Bolden Boilers Up Purdue

Limiting conference opponents to just 77.2 yards per game on the ground, Wisconsin's run defense has made its Big Ten's opponents one dimensional. Going against the best running back they will see all season, the Badgers know that its another chance to prove themselves.

MADISON – One of the well-known offensive traditions at the University of Wisconsin over the past decade has been running the football, which is evident by the laundry list of talented running backs that the program has produced and have gone on to collect an NFL paycheck.

That's all well and good as far as J.J. Watt is concerned, but the sophomore defensive lineman would rather have the Badgers be known as a school that's stops the run, instead of harnessing it.

"For us to hold a guy to less than a 100 yards and a team to under a 100 yards, that's huge for the defensive line," Watt said. "We pride ourselves on stopping the run and we want people to fear our defensive line. I think people are starting to take notice of our defensive line."

In four conference games, Wisconsin has yet to allow a team to rush for over 100 yards, averaging just 77.2 yards per game on the ground, tops in the conference. The consensus is, however, that the Badgers (5-2 overall, 2-2- Big Ten) haven't faced a running back as good as Purdue's Ralph Bolden, who will lead the Boilermakers into Camp Randall this Saturday.

Although just 5-foot-9 and 194 pounds, Bolden packs a punch for Purdue (3-5, 2-2), winners of its last two games. Through eight games, Bolden is tied for first in the Big Ten in carries (153), second in yards (720) and tied for second in touchdowns (5).

He's also the team's fourth-leading receiver, having caught 15 catches for 210 yards and a score.

"He's pretty good, with a good base, good speed and good agility," UW linebacker Jae McFadden said. "He's also pretty strong for his size. Watching him on film, he runs tough and they use him in the passing game with screens and swing routes. He's the best we've faced in the conference so far."

But the trick that makes Bolden effective is the different tricks in his arsenal. He can use his sub 4.4 40-yard dash speed to out run opponents, like his 234-yard performance against Toledo (the top rushing mark for the Big Ten this season), or the shiftiness that comes with his small frame, making gang tackling a premium this week for UW.

"He's got some speed on him and he can get you," said senior O'Brien Schofield, who is tied for the NCAA lead with 16.5 tackles for loss this season. "The way they set things for him, he's had some real good open lanes. If he gets open, he's able to take it to the house."

Although Purdue has shown they can run the football effectively, the Boilermakers are still a potent passing offense. Ranking 32nd nationally in passing at 254.6 yards, fifth-year senior quarterback Joey Elliott has completion 21.8 percent of his passes, helping Purdue to be a duel-action offense.

One week after passing 52 times in a 26-18 victory over then-No.7 Ohio State, Purdue, behind an offensive line with three fifth-year seniors on it, rushed 39 times for 220 rushing yards and three scores against Illinois.

"We had the potential to be very good running the football," Purdue coach Danny Hope said. "Some of the things that have happened over the course of the season mandated that we threw the ball a little bit more in certain situations. I think it's important that we're in position to run or pass the ball based on what the defense will give us."

In UW Coach Bret Bielema's tenure, the Badgers are 16-4 when limiting an opponent to 100 yards or less rushing, a badger of honor proudly displayed by the front seven of Wisconsin's defense.

According to Watt, goal number one on the first day of camp for a defensive lineman is stopping the run, making an opponent one dimensional in order to dictate the tempo. So will Purdue test a UW run defense giving up only 2.7 yards per carry in conference games or test the troubled UW secondary? Watt is anxious to find out.

"Having to sit with those two losses the past two weeks has been tough and this is another challenge for us," Watt said. "It's just another challenge for us to face. It's going to be a fun game for us."


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