This weekend of college football was absolutely bananas. Four top-10 teams fell, and the No. 7 Wisconsin Badgers could have been another with the erratic tendencies of their offense.
However, behind a defense that stonewalled an impressive Purdue Boilermakers offense to 221 yards and no touchdowns, here they are—undefeated.
There’s absolutely work to be done for the Badgers, especially with their explosive yet inconsistent offense, but Wisconsin is 6–0 for the first time since 2011 and the fifth time in the modern era.
Clemson and Washington (Nos. 2 and 5 in last week’s AP Top 25) both fell on the road, with No. 8 Washington State and No. 10 Auburn also losing road contests as well. Wisconsin, despite a sloppy showing, should bump up even further in both polls, though it should be interesting to see where Ohio State finds itself after dominating Nebraska 56–14.
Then again, the polls really just don’t matter to the College Football Playoff committee, which will start releasing its rankings on Oct. 31. If Wisconsin can continue winning, the committee will have to take notice.
Jonathan Taylor: The true freshman did fumble inside the five-yard line in the fourth quarter, but he gained 219 yards on 30 carries. His 67-yard touchdown run on the game’s first offensive series allowed Wisconsin to never trail in the game. It’s the third run of his young career that has gone for over 60 yards. He also surpassed the 200-yard mark for the third time this year, placing him among five other freshmen—including the likes of Adrian Peterson, Samaje Perine, and Mike Hart—to accomplish that feat.
He’s special, folks, and just 14 yards away from 1,000 on the season.
Leon Jacobs: The redshirt senior outside linebacker led the team with nine tackles and made the key interception to nullify what turned out to be Purdue’s last attempt to tie the ball game.
On the season, Jacobs is third on the team in tackles (30) and second in tackles for loss (six). Along with Garret Dooley (5.5 sacks, 8.5 tackles for loss), the duo has produced for this Wisconsin defense while replacing Vince Biegel and T.J. Watt.
The entire defense: Purdue came in averaging about 400 yards on the ground and around 30 points per game. On Saturday, the Badgers held Jeff Brohm’s offense to 221 yards (66 rushing, 155 passing) and only allowed the Boilermakers to convert three of 11 third-down conversions.
Purdue entered the red zone four times, yet Jim Leonhard’s unit shut the Boilermakers out of the end zone, allowing only three field goals (two in the red zone). Two of Wisconsin’s turnovers gave Purdue great field position at the 44 and 28-yard lines. On top of that, a blocked punt gave Brohm’s unit superb field position at UW’s 15-yard line. Yet Wisconsin did not allow a touchdown.
Eight pass break-ups, six tackles for loss, and three sacks helped contain an emerging Boilermakers offense.
Honorable mention: Garrett Groshek, Quintez Cephus
More on the defense
High praise should be given to Leonhard’s squad not just for its performance on Saturday, but for what it’s already accomplished this season. The defense has given up only 17 points in second halves (the team has given up 24 altogether with Alex Hornibrook’s pick-six at Nebraska) and Purdue’s 66 rushing yards marked the fourth time this year that a team didn’t broken the 100-yard mark against Wisconsin.
The Boilermakers were also the fourth team to not gain over 250 yards of total offense against the Badgers in 2017.
Through six games, Wisconsin has allowed opponents to only score five touchdowns in 19 red-zone opportunities. The Badgers led the nation coming into Saturday’s game in opponent red-zone percentage (33.3 percent).
Play of the game
Jacobs’s interception wiped potential points off the board and allowed Wisconsin’s offense to attempt to atone for its uneven performance. Purdue had driven 54 yards in six plays and was knocking on the door at the Badgers’ 7-yard line when pressure from Alec James and Olive Sagapolu flushed Elijah Sindelar out of the pocket.
Sindelar’s errant throw found Jacobs, who broke on the ball and caught it before going out of bounds.
Honorable mention: Taylor’s 67-yard run, Kendric Pryor’s 20-yard reception on 3rd-and-12 in the fourth quarter to keep Wisconsin’s final drive moving
True freshman wide receiver Danny Davis suffered an injury during Saturday’s game that made him require trainers to help him off the field. Head coach Paul Chryst said after the game that he did not know the severity of the injury. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Jeff Potrykus noted Davis, who has caught seven passes for 160 yards and a touchdown as a breakout deep threat, “avoided serious injury.”
#Badgers frosh WR Danny Davis avoided serious injury. Was moving well afterward. Sounds like he is OK.— Jeff Potrykus (@jaypo1961) October 15, 2017
- This was Wisconsin’s 12th straight win over Purdue, which continues the longest win streak by either team in the series.
- Wisconsin is now bowl-eligible, marking 16 consecutive seasons it has accomplished that feat.
- The 494 yards by Wisconsin’s offense was the highest total in a Big Ten contest since Melvin Gordon’s famed “408” game against Nebraska in November 2014.
- Cephus has five touchdown receptions on the season, including four in the last four games.
- James continued a great redshirt senior campaign with five tackles, a sack, and a quarterback hurry in Saturday’s win. That’s his second sack of the season.
- Wisconsin had eight pass break-ups on the day, including two by cornerback Nick Nelson (nine for the season and seven in the past three games) and two by redshirt freshman cornerback Dontye Carriere-Williams.