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Wisconsin vs. Purdue: Badgers use ground game to steamroll Boilermakers

Tailbacks Melvin Gordon and James White led the way in Wisconsin's eighth consecutive victory over Purdue.

Joe Robbins

MADISON -- After giving up 467 rushing yards to Wisconsin a year ago, Purdue probably felt it was suffering déjà vu Saturday afternoon at Camp Randall Stadium

Sticking to the same recipe for success it’s used on the Boilermakers the past several years, Wisconsin (3-1, 1-0) overwhelmed Purdue (1-3, 0-1) by amassing 388 yards on the ground in a 41-10 blowout win.

Redshirt sophomore tailback Melvin Gordon led the Badgers’ offense with 147 yards and three touchdowns on the day, while senior tailback James White also contributed in a major way with 145 yards and a touchdown of his own.

"We ran the ball very, very well," Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen said. "Those are some really good tailbacks. ... There are some talented players back there making big time plays for us."

The win marked the eighth consecutive victory for the Badgers over the Boilermakers, the longest streak for either team in the series.

Despite the Boilermakers making it interesting with a pair of scores in the second quarter, the game seemed over from the start, as UW was simply overwhelming in the trenches and with the big-play capability of Gordon and White.

Andersen and Wisconsin players alike acknowledged they played with a bit of added anger on Saturday, thanks to a big chip on their shoulder from a controversial loss at Arizona State a week ago.

"After what transpired last week, I thought it was a good statement," senior inside linebacker Chris Borland said. "Clearly the guys were angry and frustrated, but we did a good job of channeling that into our preparation. I thought we played pretty well today."

Gordon put the offense on his back early, rushing five times for 55 yards on the Badgers' second offensive drive of the game and finishing with a five-yard touchdown run up the middle to make the score 7-0.

"I like how we responded," Gordon said. "It was a tough loss that we went through and to be able to get back on track is incredible. We definitely played with a chip on our shoulder and I feel like that’s how we’re going to play from here on out."

Not to be outdone by his younger teammate in a theme that has become frequent for the Wisconsin ground game this season, White answered with a 70-yard touchdown run -- the longest run of his career -- making the score 14-0 with just over a minute left in the first quarter.

White took the handoff outside of the right tackle, shaking Purdue cornerback Anthony Brown at the line of scrimmage with a juke to the inside only to use a similar move on safety Taylor Richards a half-second later, allowing him to race down the middle of the field for the score.

"I feel like we have a very explosive backfield," White said. "We try to go out and be the best backfield each and every day. If that results in us being in the tops of the country, I don’t know the stats, but we’re going to go out there and try to be the best every day."

Purdue’s offense, led by quarterback Rob Henry, never established a comfort level. The Badgers’ defense allowed the Boilermakers just 45 yards on the ground and 180 total, as the team only scored on a broken play that ended up being a 22-yard rushing touchdown for Henry and a field goal set up by an interception thrown by Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave.

"We did have a few things bounce their way and we responded well," Borland said. "Those things will happen from time to time, but I thought we played very well today."

That was all the opportunity the Boilermakers would get in the game, as Wisconsin’s offense methodically moved the ball down the field with its rushing attack, scoring 10 points or more in every quarter except for the fourth while the defense finally found its groove in the pass rush.

With Purdue dropping back for 40 pass plays, the Badgers finally got the pass rush they had been looking for, recording four sacks to quadruple the total the team had through its first three games.

"I think we got more push today overall," Andersen said. "The kids rushed the passer better today and had some opportunities to make plays and they made them. ... It was a good defensive effort."

For a Wisconsin defense that was at times ineffectual a week ago, it was a step in the right direction.

"We didn’t have our best defensive performance last week," Borland said. "We put that behind us. We were frustrated about last week, angry about it and we wanted to take it out on Purdue."