Nov. 5, 2011
After turning off the microphone as the analyst for the Badger Radio Network, UWBadgers.com Insider Mike Lucas offers some final thoughts on No. 19 Wisconsin’s 62-17 win over Purdue at Camp Randall Stadium.
BY MIKE LUCAS
MADISON, Wis. -- I’m sure everybody was waiting to see how Wisconsin would respond to the heartbreakers -- back-to-back losses on the road.
Well, they didn’t have to wait very long to get an answer, as Montee Ball’s 44-yard run on the first play of the game set the tempo in more ways than one.
It set the tone for the offensive line, which was really clean in its blocking for most of the day, for Ball himself and for the entire offense. They took control on the first series, and made the statement that they were going to be scoring points and moving the chains all day. This was a good Purdue defense coming in, at least a lot of people thought so, so it was a major accomplishment to land the first punch today.
First-quarter stop critical for defense
I thought the early turning point of the game came after a 74yard kickoff return by Raheem Mostert. One play later, Purdue was sitting with a first-and-goal from the Wisconsin 3-yard line, trailing by seven points.
The Badgers forced a field goal, making it 14-10, and you can’t overlook how big that sequence was because if Purdue scores to tie it up, all of a sudden they have the momentum back again after a break down in the kick cover unit. When the defense was able to stiffen and hold Purdue out of the end zone, it gave the Badgers some life.
The key play was the tackle by Antonio Fenelus in the open field on Antavian Edison. That was a huge play, an open-field tackle off a pass in the flat that forced a field goal. That affected momentum.
Another small swing was the way the Badgers responded to Purdue’s score at the end of the first half with a score of their own on the field goal, maximizing that possession. The Boilermakers had just made the score 35-17 with 24 seconds left and were going to get the ball first after halftime. Getting the ball on their own 29-yard line with just 21 seconds to work with, Russell Wilson and 36 yards and leave one second on the clock after White alertly stepped out of bounds. That gave Phillip Welch a chance at long field goal, and he knocked it through from 52 yards out. It was a little thing but it kept the momentum with Wisconsin going into halftime.
Cromartie bounces back
Head coach Bret Bielema talked after the game about challenging Marcus Cromartie during the week and it seemed to work. There were two possessions where Cromartie made key plays. The first was a fourth-down play early in the second quarter with Purdue in Badger territory. Caleb TerBush tested him down the sideline but Cormartie was step-for-step with O.J. Ross. Then, on Purdue’s next series, just one play after the Badger had turned the ball over, Cromartie was able to deflect a pass that ended up in the hands of Mike Taylor. Those were two very good series for Cromartie showing his resiliency.
Overall the defense really rallied to the football throughout the game, especially at critical times when the game was still very much in balance. In the second half all you had to do was count the number of Wisconsin helmets that attacked whoever had the ball. It is a real positive sign even after Aaron Henry, one of the leaders of the defense, left with an injury.
Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe takes center stage
Minnesota has played well the last two weekends so they are feeling much better about themselves, and rightfully so. They’ve turned around the season to the point now where they are threat against anybody. Plus this is the border battle so you cannot underestimate it.
I talked to Peter Konz and he said he is going to have a conversation with Russell Wilson so he understands that this is not business as usual, it is much bigger than that when these two states get involved in this type of rivalry, with all the tradition. The Axe is a big deal for both teams and it is shaping up as a good road test for the Badgers.