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Wisconsin football: keys to victory against Purdue

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Here’s what the Badgers will need to do to come away with a W on Saturday afternoon.

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Purdue Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Year two under head coach Jeff Brohm has been an up and down one for the Boilermakers. Things got off to a rough start at Nevada in the opening week of the season, and really got off the rails a few weeks later as Purdue dropped five of six from mid-September through October.

However, things have taken a turn this November as the Boilermakers come into their contest with Wisconsin winners of two straight, over Nebraska and Northwestern. They’ll need to play their best game of the season as the travel to Camp Randall this week, a place where they’ve had no recent success.

Despite that, the Badgers will still be tested by Jeff Brohm’s pass happy offense. Here’s what the Badgers will need to do to slow down Purdue and come away with a victory on Senior Day.

Tackle

If you’re a youth football coach I beg you to show last week’s highlights to your team as a ‘What not to do’ training seminar. It was a poor defensive effort overall from the Badgers, but missed tackles were the biggest debacle.

The defense missed a total of 18 tackles in that game which further exposed a poor trend for this Wisconsin defense. Missed tackles were apparent in their two losses, and again last week. If you can think back to the 2018 bout with Purdue, it looked very similar. Last year the secondary got burned on quite a few plays, but a lot of plays went for many more yards than they should have if fundamentals had been applied.

I know football is a hard game, and catching shifty guys is much harder than it looks, but being fundamentally sound in that aspect of the game is something Wisconsin has always done well. If the Badgers want to make things a lot easier on themselves, they’ll pay closer attention to that phase of the game on Saturday.

Don’t change a thing offensively

Last week’s offensive game plan, to me, was the best the Badgers have had all season aside from the Michigan throttling. The obvious go to was Jonathan Taylor, but the Wisconsin offense wasn’t afraid to mix it up and take other shots or get other guys involved. That will be key again this week as the Badgers attempt to continue their win streak over the Boilermakers after getting pretty lucky a season ago.

In that game Taylor recorded his career high, running for 321 yards in a triple overtime thriller. That will likely be the same plan of attack, but you have to think Purdue will look to sell out against the run more than ever before. Due to that, I want to see the Badgers continue to play with rhythm and mix the play calling up to get other guys involved.

Danny Davis III has finally gotten the touches he deserves, and that should continue after seeing how well he played against Purdue in 2018. Neither phase of the Purdue defense has been great, so mixing it up and attacking from all angles should be a top priority this week.

Get some pressure

As mentioned earlier the Wisconsin defense had it’s worst showing of 2019 last Saturday as the Badgers gave up nearly 500 yards of offense to the Cornhuskers. The spread option attack gave them fits, as they allowed a ton of chunk plays in that game. Purdue will run some similar schemes, but they are much more reliant on the pass game than Nebraska was.

The Boilermakers currently rank No. 17 in passing offense and No. 128 in rushing offense which is one of the biggest offensive disparities in college football. It should be fair to assume that the Badgers secondary will get a big test this weekend against this air raid attack.

One way to help combat that is to give them help up front. Knowing that Purdue doesn’t have much of a run game should allow the front seven to play with their ears pinned back as they try to get to the Boilermakers third string quarterback Aidan O’Connell.

Purdue’s biggest offensive struggles have been in pass protection and turnovers as they rank No. 101 in sacks allowed and No. 123 in turnover margin. If the Badgers want to exploit that struggle they’ll bring a host of blitzes to try and force confusion and mistakes from a struggling line and an inexperienced QB.