remaining in the half. Locke completed 4 of 6 passes for 66 yards on the drive.
Illinois capitalized on a fumble by Locke for its first score. Altmyer hit Tanner Arkin wide open in the right flat for a 1-yard touchdown pass to cap the 54-yard drive.