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Wisconsin vs. Purdue: 3 things we learned from the Badgers’ win

Post-game thoughts after UW’s ninth win of the year.

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Purdue Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers withstood a difficult first quarter, then used a dominant second quarter to derail the Purdue Boilermakers 49-20 on Saturday at Ross-Ade Stadium.

Wisconsin (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten) scored 35 points in that second frame, including 28 unanswered, that lifted the Badgers to a huge lead after trailing 3-0.

UW awakened after that sluggish first quarter on both sides of the ball, and went on to comfortably win against a Purdue (3-8, 1-7) team that had former standout quarterback Drew Brees in the house.

The three things we learned from Saturday’s win:

The Wisconsin defense can overcome rough starts

It was an uncharacteristic start for Justin Wilcox’s squad, giving up 76 passing yards in the first quarter alone and committing a couple of offside penalties. They also surrendered the huge 75-yard bomb from quarterback David Blough to wide receiver DeAngelo Yancey in the second quarter, but the Badgers’ defense quickly asserted itself with the three turnovers in those 15 minutes. That translated to 14 points and ultimately shifted the game back to UW’s favor.

The absolute game-changer, and the play of the game (and possibly year on an individual level), was outside linebacker T.J. Watt’s 17-yard interception return for a touchdown.

Wisconsin just took the 7-3 lead in the second quarter, and on that first down, Watt did everything right to snuff out the back, attacked Blough, then snagged the ball out of the air after deflecting it. His ball security was scary on the return, but Watt continues to show he’s a playmaker on the field.

Another self-tip drill play by inside linebacker T.J. Edwards led to another Wisconsin touchdown, and safety Leo Musso’s acrobatic, one-handed pick stopped Purdue’s momentum at the end of the half.

On the game, Wisconsin only gave up 293 total yards—222 through the air—against an offense averaging around 309 per contest in that category. Only 93 yards were gained by Purdue in the second half, and if not for the 73-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter against mostly UW reserves, it would have been less.

They allowed the Boilermakers only three of 10 third-down conversions and sacked Blough four times in the game. A couple of blips, but heck, it was another solid effort by the strength of this team.

The time is now for Bradrick Shaw

Why wait till next year? The Hoover, Ala., native continued to show why the Wisconsin coaching staff is giving him carries during the conference schedule.

Watching Shaw, there’s a patience seen with him in having blocks develop, then creating a burst that can get him to the second level of the defense quickly. He gained 68 yards on eight carries with two touchdowns, including a 33-yard scamper that capped UW’s 35-point second quarter.

In the past three games, he’s rushed for 202 yards on 38 carries (5.3 yards per) with three touchdowns. That doesn’t include his 21-yard touchdown run against Nebraska on Oct. 29.

Yes, the heading to this section is a reference to John Cena’s theme song (and yes it is Survivor Series weekend), but he’s dispelled the thoughts of many (including myself) that he’d really shine next year with Taiwan Deal and Pitt transfer Chris James.

The surprise of the Wisconsin offense this season, Shaw belongs in the backfield with Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale, and UW will need him to continue the positive momentum its gained on the ground in its pursuit of a Big Ten West division title, a conference championship and a potential College Football Playoff berth.

Alec Ingold is a fullback of many talents, and he’s only getting started

Ingold’s a multi-dimensional fullback who’s still learning the role of being the lead blocker in front of UW’s tailbacks, but he can also run the ball in short-yardage situations and be counted upon as a threat in the passing game.

The John Kuhn special fullback dive has been revitalized in Paul Chryst’s pro-style offense this season, especially with both Ingold and injured redshirt junior Austin Ramesh getting the rock on those 3rd-and-1 or goal-line calls. That was shown today with Ingold’s one-yard touchdown while also converting third and fourth-down opportunities in the game.

The 19-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Bart Houston was a quick, explosive play that showed another option in a passing attack trying to establish itself. Ingold was the seventh Badger to catch a touchdown reception this season.

The Green Bay, Wis., native found the end zone six times last year as a tailback after converting from inside linebacker. He’s seeing the field early in this transition to fullback, which is promising considering how much they’re utilizing him in various ways. With his understanding of the offense continuing to grow, expect the position to be locked down for the next couple of years.

To think, he almost went to Northern Illinois.

Honorable mention

  • Bart Houston can be an effective runner... what?
  • Wow, not a lot of support for Purdue football as evident by the poor attendance
  • AND STILL... Wisconsin is in the driver’s seat for the Big Ten West division title