The Wisconsin Badgers (5-2, 2-1), carried by another dominant defensive effort and Joel Stave's second consecutive 300-yard passing game, defeated the Purdue Boilermakers (1-6, 0-3) 24-7 on Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium.
For the fifth time in their seven games, the Badgers' defense held an opposing offense to 10 points or less. Redshirt freshman T.J. Edwards tallied 16 tackles to lead the effort.
Also for the fifth time in seven games, Wisconsin used a new offensive line combination. Despite Purdue being ranked 110th in the nation in rush defense -- giving up 215 yards per game -- the Badgers managed only 96 yards. Stave and his seven receiving targets made up for the lack of running game.
Here's a final look back at Purdue and a glimpse into what's next vs. Illinois.
The Good: What went well for the Badgers on Saturday?
Neal Olson: Again, this was another ho-hum type effort in which nothing really jumped out. However, the defensive unit continues to play at an extremely high level. Holding Purdue to under 200 yards of total offense is another impressive outing. Even after allowing the touchdown after the long interception return, it never really felt like Purdue was going to score again without some fluke play or turnover.
Curt Hogg: Well, for starters, the Badgers didn't lose, so that was nice. The defense keeps finding more and more playmakers to an already-stellar unit. Edwards was flying around the field. The Badgers effectively took away the run and pass for Purdue, which is usually a good thing if you're a defense.
Owen Riese: A few things. Alec Ingold was certainly a bright spot, showing that he has a nose for the end zone, turning a three-yard loss into a touchdown. He and Deal should both be effective short yardage backs, if Wisconsin decided to not use Corey Clement when he returns. Also, the middle linebackers. Edwards and true freshman Chris Orr were all over the place. Definitely an encouraging sign for a team that has leaned on its defense for most of this season.
The Bad: What didn't Wisconsin do well against Purdue?
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Neal: Curt explains more below, but bogging down in the opponent's territory is an extremely unsettling trend. The Badgers are hampered by a running game stuck in neutral, an inconsistent place kicker and struggling punter. Really the perfect storm of getting stuck between long(ish) field goals or the inevitable punt for a touchback. Luckily the defense continues to play championship level football so Wisconsin's offense will not be asked to win in many shoot outs.
Curt: Wisconsin's offense continued an unpleasant trend of leaving points on the field. Against Iowa, they couldn't score in opposing territory. Against Nebraska, sophomore kicker Rafael Gaglianone missed two field goals -- and against Purdue, they didn't convert two red zone opportunities. Wisconsin led at the half by only three despite out-gaining the Boilermakers by over 200 yards. It didn't turn out to matter in the end, but the trend is well established with Wisconsin.
Owen: Aside from Ingold's touchdown runs, there wasn't much to write home about for the Badgers' running game. This is both due to being Clement-less, as well as starting three freshmen on the offensive line. Stave has played as well as we expected this season, but UW can't put the offense on the shoulders of Stave with suspect weapons around him.
Team MVP: Who shone brightest for UW?
Neal: Edwards. Once again another bright spot has been contributions from multiple players on defense. From Joe Schobert, Chris Orr, Vince Biegel and now the redshirt freshman, this linebacking crew has really been the heart and soul of the defense and team for that matter. Only Schobert graduates after this season so...the sky is the limit for this group.
Curt: The first answer here is Edwards and the other guys will go into more detail with that. Next up, I would say the Badgers passing threats not named Alex Erickson. Rob Wheelwright and Jazz Peavy are shaping up to be a formidable 1-2 threat at wide receiver next season. Tight end Troy Fumagalli will be a nice complement at tight end. Saturday's game gave us a good glimpse of that.
Owen: I already mentioned him, but probably Edwards. He was all over the field, and aside from his forced fumble, he also had over 15 tackles. Edwards has only played six collegiate games at linebacker, but his early returns are very encouraging. He and Orr should be a very talented pairing for a long time.
Who's next: Illinois. What do you want to see out of a potentially tough road contest in Champaign?
Neal: The potential return of Clement is the biggest storyline going into next week. The Badgers desperately need a game breaking threat on offense to alleviate some of the pressure on Stave to be the bell cow on offense. Clement has said he would only return if the Badgers were still in the hunt for a Big Ten title. Iowa's victory over Northwestern Saturday makes that road more challenging -- but you have to think Clement is dying to get back out on the field. Hopefully he is the impact player everyone anticipates.
Curt: It's possible the Badgers could be getting back Clement and Dan Voltz this week. I'd like to see them establish an ability to run the ball and not rely on 40 passing attempts to win.
Owen: I'd like to see Wisconsin, hopefully with a healthy Clement, really establish some physicality in the running game. Illinois struggles perennially against the run. This should be a nice game to get the rushing attack going, and keep Illinois' Air Raid offense off of the field. Stave has done probably a little more than expected, but he can be much more effective if the Badgers can get Clement rolling.