Badgers defense looks to maintain

Wisconsin's defense may face its stiffest challenge yet when it takes on the Boilermakers offense

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The No. 13 Boilermakers come into Camp Randall this weekend with the pride of having one of the top all-around offenses in the Big Ten. Their offense is loaded with a top-notch quarterback, and scoring threats at both running back and wide receiver.


Kyle Orton (Purdue Athletics)

Junior quarterback Kyle Orton fuels the offensive fire. He has not missed his target much with only two interceptions, while completing 62.1 percent of his passes.


Orton will look to his receivers, senior John Standeford and junior Taylor Stubblefield, to continue to catch passes. Stubblefield leads the conference with receptions per game (6.33) while Standeford is sixth (4.67).


Besides strength on the receiving end, Purdue depends on its running game this season. Just like the Badgers, the Boilermakers are three deep in running backs. The young trio consists of sophomores Jerod Void and Brandon Jones, and freshman Jerome Brooks, who have combined for 934 yards and 11 touchdowns.  


This offense has it all and could be the most complex offense the Badgers have faced this season.


"I think they have a better offense than Ohio State," junior defensive lineman Anttaj Hawthorne said. "Their offensive line isn't as big and as strong but they are more fundamentally sound. They finish blocks, they stay on them. Their quarterback is a great player."


"They are all on the same page," defensive line coach John Palermo said or Purdue's offense. "The o-line works very well together. They have really good running backs and good receivers and their trigger man is playing good right now. So they're probably the best offensive football team we've played up to date, maybe other than Akron. I thought Akron has a heck of an offensive football team."

It has been a while since these two teams have seen each other. However, it is hard for any Badger fan to forget the team's recent matchups, which include a 30-24 overtime loss to Purdue three years ago, a 28-21 Wisconsin win at Purdue in 1999, and a wild, 31-24 Badger victory in 1998, a game in which Drew Brees threw an NCAA record 83 passes, completing 55.  


"They still have a good quarterback and a slew of talent at wide receivers," senior linebacker Jeff Mack said. "So once again we have to stay focused—know your actual techniques, different formations, different zones and things like that and be prepared for a full four-quarter game."

Preparation will be key for Wisconsin as they enter into a totally different contest against Purdue. The teams have changed many players since 2000, and that also means some change in the way the teams play.


"This is the first time we've played them in a couple of years," defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove said. "But it looks like they're trying to put more of an emphasis on running the football and they've done that the last couple of weeks and have had a lot of success."


John Standeford (Purdue Athletics)

The defense, though, will also have to be on the lookout for Stubblefield, Standeford and the Purdue passing game.


"I feel the ball is going to be flying around a lot," junior defensive back Scott Starks said. "So there's going to be a lot of opportunities for our DB's to make plays. We're going to have to cover them up; it's going to be a big task."

As the team continues to drive off of last week's victory against Ohio State, they know that they cannot let Purdue slide past. This game could pose an even bigger threat for the Badgers and they will need to keep their intensity at an optimal level. As a captain, it is up to Mack to make sure his teammates recognize the importance of this game and the need for continued solid play.


"I think the energy level is a little higher this week because as a team we have to stay pumped up," Mack said. "Purdue is a good team and what's happened is since we won last game, which makes this game even bigger; so that kind of gave us the motivation to play a better game. You know there's always room for improvement, and that's what we want to do, improve each week."

If Wisconsin is able to pull out a victory it will be a happy homecoming weekend, a continued undefeated Big Ten record. This game could make or break the momentum for the remainder of the season. Wisconsin will have a battle because Purdue's offense will likely put up a bigger fight than Ohio State and will make it tough for any early celebrations.


"We have to eliminate the big plays because we can't give them a chance to get on top," Starks said. "It's going to be just as intense as it was last week. This game is not the same, probably bigger than the game last week to us; every game is a do or die situation for us."


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