MADISON — The Wisconsin Badgers (4-4, 2-3 conference) jumped out to an early lead and were able to hold off the Purdue Boilermakers (5-3, 3-2 conference), 35-24 on Homecoming weekend, getting interim head coach Jim Leonhard, his first win at Camp Randall.
“It means a lot, Wisconsin, Camp Randall, it means so much to me,” Leonhard said. “To see the players respond to me and what my messaging is and the confidence that I am trying to pour into them, it means so much and coming back for homecoming, so many alumni back in town and seeing the support that I have from them, friends, family, coaches, you name it.”
Just as Wisconsin has done in recent games, the Badgers opened the game with a 6-play, 76-yard drive, which was capped off by a 29-yard touchdown pass from Graham Mertz, to Skyler Bell.
Bell led Wisconsin in receiving in the game with 87 receiving yards, on four receptions.
However, Wisconsin’s scoring did not end there, as John Torchio jumped in front of an Aidan O’Connell pass and returned the interception for a 31-yard touchdown, his second interception return for a touchdown of the season.
Following a missed field goal by Purdue, Wisconsin got its third touchdown of the opening quarter, in a 3-yard pass from Mertz to Chimere Dike, which capped off an 8-play, 80-yard drive.
Mertz, who threw touchdown passes on Wisconsin’s first two drives, finished 13-21 for 203 yards and the two early touchdown passes.
Purdue was able to end the first half with a Mitchell Fineran, 36-yard field goal.
With a 21-3 defecit, Purdue received the second half kick off, but its hopes of closing the gap in the game were thwarted quickly, as Torchio jumped a route and nabbed his second interception of the game, putting Wisconsin in prime position, on the Purdue, 14-yard-line.
Wisconsin didn’t waste much time, as Braelon Allen scored on a 14-yard rush on the second play of the drive.
Allen finished the game with 113 yards on 16 carries, to go along with his touchdown.
On the ensuing drive, O’Connell was able to find Payton Durham, for an 8-yard score, getting Purdue into the end zone for the first time in the game, capping off a 4-play, 21-yard drive that was brought about by a muffed punt return by Dean Engram.
Wisconsin answered the Purdue score with one of their own, following it up with a 4-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, which was capped off by a 54-yard touchdown run by Isaac Guerendo.
Guerendo entered the game, as Allen exited with an apparent arm injury, although he did return later.
Guerendo finished the game with seven rushes for 72 yards.
Purdue would later add rushing touchdowns by Devin Mockobee and O’Connell in the fourth quarter.
Mockobee finished the game with 108 yards on 23 carries to pace the Boilermaker rushing attack, which was outrushed by Wisconsin, 178-111.
O’Connell, who scored the Boilermaker’s final touchdown of the game was 31-46 for 320 yards and one touchdown, in the air.
Defensively for Wisconsin, while Purdue was able to outgain Wisconsin 431-381 and control the time of posession, 32:25 - 25:00, Wisconsin was still able to make a lot of plays to stall the Boilermakers in their tracks.
Purdue was 5-16 on third downs in the game and Wisconsin forced four turnovers, including a turnover on downs and three interceptions.
Purdue was also 3-4 in the game on fourth downs, however their final fourth down conversion attempt shouldn’t have been converted as the Badger defense stopped Mockobee on his touchdown run short of the goal line. The play was under review and since their was no look at the play straight along the goal line, the referees ruled it was a touchdown, as it was called on the field.
To go along with his two interceptions, Torchio led Wisconsin with 10 tackles. Jordan Turner who had Wisconsin’s third interception, finished with six tackles. While both Jack Chaney and Rodas Johnson each sacked O’Connell.
Wisconsin will return home following their bye week, on Nov. 5, when they host Maryland (6-2, 3-2 conference).