Oct. 13, 2012
After turning off the microphone as the analyst for the Badger Radio Network, UWBadgers.com Insider Mike Lucas offers some final thoughts on Wisconsin’s 38-14 win over Purdue in West Lafayette.
BY MIKE LUCAS
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Between Purdue’s scoring plays, the Badgers administered an old-fashioned butt-kicking to the Boilermakers, punctuated by the fact that the Ross-Ade Stadium stands were nearly empty midway through the fourth quarter of the 38-14 win, save for the Wisconsin fans.
The Badgers have absolutely owned the Boilers over the last seven games and now own a five-game winning streak in West Lafayette.
Wisconsin got off to an auspicious start by giving up a long kickoff return followed by a 52-yard pass completion on Purdue’s first offensive snap. Despite falling behind 7-0, the Badgers had the right answer with a 75-yard scoring drive, culminating in a 21-yard throw-back pass to a wide-open Jacob Pedersen.
From that point forward, the Badgers completely dominated. That was especially true on the line of scrimmage, where Wisconsin neutralized what was considered one of the top interior defensive fronts in the Big Ten. The irony of that first series was that Montee Ball didn’t get a touch. But he more than made up for any lost time, picking up where he left off in the fourth quarter against Illinois.
The Big Ten Network film crew which was in Madison this week taping a segment on Ball for its series, ‘The Journey,’ got Ball at his best. The senior All-American racked up a career-high 247 yards on 29 carries, three of which went for touchdowns.
The Badgers very nearly had three running backs run for over 100 yards. Complementing Ball was his roommate, James White, who went over the century mark (124 yards) for the first time since his freshman year.
Ball was simply dynamic in the open field and a lot of credit has to go to the O-line, the tight ends and the blocking of fullback Derek Watt.
Jacob Pedersen may have had his best all-around game at Wisconsin, both receiving and blocking. He even got into the act as a pseudo-running back on the tight-end-around, reviving memories of Lance Kendricks, who rushed for 91 yards against Purdue in 2009.
DRAWING A LINE
Wisconsin’s offensive line has always been known for its flexibility, or rather the versatility of some of its better players. In the past we’ve seen centers play guard, guards play center and tackles play where needed.
Saturday, Ryan Groy was needed at left tackle, moving from left guard to replace the injured Rick Wagner. Zac Matthias, who had been playing and starting at right guard, took over for Groy at left guard. Again, emphasizing the importance of having players who know and can execute multiple positions. Groy looked like he’d been playing tackle all his life and had only five snaps at the position this week. With the injury to Robert Burge, it left the Badgers perilously thin up front, but they were able to compensate and continue to dominate Purdue’s front.
Bart Miller has done a tremendous job since taking over as offensive line coach, just molding this unit in terms of their physicality, which has always been a trademark of O-lines in the past. The confidence level continues to grow from week to week and we’ve seen improvement since the start of the Big Ten season to where Saturday, the Badgers rushed the ball like they had against lesser foes over the last two or three years.
PLAYING ‘WISCONSIN FOOTBALL’
Bret Bielema always likes to talk about ‘Wisconsin Football,’ and Purdue got a heavy dose of it on a rainy, dreary day. Defensively, the Badgers were able to pressure Purdue quarterbacks into numerous mistakes and really broke the spirit, it seemed, of the Boilermakers’ offense.
The two corners, Marcus Cromartie and Devin Smith, made some big hits once receivers caught the ball, for the most part limiting yards after catch, which is what you have to do against the type of spread offense that the Boilermakers like to employ.
On defense, Wisconsin made Purdue one-dimensional and, as it turned out, Purdue had no dimension to their attack most of the day with the exception of two big plays.
LEADING THE LEADERS DIVISION
Given the landscape in the Big Ten, this was still a big play. People will question the worthiness of Purdue, and the talk about getting the Indianapolis. But to dominate a team to the degree that the Badgers did today only bodes well for the future.
Today’s winner was not guaranteed a spot in the Big Ten championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. But Wisconsin has now moved into the driver’s seat within its division, and that’s all you can ask knowing the toughness of the remaining schedule. They’ve given themselves the chance to have the type of success that they were planning on having before the season began.