Calhoun grounded? Go to the air

Wisconsin tailback, held mostly in check in running game, blistered Purdue in the passing game

For the first time in his University of Wisconsin career, junior tailback Brian Calhoun did not record a rushing touchdown. Moreover, Saturday was probably the Colorado transfer's least effective day on the ground as a Badger, with 20 carries for just 62 yards.

The engine that has made the Badger offense go more than any other, however, still revved up against visiting Purdue. This time it was Calhoun's versatility, a key all season, that took precedence.

Calhoun led all players with five receptions, 78 receiving yards and two touchdowns — the only touchdowns the UW offense recorded.

"He's certainly a special player and showed his versatility today in a lot of areas," co-offensive coordinator Brian White said.

Purdue came into this game with the nation's worst-ranked pass defense. Understandably then, the Badgers came out throwing. In the first quarter Wisconsin executed 15 pass plays and just three runs.

"We felt they were having some problems in the secondary," White said. "… and we decided we were going to throw it a little bit."

The first-quarter result: quarterback John Stocco was 7 of 12 for 113 yards and a touchdown. (He scrambled three times and fumbled one snap).

That much was according to plan. But the Badgers had hoped to get Calhoun more involved.

In the opening 15 minutes, Calhoun ran just three times for three yards. Before two run-out-the-clock carries prior to halftime, one of the nation's leading rushers had five attempts for five yards.

"It's frustrating because we wanted to establish the run and we couldn't," Calhoun said. "But give credit to Purdue's defense. They are more athletic and fast then their record indicates."

Also credit Purdue's offense, which ran the ball very well in the first half (136 yards on 23 attempts), holding the Badgers to just six possessions before halftime.

In addition, after racing down the field on its first drive of the game, UW's offense largely cooled until late in the third quarter.

"We wanted to get (Calhoun) in the flow a little bit earlier but we just really, for whatever reason were a little out of sync," White said, "and didn't cash in on some opportunities that we had…

"It seemed like we were always about a play behind."

Stocco's first-quarter touchdown pass was a 23-yard screen to Calhoun. The Badgers caught Purdue in a blitz on that play and did so again with less than three minutes left in the third quarter, when Stocco found Calhoun coming out of the backfield for a 40-yard score.

Because of the blitz, Calhoun was isolated on a linebacker. He caught the pass in stride at the 30, then juked Boilermaker free safety Brandon Whittington at about the 13, before finishing his scamper into the end zone.

"Any time a linebacker's one-on-one you know we have the advantage," Calhoun said. "…. The safety's so far away from me, there's so much space that it's hard for him to try to fill it and contain me either way. I just tried to set him up and make a move. It worked out and we scored."

Purdue made a point of keying on Calhoun in the running game, then blitzing often to try to disrupt the Badger passing game.

"Well, we did OK (in pass defense) until Calhoun caught that little underneath (pass)," Purdue coach Joe Tiller said. "Watch him ziggily zags."

Calhoun's 34 receptions this season is tied for the team lead.

"We're finding an awful lot of opportunities to be able to utilize his talents in the passing game," White said. "That touchdown catch-and-run that he had today was pretty spectacular."

After having an 1,000-yard rusher for 10 consecutive seasons from 1993-2002, Calhoun became the first Badger to reach that milestone since. He now has 1,021 rushing yards and 16 total touchdowns.

"It's a great accomplishment, not only for me, but for my offense, our offensive line," Calhoun said. "I joined great company but we still have a lot of games left so I'm just going to try to improve on that. And we have a lot of getting better to do."

"We've put a lot of pride into having 1,000-yard rushers," White said. "And to have Brian reach that on the eighth week of the season is pretty special. I know it means a lot to our offensive line and the tradition we've created here."


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