Preview: Riding the Momentum

Getting a week to soak in the back-to-back victories over top 15 teams and heal the bumps and bruises, No.7 Wisconsin gets back to work with a road game at Purdue Saturday, hoping to continue riding the high wave of momentum.

MADISON - After two back-to-back wins over top 15 teams, the momentum could be felt flowing out of the Wisconsin locker room.

Against the top notch defenses of then-No.1 Ohio State and then-No.13 Iowa, Wisconsin scored 31 points in each contest, went a perfect 8-for-8 in the red zone and registered 683 yards of total offense, catapulting the Badgers up the national polls and earning them a share of first place in the Big Ten race with four weeks to go.

It means nothing to them right now.

"One day in the off season, you can say that was pretty cool," Offensive Coordinator Paul Chryst said. "Right now, we got to keep going because we have zero points and zero yards for our next game. You don't allow yourself to think that way."

No.7 Wisconsin will look to keep its ‘1-0' mentality Saturday when the Badgers head to West Lafayette, Ind., to take on Purdue at 11 a.m. CT.

Questions started to arise about the validity of the preseason hype Wisconsin was getting after the Badgers struggled through a far-from-challenging non-conference schedule and lost their conference opener to Michigan State.

"We were struggling to play complete, 60-minute football," said senior quarterback Scott Tolzien.

Thanks in large part to Tolzien, the Badgers' past struggles are a memory, as UW (7-1, 3-1 Big Ten) is riding a three game winning streak and is fresh at every position after having a valuable week off to rest and recuperate.

More importantly, Tolzien and his offense can take stock of the positives it generated in the last two weeks, especially the two fourth-quarter drives against the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes.

After Ohio State scored 18 straight points to cut the lead to 21-18 with 11 minutes, 38 seconds left, Tolzien and the offense marched 73 yards in 10 plays to score the crippling touchdown.

Trailing 30-24 to Iowa two weeks ago, Wisconsin took the momentum back in the final nine minutes, marching on a 15-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that gave UW a one-point lead and took 7:29 off the clock.

"That's the key to any sport (because) there is going to be highs and lows, valleys and peaks," Tolzien said. "I think that's the fun part of the game. You're going to be down at some point. It's how you respond and a lot of it times, it suggests the outcome of the game."

The Boilermakers (4-4, 2-2) have not had to worry about losing momentum during their last two games, seeing as Purdue has been outscored by a combined total of 93-10.

To add salt in the wounds, Head Coach Danny Hope is planning, barring a quick recovery from injured starter Rob Henry, to start true freshman quarterback Sean Robinson for the first time.

"He still has the same injury and there may the same amount of discomfort," Hope said of Henry. "With that in mind, rather than assuming he might be able to play on Saturday, we're assuming that he's not."

Henry, a redshirt freshman, took over as the starter in Week 5 after transfer junior Robert Marve suffered a season-ending knee injury in a loss to Toledo. He registered back-to-back conference wins against Northwestern and Minnesota with five combined touchdowns, but lost the nail on his right index finger of his throwing hand in a 49-0 loss at Ohio State.

He didn't attempt a pass in Purdue's 44-10 loss to Illinois despite getting the start and was replaced by Robinson, who has completed 13 of 30 passes for 82 yards and had 17 rushes for 27 yards in three games.

Purdue is without tailback Ralph Bolden (knee) and wide receiver Keith Smith (knee), all things that contribute to Purdue being last in the Big Ten in scoring offense (18.1 ppg), last in passing offense (136.9 ypg), last in total offense (311.5 ypg) and make Wisconsin's under-appreciated secondary lick its chops.

"Iowa came after them on two or three fade routes and we held our own," Defensive Coordinator Dave Doeren said of starting cornerbacks Niles Brinkley and Antonio Fenelus. "Those were good receivers they were playing against. They're more physical against Ohio State's receivers and faster (and) I thought those two guys played really well."

The strength of Purdue lies on defense and defensive end Ryan Kerrigan, a Lombardi Award semifinalist that leads the team with 7.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss. Combine with the efforts of tackle Kawann Short (5.5 sacks, 12.5 TFLs), it's no surprise that Purdue leads the conference in sacks (24) and tackls for loss (63).

"They have a lot of good athletes and they are not a bad team by any means," junior wide receiver Nick Toon said. "We have to go in and execute and take care of our business. It's not a team we can overlook by any means."

Wisconsin also isn't looking ahead to a potential birth in the BCS or Rose Bowl for the first time in 11 years. If Wisconsin, Michigan State and Iowa tie for the title, the Spartans would go to the Rose Bowl and Wisconsin would be in the running for a BCS game.

If Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State tie for the title, the team with the highest BCS score would get the Rose Bowl, which currently means UW.

Of course, all that would be a memory if the Badgers slip up against the Boilermakers.

"Momentum is higher than it's been, but it's not something that is going to help us or hurt us," Toon said. "We just have to take care of our business. All that stuff is fun to think about and talk about, but we have to focus every week and take care of business or none of that will become a reality."

No.7/7/9 (AP, Coaches, BCS) Wisconsin (7-1, 3-1 Big Ten) vs. Purdue (4-4, 2-2 Big Ten)

Date/Time - Saturday, November 6 at 11 a.m. CT

Stadium –Ross-Ade Stadium (62,500/Prescription Athletic Turf)

Television - Big Ten Network (Eric Collins, Chris Martin, Charissa Thompson)

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas) and Satellite Sirus (ch. 90) and XM (ch. 196)

Series – Wisconsin leads 39-29-8 (series tied 17-17-3 in West Lafayette)

Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 37-0, on Oct. 30, 2009 in Madison

Series Notes:

Wisconsin has won four straight over Purdue, outscoring the Boilermakers 61-3 in the last two meetings.

This will be the teams' first meeting in West Lafayette since 2006.

IN 2004, Wisconsin overcame a 17-7 fourth-quarter deficit with a pair of touchdowns in the final six minutes of the game to post a 20-17 victory over No.5 Purdue. The Badgers' game-winning score came courtesy of a 40-yard fumble return by cornerback Scott Starks when it looked as though Purdue Qb Kyle Orton had converted a third down.

Wisconsin Notes:

Wisconsin ranks second in the country in fewest penalties per game, averaging just 3.38 penalties. The Badgers' 33.1 penalty yards per game are fifth-fewest in the country.

UW is bowl-eligible for a school record ninth-straight season, including all five of head coach Bret Bielema's seasons. Entering this season, only 12 schools in the country had a longer current streak than Wisconsin, including just one Big Ten team (Ohio State).

In consecutive weeks, Wisconsin scored 31 points against both Ohio State and Iowa. Both teams rank among the top 10 in the country in scoring defense, yielding fewer than 15.0 points per game. The Badgers are the first Big Ten team to score 30 or more points against OSU and Iowa in the same season since Wisconsin did so in 1999 (the last time UW won the Big Ten title).

Wisconsin is 10-1 in its last 11 games decided by eight points or less. Under head coach Bret Bielema, UW is 17-6 in such games.

Purdue Notes:

Through the first eight games of last season, Purdue coughed up the ball 17 times, leading to 12 fumbles lost. This season, the Boilermakers have fumbled 14 times in eight games and lost only six

The Boilermakers have been forced to count on a large number of youngsters to fill out the two-deep this season. On the offensive side of the ball, the initial depth chart for today's game featured 10 freshmen, redshirt freshmen or sophomores among the 22 players listed, including a redshirt frosh (Rob Henry) and a true frosh (Sean Robinson) at quarterback. The defensive side lists 12 underclassmen: five linemen, two linebackers and five players in the secondary.

With 227 rushing yards against Western Illinois on Sept. 11, 203 against Ball State on Sept. 18, 220 against Toledo on Sept. 25, 232 at Northwestern on Oct. 9 and 230 against Minnesota on Oct. 16, Purdue posted a school-record-tying five straight 200-yard games on the ground.

Prediction

Every year, there seems to be that one Big Ten game where someone gets nipped from behind. Last year, it was Joey Elliott passing for 281 yards and two touchdowns as Purdue beat No. 7 Ohio State, 26-18, a loss that left the Buckeyes' national-title chances in West Lafayette.

This season, we have yet to see that upset and if Wisconsin takes its foot off the gas pedal, that's when the Badgers will face some adversity. Purdue has struggled mightily the last two weeks on the road, but the Boilermakers are 3-1 at home, their only loss coming to Toledo after Marve got injured early. More importantly, Purdue is two wins away from being bowl eligible and finish playing three of four at home. That's the main reason Hope sees an upbeat team around him.

The Badgers also have a favorable schedule among the four contenders with all four of their remaining games are against opponents with a .500 record or worse. Still, Wisconsin has tripped up before on the road when national title or Rose Bowl start getting thrown around (see at Illinois, circa 2007).

Wisconsin is a 20-point favorite against a reeling team. The Badgers are better than they were in 2007 and better than they were two weeks ago, as only running back James White seems questionable for this game.

Nick Toon said it best: "We have to control what we can control. We can't get ahead of ourselves. It's exciting for the fans, but it's our job to worry about Purdue."

With that mantra, Wisconsin moved to 8-1 and further up in the polls.

Wisconsin 38, Purdue 14

Worgull's Predictions

Straight up: 5-3

Against the Spread: 6-2


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