The Wisconsin Badgers had entered Big Ten play with a promising 2-1 record, but had an evolving pattern that needed to be broken: their propensity for slow starts.
They finally broke the trend at the perfect time, starting strong to begin Big Ten play against Purdue, scoring touchdowns on each of their first three drives, leading to an early 21-3 lead.
In doing so, the Badgers efficiently utilized the quarterback run, an area that Purdue had struggled to defend all season, leading to two early Tanner Mordecai rushing touchdowns, one via design and another via scramble, in the first half.
That opened up the running game, while the Badgers’ defense started with a three-and-out before riding the momentum of the offense to limit Purdue to just a field goal through the first 30 minutes.
How vital was the strong start for the Badgers? It was exactly what head coach Luke Fickell was looking for after pointing the issue out in each of the last two weeks.
“There’s no doubt [the strong start was important for our team],” Fickell said after the game.
“I mean the way we started with three touchdowns and really the way we played on third down, I think in that first three series was what we needed.”
However, Fickell reiterated a point from last week: there was no difference in preparation, similar to how they approached turnovers, but rather just continuing to emphasize the importance of the topic.
“And like I said, it wasn’t something we did different last week. We hadn’t had a turnover and then all of a sudden we get six,” Fickell said. “And it wasn’t like some magic thing we did. We just continued to push, continue to harp on the things that we got to do and the consistency in which we do them.”
The head coach praised the offensive line, which Fickell believed was the catalyst for the strong start offensively, as well as the team’s ability to consistently convert third downs.
“And I think it starts with protection,” Fickell said. “I think it starts with the ability to play well in third down and I think we did that especially well in that first half.”
Now, the Badgers will look to carry their momentum into the second half of the season, as they’ll host Rutgers and Iowa in back-to-back weekends following the bye week.