Badgers Beat Up Boilers 34-16
Purdue's defense fought and changed the course of the game...they begged Stave to beat them as sought to take away the run...And Stave rose to the occasion for a half at least. I said it before the game and I'll say it again, it's better to put the game in Stave's hands than Gordon's...and I still think it's true. Stave might get hot for a bit, but he's no world beater...Gordon, and the Wisconsin OLine (while run blocking) surely are.
How good is Gordon? He's so good that he averaged 8.2 yds/carry and a total of 205 yds total while rushing for and receiving a TD...on just an OK day.
If Purdue had been completely healthy coming into the game today, it would have been a tough game...But without their best playmaker in the defensive backfield, the best receiver...Purdue struggled just to stay in the game. It was an 18 point deficit at the half...and it felt like the dam would break early in the second half...but it didn't go that way. Purdue fought back a bit, got it down to an 8 point game...and a few Purdue fans dared to dream while on Twitter with their pals.
Hazell made a gutsy call with the game within one score and tried an onside kick that nearly worked. Had it worked, maybe it would have obliterated the old bad juju in this series that dated back a decade for the Boilers...but the officials correctly ruled that Mostert bobbled the ball before going out of bounds as he attempted to corral the short kick off.
From there out, UW flexed their muscles on defense and took away all of Purdue's rhythm. In three possessions, I believe Wisconsin had four sacks...and every other play, they were battering Appleby. Purdue's offense, with the exception of a bomb from AA to Hunt, was flat-out poor today. Wisconsin might have something to do with that...but the play-calling was uninspiring.
Purdue's young receivers, Gregory and Hart, caught the ball well when given the opportunity, but Purdue was out-manned on both sides of the ball. Appleby finished the game with a poor completion percentage; going 17/37 for 204yds, a TD and no interceptions. But Purdue was so one-dimensional as they rushed for a total of 26 yards.
Mostert offered a spark with a 40 yard KO return...but after that, Wisconsin wisely took that away from Purdue by kicking to Trae Hart in his first start as a kick returner. Hunt didn't return kicks due to being beaten up from last week's game at Nebraska. Along with Hart as a kick returner, Feichter returned punts for the first time in his career.
Special teams was solid as none of the issues that we saw v. Nebraska were apparent. On top of that, Griggs hit a 53 and 52 yard field goal to go along a 40-something harder. Griggs has become a bit of a weapon this season...and has become the kicker that recruiting publications thought he'd be out of HS.
Getting shellacked by Wisconsin has become a tradition for Purdue teams...this wasn't that, exactly. Purdue didn't roll over by any means, but just couldn't go toe-to-toe with the Badgers' offensive front. Purdue's young linebackers played as well as I would think this unit could, and Replogle took advantage of Howard's absence (also due to injury). Gelen Robinson played a bit more in the second half than he has for much of the season and was active. His strength will make him important next season as his understanding of the scheme increases.
This isn't the greatest Wisconsin team we've seen in the last few years...but they're still Wisconsin. Big, strong, disciplined and well-coached. There's no morale victory in losing by 18...but there is progress as the game actually was interesting for about 10 minutes in the second half.
Next up, Purdue gets the bye before ending the season with back-to-back winnable games versus Northwestern and IU. Unlike Nebraska, Wisconsin, and MSU, the talent and size discrepancy won't be apparent when we watch the next two games. 4 or 5 wins would be a big step forward from the horrendous result in '13.
As I watch Northwestern continue to play in unimpressive fashion, and IU continue to have no offense, ending the season with some warm, fuzzy feelings seems like a real possibility. Now, if you saw what Iowa did today, you probably thought (like me) that the Iowa loss is the biggest missed opportunity of the season. But woulda, coulda and shoulda aren't worth a damn at this point. A team is its record...and Purdue's record is still pretty lousy.
Hazell and company need a win or two more to build upon, as we all look forward to next fall.