While the victory was a good sign for things to come offensively, the Badgers did see some ups and downs defensively as Purdue continued to climb back in the second half before Wisconsin ultimately put the finishing touches to comfortably win by three scores.
What did head coach Luke Fickell take away from his team’s defensive performance? There’s still work to be done.
“[Defensively, I was] not overly comfortable. I think that’s kind of why we had to go with the book in the situation (of going for 2 late in the game),” Fickell said.
Overall, the message from Fickell was more of a need to find their identity defensively, which is still in the works.
“We’re figuring some of those things out on who we are and how we got to continue to grow. We’re finding ways to play with our best eleven guys on the football field. And I think that’s where in some ways we’re still trying to figure that out.”
A part of finding their best 11 players is mixing up their defensive fronts, as the Badgers ran four-man fronts and three-man fronts against Purdue.
“And you see us bounce back and forth from four-man to three-man. But I think maybe a little bit different mentality than I’m used to when we weren’t a bend but don’t break team. And right now we’re a little bit better in some of those situations, but it’s a big place,” Fickell said.
What are areas of improvement? Tackling in space and placing pressure on the quarterback, while being able to contain him.
“I think that’s where we got to do a better job at tackling well in space. We got to do a better job at putting pressure on the quarterback,” Fickell said. “And then when we do put pressure, we got to be able to contain him.”
That wasn't the case enough against Purdue, as quarterback Hudson Card was able to create off-schedule plays with his legs to get first downs on long-distance situations.
“He(Purdue QB Hudson Card) ran around way too much tonight for us. Bigger runs, the offense. Yeah, a couple of those are third down runs that we’re in a pass-rush mentality and not the smartest situation, but you got to give them some credit for running the ball on some of those spots,” Fickell said.
Is Fickell worried? No. But, he understands that the Badgers have to be better in certain situations, while also crediting his opponent for their gameplan against Wisconsin’s front.
“We got to be able to do better, but when they get you going a little bit, they have some pretty good balance to what they do as well.”
The Badgers will look to implement better defensive changes when they continue Big Ten play in Week 6 against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at home.