Patience is a virtue
Senior cornerback Scott Starks feels that he and his teammates got a little antsy while Purdue quarterback Kyle Orton's total pass attempts moved into the stratosphere last year at Camp Randall.
"With the passes they complete it's almost like a running game," Starks said. "You've got to be patient and…you've got to have that short-term memory and get ready to make a play on the next play."
Purdue's flexibility offensively tests a defense's patience. Play press coverage, and Orton has shown that he can burn teams deep. Sag off in a soft zone and he will gladly accept short receptions—all the way down the field.
Last season Orton completed 5 of 7 passes on an 82-yard drive—including a 36-yard pass to Ray Williams—to set up Ben Jones game-winning field goal.
"With all the passes they completed so early and all through the game we were still right there in the game," Starks said. "They weren't able to pull away. They had to go for the big play at the end. If we can stop the big plays and just contain them to short, quick stuff, we'll be OK."
A different rush
Wisconsin defensive line coach John Palermo stressed that gap responsibilities and pass-rush lanes do not change against a spread team. Purdue's tendency to use quick drops and short pass routes, however, does shift the mentality.
"We have to step up and try to help out the secondary and try to bat some balls down knowing that we are not going to be able to get as much pressure," senior defensive end Jonathan Welsh said.
Purdue's offensive line has only allowed six sacks all season while Wisconsin leads the Big Ten with 20 sacks.
"They are not the most talented line that we've played but they fit the scheme that they use," Palermo said. "They use a lot of what we call, ‘pop-and-chop,' where they'll just sit the guy up and dive at his legs. They'll use a lot of turn protection. They do a great job for what they do offensively."
"Instead of just knowing you can get after a guy, you have to get after a guy and know that at any second you have to use your feet and hands to get away from a guy that is going after you legs," Welsh said.
Up for a challenge
Just before Wisconsin's game last week at Ohio State, defensive coordinator Bret Bielema told corner Scott Starks he would shadow receiver Santonio Holmes no matter what coverage was called.
As a result, the Buckeyes' leading receiver caught just three passes for 34 yards.
Starks has frequently been paired with the opponent's best receiver but he would never ask for those matchups.
"I trust what the coaches say and the scheme that they have for that week," he said. "But if they were to put that in front of me I'd be happy to step up for the challenge."
The marquee receiver this week is Taylor Stubblefield, who last week became the Big Ten's all-time leading receiver (271 career receptions). Stubblefield has caught 35 passes for 568 yards and 11 touchdowns in five games.
Purdue, though, has four other receivers, a tight end and two tailbacks with at least 110 yards receiving. That, and the Boilermakers' multiple formations, make it difficult to match up any corner on any particular receiver.
"If you start worrying about that too much you lose sight of what you are trying to do," Bielema said.
Get off the field
Purdue's third-down conversion rate is a mind boggling and league-leading 60 percent. Wisconsin, though, leads the conference in third-down conversion defense at 26 percent.
The Badgers may have to deal with allowing a few more first downs this week but they are not conceding that possibility.
"You don't want to given anyone nothing," senior corner Chuckie Cowans said.
"We have to concentrate on what we believe makes us successful," Bielema said. "Whatever happens it is just a matter of lining up and playing another snap."
Note of warning
Purdue is far from wedded to its passing offense. The Boilermakers average 157.8 yards rushing.
"First minute you forget about the running game, they are going to hit you with it," Bielema said.
UW football notes: patience is a virtue
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