Badgers Bust Boiler Backbone But Barely Bypass 'Barrassing Breakdown
In fairness, this was always going to be a tough game for Purdue. Michigan grabbed most of the headlines coming into the season, but Wisconsin struck many as the most complete team in the Big 10. Even without knowing how good Wunderkind Freshman Jonathan Taylor would end up being, this Badger team had the potential to do a lot of damage this season. Added in that is the fact that the game would be at Camp Randall, and well...let's just say that I didn't think there would be much in the way of winning for this Purdue team.
While in a way I wasn't wrong, taking the long view this team has put together another performance that has surprised me, and demonstrates the rapid development that this program has undertaken in under a year. Last year Purdue played Wisconsin, at home, in front of a grossly-exaggerated 30,000+ fans (lol, nah) and lost 49-20 in a game that was no where near as close as the final score might indicate.
That's not to say that they played a particularly good game today, or looked even decent while doing it. Hard to look good giving up nearly 300 yards on the ground alone, and another 200 through the air. Never mind the lethargic offense, which managed zero TDs and fewer than 250 total yards on offense. This team isn't a Brohm offense, not yet, not when its leading rusher only managed to total 31 yards, or its leading receiver only 48. No, the personnel isn't there, and there are too many questions without answers at this moment. But even this afternoon, even against a team with legitimate playoffs aspirations, the seeds of something fun were being planted. It was apparent when a flea-flicker-turned-TE-screen in the fourth quarter yielded 31 yards and set Purdue up for a chance to get the tying TD that fun, creative play-calling was no gimmick, that this coaching staff was willing to pull out all the stops and use every play at its disposal.
But it was also apparent that it would take some waiting for that creativity to bear any meaningful fruit. Yes, Purdue is still on track to make a bowl this season, which is incredible to even think about, but that will largely be accomplished by defeating the worst that this schedule has to offer. In the meantime, what we have are little signs that things are different this year, under this coaching staff. It's not just the fun play calls, it's the effort and energy, throughout the whole game.
Unfortunately effort and energy weren't enough to win this game. WRs weren't able to get any separation from Wisconsin's man-to-man defense, and the RBs weren't able to break enough tackles (and they didn't get a ton of help from the line). Purdue had its chances, but they weren't able to turn a blocked punt returned to the 10 into any points, and the last gasp possession ended with an ill-advised Sindelar interception. The chances were there, but Purdue wasn't able to take advantage.
Purdue only plays two ranked teams this season, both in the top-10, and both are in the past. Next up for Purdue is Rutgers, Nebraska, Illinois, Northwestern, Iowa, and Indiana. Not exactly a murderer's row. There are plenty more opportunities for Purdue to take advantage. Let's hope they do so next time.