Nov. 25, 2016
The Wisconsin Badgers used a big second quarter to dominate Purdue 49-20 in West Lafayette. Wisconsin had a slow start, as the Badgers trailed 3-0 after the first quarter. But a pair of screen passes on 3rd-and-longs to Dare Ogunbowale set Bucky up for an Alec Ingold touchdown run to give the Badgers the lead they would not relinquish. This was Wisconsin’s seventh consecutive win over Purdue at Ross-Ade Stadium and the 11th straight victory over the Boilermakers overall. Despite the 29-point win, I don’t think the Badgers played a great game. Far from it, actually. I am sure Paul Chryst’s team will happily take the big win, though. It sets up a showdown on Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium against Minnesota.
This is the best the quarterbacks have looked this season. Much of the game, Wisconsin was behind the chains since Purdue was selling out to stop the run. Alex Hornibrook struggled early, but Bart Houston came in and led the Badgers to four consecutive touchdowns in the second quarter to give Wisconsin a 35-10 halftime lead. Hornibrook started the second half and looked solid as well. Overall, the two quarterbacks combined to go 12-of-15 for 191 yards and two touchdowns. On two of the incomplete passes, Wisconsin wide receiver Jazz Peavy dropped passes right in his hands. So the Badgers quarterbacks were that close to a perfect game, despite a strong wind. The Wisconsin quarterbacks were great on third downs especially, combining to go 9-for-11 for 149 yards and a touchdown on the money down. That is even more impressive when you consider the fact that the Badgers quarterbacks were 5-of-6 for 100 yards and a touchdown on passes on 3rd-and-8+. I doubt Chryst will be as conservative against Minnesota as he was against Purdue. The quarterbacks did well on third downs against Purdue, but likely won’t have the same success this upcoming week against Minnesota.
Much of the day, the defense played well. The Badgers were able to capitalize on three Purdue turnovers and turn them into 14 points. The play of the day was a defensive play that happened midway through the second period when Purdue quarterback David Blough rolled out to the left and threw a pass that was plucked out of the air by Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Watt and returned to the house for the pick six. That gave the Badgers a 14-3 lead and essentially ended the Purdue hopes of an upset. Wisconsin’s secondary gave up a few huge pass plays to DeAngelo Yancey, but as a whole, Bucky’s defense held the Boilermakers offense to 293 yards and 73 of them came on the final touchdown drive when the game was out of reach. A week after picking off Illinois’ Jeff George, Jr. four times, the Badgers were able to intercept Blough three times this past Saturday. All seven turnovers forced in the past two weeks were in the first half, which helped put both games away. The game went pretty much how I thought it would. Purdue was going to pass for some yardage, but Blough was not going to be able to win the game on his own. Wisconsin stoned Purdue’s running game, allowing just 71 yards on 22 carries, but one of the carries was a 34-yard run by Brian Lankford-Johnson late in the game when Wisconsin had its reserves in the game. I knew the Wisconsin defense would force a few Blough turnovers since he is the worst in the country at throwing interceptions this year. As a team, Purdue is a -18 in turnover differential. Not good.
As convincing as this win was, Wisconsin was far from flawless. Chryst will have plenty of teaching material after this one. Cornerbacks Derrick Tindal and Natrell Jamerson were each burned on a long pass play to Yancey in the first half, including Tindal being beaten on a 75-yard touchdown just before halftime. The Purdue wide receiver had a career-high 155 yards receiving in the game. Wisconsin was also not as focused as it normally is. The Badgers committed eight penalties against the Boilermakers, and Wisconsin is one of the top teams in the country in fewest penalties per game. Finally, even though he had a touchdown reception in the game, Peavy had a game he’d like to forget. Wisconsin’s quarterbacks had three incompletions in the game, and Peavy was targeted on all three and they all hit his hands. One was more difficult than the others, but they all arguably should have been caught. He also muffed a punt following Purdue’s first possession of the second half, which set up a Boilermakers field goal. These are correctable issues and I believe the team will be more focused against Minnesota with a trip to Indianapolis on the line.
Wisconsin had an ultra-conservative game plan against Purdue, but the Badgers were still able to control the game and win. They would not give other teams things to look at going forward. Wisconsin would win the Big Ten with a win on Senior Day against Minnesota or Iowa beats Nebraska on Friday. The Badgers are likely two wins away from a berth in the College Football Playoff. No matter what, it will be an interesting final two weeks.