The Ball Get's Rolling in the Second Half

Montee Ball picked the Badgers up after halftime with a career high 127 yards and two touchdowns, as the entire Wisconsin team awoke from a lethargic slumber in the second half to dominate the Boilermakers 34-13.

WEST LAFAYETTE, IND. — Lethargic. Unfocused. Hangover. Flat. Whatever your choice of adjective, the Wisconsin football team entered halftime Saturday trailing a vastly inferior Purdue team 10-6 and were fortunate to only be down that much.

In head coach Bret Bielema's mind there was little to worry about though. He knows his team and he knows how they respond to pressure.

"They don't flinch," he said. "They just kind of handle the situation. They are in a mode when you just shift them into gear and go play football and they are a really fun team to be around. I told them last night, I don't worry about this team showing up and not being physical, I don't worry about them going out and executing."

And handle the situation they did. The Badgers (8-1, 4-1) ended the contest with the lopsided score of 34-13, aided by four forced turnovers and another superlative performance from No. 3 running back Montee Ball.

In a game where both teams gained the exact same amount of yards on offense (303), execution and poise separated the two programs. Which makes sense, seeing as Purdue (4-5, 2-3) was starting their fourth string quarterback and a true freshman in Sean Robinson.

"It says that we have some good character and guys that understand the situation," UW defensive end J.J. Watt said. "When we get done we can't get out."

The second half came down to youth vs. experience. And experience won. Handily.

Fifth-year senior Culmer St. Jean swung the momentum to the Badgers side early with an interception of Robinson on the first drive of the third quarter. St. Jean — a quarterback in high school — read the freshman's eyes the whole way and undercut the route for a text-book pick. After a 14-yard return, St. Jean was tackled inside the red zone and had to wait merely five more plays before Scott Tolzien (13-for-19 for 130 yards, one touchdown and one interception) found Jared Abbrederis in the back of the end zone on a perfectly executed play-fake.

The Badgers took the lead and never looked back.

"Coach B and coach Doeren stressed that the seniors need to make plays and we have to take care of the team," St. Jean said. "I was just trying to be optimistic and make a play."

"The scoring percentages go way up when you are that close," senior captain John Moffitt added with a smile. "The defense was huge today."

On the other side of the ball, it was a familiar position — if not an unfamiliar face — that provided the heavy lifting.

With John Clay hampered after what was classified as a "knee bruise" and James White held out for the week with a knee sprain, Ball stepped up for the second straight game to lead the offense. The Purdue defense did a decent job when faced with Clay, holding the bruiser to 42 yards on 12 carries.

Ball proved to be too much to handle, however, slashing through the Boilermaker 'D' for a career high 127 yards and two touchdowns all while averaging 6.0 yards per carry.

The sophomore's first touchdown came on a wide zone play left, with Ball able to make one cut and go on the sideline. The familiar burst from last season was back, as Ball took it 31 yards and dove for the pylon to put UW up 10.

Ball added another score in the fourth quarter, cutting back to the middle after the Boilermaker defense over committed and waltzing in virtually untouched from 15-yards out.

"The team is going to put the load on your shoulders and you have to be able to carry it," Ball said.

"The line did a great job of making holes and I was able to hit them.

"We needed to play smash mouth football and that is what we did."

If the second half was vintage Wisconsin football, the first two quarters were a little too reminiscent of 2008.

Purdue outgained the Badgers 173 yards to 126 and more disturbingly, converted six-of-nine third downs against the Badgers defense. Missed tackles, poor coverage, a lack of pressure on the quarterback, you name it. Whatever the Badgers needed to do to get off the field they failed to accomplish.

"We just weren't tackling very well," Watt said.

"We had a great scheme dialed up and we just didn't tackle. That is really what it comes down to."

Purdue went just 3-for-10 in the second half on third downs, much more befitting of their freshman signal caller.

"We were better on first and second down. I mean if you put them in third and long and you are going to get in tough situations. We did that better in the second half and obviously it paid off," Watt said.

Offense, defense and even special teams (David Gilreath with a 27-yard punt return), Wisconsin looked back to normal in the second half after sleep-walking through the first two quarters.

Bielema's pick-me up speech was a simple one.

"You don't need any superhuman effort, you just need to go out there and execute the fundamentals and do what we do," Bielema said.

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