It has been a rough tenure for Purdue in the Darrell Hazell era. Amassing a 5-25 overall record, not to mention a 1-17 mark in conference play, the Boilermakers (1-5, 0-2 Big Ten) come into Camp Randall Stadium having lost their last four games and have yet to beat a FBS team this season.
Even so, Purdue was able to play No. 7 Michigan State tough, losing by three points two weeks ago in East Lansing, a showing that they can be dangerous when they can get things clicking. When things aren’t clicking, like last weekend, they lose 41-13 at home to Minnesota. Which Purdue team shows up is the question. Even with Wisconsin (4-2, 1-1) winning nine straight in the series, UW – down 1.5 games in the Big Ten West Standings – can’t afford any slip ups.
Here are Badger Nation’s five keys to a Wisconsin victory over Purdue, as Wisconsin has averaged a 23.4 point margin of victory over the last nine games against Purdue.
1, Picking up where it left off on offense
Quarterback Joel Stave led the Badgers to points on four of their final five possessions in the win over Nebraska. The only drive that didn’t end in points was the missed 39-yard field goal. The offense needs to improve on finding ways of capitalizing on drives and finishing with touchdowns over field goals, and Stave is a big part of that. Good news for UW is that Purdue has allowed 21 touchdowns, which ranks 12th in the Big Ten. If Stave can help Wisconsin get off to a quick start, it should help keep the Purdue’s defense unsettled.
2, Establish the run
Purdue ranks last in the Big Ten in rushing defense (215.2 yards a game) and have been torched over the last two games. Michigan State and Minnesota combined to run for 593 on the ground. With Taiwan Deal (ankle) is questionable and unlikely to play, Dare Ogunbowale will again be the featured back. Freshman Alec Ingold, who scored his first career touchdown last week, will be available to take some pressure off of Ogunbowale, but Ogunbowale will be counted on to carry the bulk of the load. He should feel confident after rushing for 83 of his career-high 117 yards in the fourth quarter against Nebraska, not to mention Purdue has allowed nine different Badgers to gain at least 100 yards over the last seven games.
3, Make David Blough beat you
Wisconsin will need to slow down Purdue’s rushing attack and force the redshirt freshman quarterback to find a way to beat Wisconsin’s defense and veteran secondary. Purdue is led by Markell Jones on the ground (team-high 412 yards) but the Boilers can also rely on D.J. Knox (329 yards). Jones, who gained 157 yards against Michigan State, only managed seven yards against Minnesota. UW has only allowed two 100-yard rushers this season and have held Purdue to a combined 71 rushing yards the last two meetings.
4, Joe Schobert
In order for Wisconsin to slow down Purdue’s attack, Schobert will have to make his presence known in the backfield. Held without a sack last week, Schobert should be thirsting to get after Blough. Many other defenders have accomplished that, as Purdue has given up 15 sacks this season (86th in the country). If Schobert can consistently get after Blough, the Boilermakers will have to overload his side with an extra blocker. That will open up opportunities for Vince Biegel to supply the pressure.
5, Creating turnovers
Turnovers continue to be an issue for Purdue, having committed 17 (11 interceptions and six fumbles) this season. Wisconsin has struggled to create turnovers at times this season, so UW will need to rely in its linebackers to force fumbles or cause errant passes to help set Wisconsin’s offense up with good field position.
Purdue has struggled mightily on defense this season and are allowing teams to average 34.3 points a game. Although Wisconsin has had its struggles on offense this year, they should be able to strike a balance on offense against Purdue. The Badgers win 31-10.