The Purdue Boilermakers (1-6. 0-3) came into Saturday's game against the Wisconsin Badgers (5-2, 2-1) at Camp Randall Stadium giving up over 215 yards per game. The possibility of a productive running game, continuing the trend seen in the fourth quarter of last week's 23-21 win at Nebraska, was possible.
With the injuries to junior center Dan Voltz (left elbow) and redshirt freshman Taiwan Deal (ankle) forcing them out of action Saturday, the Badgers gained only 96 yards at a 2.6 per=carry clip. UW once again relied on its passing game to the tune of 322 yards and seven players catching balls in a 24-7 victory over the Boilermakers.
1. The passing game. Redshirt senior quarterback Joel Stave completed over 75 percent of his passes on 30 of 39 attempts. His second consecutive 300-yard game marks the first time a UW quarterback has done so since 2011 and the first in consecutive conference games since Jim Sorgi in 2003.
More on the Game
More on the Game
Stave hit seven different targets, who atoned for their drops last week. Wide receivers caught 19 of Stave's 30 completions, led by redshirt senior Alex Erickson with nine for 86 yards.
Until junior running back Corey Clement comes back, the passing game will probably have to carry this offense. Stave has a chance for another 300-yard performance next week against Illinois, though the Fighting Illini give up only 181 yards per game through the air (and their defense is 30th in the nation in total defense). If he does that, it'll be the first time since Randy Wright in 1983 that a Badgers quarterback has thrown for 300 yards in three consecutive years.
It's the era of #AirStave, as the senior has thrown for 244 yards per game, completing over 62 percent of his passes.
2. Alec Ingold's 1-yard touchdown run. The true freshman and prep-quarterback-turned-college-inside-linebacker-turned-tailback gets the "Man-Bear-Pig of the Week" award for his effort on the 4th-and-goal touchdown run from the 1-yard line out of 32 personnel. Not only does he get hit behind the line of scrimmage, but he fights off tackles and barrels in. Shades of larger, versatile runners like Craig "Ironhead" Hayward and Mike Alstott come to mind.
3. Complements to Erickson in the passing game. Junior wide receiver Robert Wheelwright already has 25 receptions on the season and redshirt sophomore Jazz Peavy has 12. The Badgers' receivers as a whole have caught 90 passes on the season through seven games, only 42 of them have been by Erickson. Last season, Erickson caught 55 balls while the rest of the position group had 39.
On Saturday, wide receivers caught almost two-thirds of Stave's completions. Wheelwright caught six, with Peavy showing some impressive YAC ability on his two receptions of 20 and 28 yards.
Paul Chryst's pro-style offense has made a clear impact with the development of this group.
4. Third-down conversions. Seven-of-14 is an improvement over the struggles Wisconsin has seen in this aspect of its offense. The Badgers were also helped by a couple of Purdue penalties on third down that helped move the chains as well.
5. Long, sustained drives in the first half. All four of Wisconsin's drives in the first half lasted 10-plus plays and all went at least 50 yards. It's a staple of this 2015 Wisconsin offense without a bonafide game-breaker like Melvin Gordon or Clement available. UW out-gained Purdue 272-61 in the first two quarters, which leads to our next segue...
1. Stave's interception and missed opportunities in the first half. Wisconsin dominated the first half in yards, time of possession (20:22 to 9:38) and other statistics, yet it was still a one-score game until the end of the third quarter.
Stave's interception was due to pressure by the Boilermakers' pass rush. Wheelwright was heading to Stave's left, though it didn't appear he'd get the first with several Purdue defenders in front of him. The Badgers were knocking on the door in the red zone on Purdue's 16-yard line. The return by safety Leroy Clark set up Purdue's lone score.
The Badgers also missed another solid drive in a two-minute look at the end of the first half. Stave drove the Badgers down in 10 plays to the Purdue 17 to set up sophomore kicker Rafael Gaglianone's 35-yard attempt -- which was blocked.
2. Run game stymied. Even though the Badgers were missing Voltz and Deal, Purdue was 110th in the nation against the run. It appeared the Boilermakers sold out against the run and limited the Badgers to under 3 yards per carry.
The good news: Wisconsin's three touchdowns on the afternoon came from running the ball.
3. Procedural penalties. On the drive that ended with Stave's fifth interception of the season, a false start attributed to redshirt junior running back Dare Ogunbowale pushed the offense back from a 3rd-and-8 to a 3rd-and-13. False starts by the offense also stunted progression on other drives, including back-to-back infractions on Wisconsin's first drive of the second half (a false start and a delay of game) pushed a manageable 3rd-and-5 to a 3rd-and-15. The drive was halted.