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Wisconsin vs. Purdue: Badgers' defense halts Boilermakers' momentum in 34-16 victory

Riding a 24-point first half from a balanced offensive effort, Wisconsin's defense shut down Purdue's offense after two consecutive scoring drives in the third quarter.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Though a huge momentum shift in the third quarter swung in the direction of the Purdue Boilermakers, the No. 25 Wisconsin Badgers regrouped and stifled their opponents' remaining drives -- ultimately leading to a 34-16 victory Saturday afternoon.

Purdue pulled within 24-16 with 9:35 left in the third quarter after quarterback Austin Appleby's 79-yard touchdown pass to running back Akeem Hunt. They looked to capitalize on an onside kick that was initially ruled a Boilermaker recovery but later reserved.

After that drive, the Badgers' defense held their opponents to 24 total yards for the remainder of the game, lead by outside linebacker Vince Biegel. The sophomore registered three sacks and seven tackles, and the defense as a whole held the Boilermakers' offense to 230 yards overall on 63 plays on the afternoon.

Wisconsin received a balanced offensive output from its rushing and passing games. Junior quarterback Joel Stave was 19-of-29 for 219 yards on the afternoon with two touchdowns and an interception. Eight different receivers made catches for the Badgers on the afternoon while junior running back Melvin Gordon went for 249 total offensive yards (205 rushing, 44 receiving) and two scores. The Badgers on the day had 489 total yards and earned 25 first downs.

Wisconsin took advantage of 222 total second quarter yards to hang 17 unanswered points on the Boilermakers defense in the that frame and a 24-6 lead going into halftime. Stave at one point completed nine straight passes, including two touchdown throws to Gordon and junior wide receiver Alex Erickson to open the game wide open in the first half.

Stave in the first half was 15-of-20 for 190 yards and the two touchdown passes. The former walk-on hit Gordon on a 27-yard touchdown off of a wheel route on the left sideline, then came back in the next series in a two-minute drill situation to hit Erickson near the right back corner of the end zone.

Purdue opened the scoring in the game with a 40-yard field goal by kicker Paul Griggs on their first drive -- a 14-play 58-yard series that helped them lead 3-0. A few drives later, Gordon scored from 14 yards out -- relatively untouched -- to put the Badgers ahead the rest of the game. The Heisman hopeful rushed for 83 yards on nine carries in the first half.

The Wisconsin defense held Purdue to 122 total yards in the first half. Though giving up two field goals, the Badgers' unit had not given up a touchdown in six consecutive quarters at that point. In 12 quarters dating back to the Maryland game on Oct. 25, defensive coordinator Dave Aranda's group has only given up two touchdowns.

Wisconsin's offense sputtered early in the second half. A Gordon fumble and a turnover on downs on consecutive series lead to 10 Purdue points, making it a one-score game. The touchdown to Hunt appeared to be off of a go or wheel route where senior linebacker Derek Landisch was possibly caught in a "rub" -- a near-pick thrown by offensive receivers to halt defenders' pursuit to their assignment, allowing another receiver to get open.

The Badgers, on both sides of the ball, responded thereafter. Wisconsin forced Purdue to punt the next three possessions, holding the Boilermakers to -18 yards on those drives. Though Stave made a bad read and threw an interception during that quarter, offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig utilized the two quarterback combination efficiently, as Tanner McEvoy's 13-yard touchdown late in the third quarter extended the game back to 31-16, and Wisconsin never looked back. McEvoy gained 42 yards on four carries on the afternoon.

One key injury for Wisconsin came when defensive linemen Konrad Zagzebski left the game with a leg injury. Per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Jeff Potrykus and ESPN Wisconsin's Zach Heilprin, the senior was in a boot postgame: