Badgers' Runaway Train Blows by Purdue

Granted the caliber of the opposition was down and the stakes weren't as high, but it didn't matter to No.19 Wisconsin. After getting heaping amounts of adversity the past two weeks, the Badgers bounced back in a big way, piling up 605 yards of offense and 62 points, more than enough to beat Purdue for the sixth straight meeting.

MADISON - Senior captain Bradie Ewing can point to a lot of great memories, even a conference championship, that he's experienced since walking on to the University of Wisconsin football team four years ago.

But as he recalled the last four teams he's been a part of, there's no question in his mind which team had the stronger will.

"This one is the most talented and the most resilient I believe," Ewing said. "Just some of the adversity we've faced the last two games, we've come out on the short end, but it shows what this team is all about. We have battled through some adversity and we are going to be stronger because of it. We're going to cherish that moment when we execute even more because of it."

Saturday against Purdue, there were no Hail Marys and no furious fourth-quarter comebacks needed, as Wisconsin made enough crisp plays to get back on track with its 62-17 victory in front of 80,566 Camp Randall onlookers.

"Two weeks that seemed like an eternity has just come to an end," a relieved coach Bret Bielema said. "We won so many games around here I was trying to remember the last time we lost two games back to back. It's been awhile (2009), and you're just not used to that feeling, they're not used to it and I don't want our kids to ever get used to it."

After two weeks uncharacteristic weeks altered its 2011 season, Wisconsin (7-2, 3-2 Big Ten) got back to doing what it simply does best, which is playing its brand of football. The Badgers controlled the clock (having a time of possession of 36:43), kept the ball on the ground to the tune of 364 rushing yards and once again became a stingy defensive unit, holding Purdue (4-5, 2-3 Big Ten) to just 2 for 10 on third down and 284 total yards.

Over the past two weeks, Wisconsin's defense had allowed opponents to convert 19 of 36 (52.8 percent) on third downs.

"Coach Ash always calls third down ‘money down' because that's when you got to make your money," said cornerback Marcus Cromartie. "We take that personally. We took the whole week personally after two losses."

Relying on the offense as a crutch the last two weeks, the UW defense finally took matters into its own hands. Failing to register an interception in the past two losses (a stark change after picking off seven passes the previous three games), the much maligned secondary lived up to that billing early, as a communication breakdown in the secondary led to a wide-open 30-yard touchdown pass on the second play of the game.

After that, the sailing was much smoother. Wisconsin held Purdue on six plays inside the UW 15, forcing a field goal, and saw Cromartie with one of his better plays of the season, a timely pass breakup that deflected the ball into the hands of linebacker Mike Taylor, UW's first interception since the second quarter against Indiana.

The interception was the first of two on the day, as Taylor's second-quarter pick and Chris Borland's third-quarter snag eventually led to touchdowns.

"Turnovers are huge," said Borland, who finished with a team-high 11 tackles, 3.5 TFLS and two forced fumbles. "Mike made a great play on that one and we got another later. Anytime you can get our offense, especially the way they were playing today, the ball back, that's huge."

With a little defensive help, Wisconsin's offense was once again the stars of the show. In building a 38-17 lead at halftime, Wisconsin put up 425 yard of total offense and touchdowns from five different sources, using its grinding run game to possess the ball for 20 minutes, 1 second and keep the ball out of the Boilermakers hands.

It was a heavy dose of foreshadowing, as Wisconsin averaged 13.4 yards per completion, 7.8 yards per play, score at least 10 points in every quarter and went a perfect 8-for-8 inside the 20 with seven touchdowns and a field goal.

"The red zone is where you always have to be great, especially on offense in terms of playing quarterback, and we did that today," said senior quarterback Russell Wilson, who accounted for 281 yards of total offense and three touchdowns, extending his touchdown throwing streak to 33 games and bringing him three shy of tying the NCAA record of 36. "We capitalized on plays and rather than getting field goals, we got touchdowns (almost) every time. That was huge for us."

After getting stymied last week against Ohio State, junior Montee Ball rushed for a career-high 223 yards (158 coming in the first half), averaged 11.1 yards per carry and three touchdowns, pushing his season total to 1,076 yards. Wisconsin not had had at least one 1,000-yard rusher in 17 of the last 19 seasons, including the last seven in a row.

"As much as it is us blocking, the rest of it is him and he did phenomenal in breaking tackles and just running hard," center Peter Konz said of Ball. "Pushing for the goal line and all those things are on him. He just did a great job."

Make no mistake about it. There are still plenty of glaring deficiencies on Wisconsin's sidelines, particularly on special teams. While the punt unit was only tested once, the special teams unit gave up returns of 49 and 74 yards in the first half, both of which set up 10 points for the Boilermakers.

The breakdown on Purdue's first touchdown caused some coaches to get a little animated on the sideline, and some boo birds to fly from the stands. Tackling also became an issue, as the Boilermakers were able to rack up their fair share of yards after the catch by changing course and getting into space.

The performance also doesn't provide much solace for fans considering the lopsided affair came against a team UW hasn't lost to since 2003. But after what the team has endured the last two weeks, getting the winning feeling back is an important step in the right direction.

"It definitely feels good," senior guard Kevin Zeitler said. "It was definitely getting old, especially two weeks in a row like that. Everyone was clicking today … and everyone just did their jobs today."

Wisconsin has now won 15 straight home games, tied for the third-longest streak in school history, and have been lighting up the scoreboard at a historical pace at home. Through six games, Wisconsin has outscored the visitors 314-68, an average of 52.3 points for and 11.3 points against.

The key now is to bottle some of that Camp Randall mojo and take it on the road, as the Badgers look for their first road win in the longest rivalry in college sports.

"This week is all about the axe," said Bielema, referring to the Paul Bunyan Axe. "I think our kids really feed off (the fans). Now we have to understand that you have to take that same mentality on the road in a hostile environment in Minnesota."

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