MADSION, Wis. - After rushing for just 85 yards against Ohio State last week, Wisconsin running back Montee Ball told reporters he wanted the Badgers to play with more urgency against the Purdue Boilermakers. After breaking off a 44-yard run on the first play from scrimmage, it was clear he got his wish.
The Badgers blew out Purdue 62-17 at Camp Randall Stadium, their first win in two weeks after losing to both Michigan State and Ohio State. With the win, the Badgers improve to 7-2 (3-2 Big Ten) and stay in the hunt for a Big Ten title, and the Boilermakers drop to 4-5 (2-3). Quarterback Russell Wilson completed 15-of-20 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns, while Ball rushed for 223 yards and three touchdowns on the day.
"Two weeks that seemed like an eternity have come to and end," Bielema said following the game. "I thought our kids really responded well. They practiced extremely hard, and I knew they wouldn't flinch."
The Badgers' National Championship ambitions might have died with their last two losses, but Wilson said the team was determined to regain their swagger.
"It's definitely something we talked [about] all week, is regaining that swagger, regaining that edge," Wilson said. "Those two games we played, we played good. It's not like we played awful, or anything like that. So we had to make sure we got that winning streak back in terms of our mindset, and we did that today."
With the win, the Badgers remain in the hunt for a second consecutive Big Ten title, although they still need help from other teams if they want to reach Indianapolis.
The Badgers started fast with a 63-yard drive for a touchdown, on a pass from Wilson to tight end Jacob Pedersen, which put the Badgers up 7-0. But the Boilermakers kept themselves in the game with excellent special teams production. The Boilermakers amassed 123 return yards in the first quarter, and tied the game 7-7 on a touchdown pass from quarterback Caleb TerBush to Crosby Wright. The Badgers scored next on a five-yard pass to Jared Abbrederis, after Wilson found redshirt sophomore Jeff Duckworth for a 66-yard pass.
Purdue took advantage another special teams breakdown by the Badgers, and returned the ensuing kickoff 74 yards to Wisconsin's 16-yard line. The Boilermakers were held to a field goal, but at the end of the first quarter, it looked like the Boilermakers would be able to hang with the Badgers.
But things went wrong quickly for Purdue. The Badgers picked up where they left off in the first quarter, and Ball found the endzone to put Wisconsin up 21-10. Purdue went three-and-out on two of their next three possessions, and TerBush was intercepted by Badger linebacker Mike Taylor one play after the Boilermakers recovered a fumble by Wilson on 3rd-and-1, putting the Badgers in the driver's seat for the remainder of the game. The Badgers scored touchdowns on their next two possessions, and the Boilermakers were down 35-10 before they had a chance to recover.
Now lead by senior quarterback Robert Marve after TerBush's interception, Purdue drove 75 yards in two-and-a-half minutes, and Justin Siller found the endzone for the Boilermakers' only score of the second quarter. Wisconsin kicker Philip Welch hit a 52-yard field goal to close out the first half.
Montee Ball found the endzone for the third time in the third quarter, and Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland intercepted TerBush and returned it to the Boilermakers' 5-yard line. Sophomore running back James White rushed for a touchdown one play later, and the Badgers went up 52-17.
The Boilermakers and the Badgers traded drives to end the third quarter, and the Badgers went up 59-17 on White's second touchdown of the day, and Kyle French hit a 29-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. Up comfortably 62-17, the Badgers' second-string offense ground out the last few minutes of regulation.
For Purdue head coach Danny Hope, his team is almost certainly out of the hunt for a Big Ten championship, but third-year head coach still believes the Boilermakers can have a successful season. Purdue is two wins away from becoming bowl-eligible, but two of their three remaining games are against teams with winning records.
"We still have three games left and we have enough good players on our football team to manufacture a successful season," Hope said. "Obviously, we hit the bottom today and the bottom is when you stop digging. We have to do better and I think we will."