WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Montee Ball ran for a career-high 127 yards and two touchdowns, and No. 7 Wisconsin rallied to beat Purdue 34-13 on Saturday.
Ball, who got extra work because No. 2 running back James White was out with a knee injury, had scoring runs of 31 and 15 yards for the Badgers (8-1, 4-1 Big Ten). Leading rusher John Clay was held to 42 yards on 12 carries.
Purdue quarterback Sean Robinson passed for 141 yards and ran for 31 in his first start. He stepped in for Rob Henry, who sat out with a cut finger on his right hand. Antavian Edison had six catches for 73 yards for the Boilermakers (4-5, 2-3).
Purdue led 10-6 at halftime, but Wisconsin's defense dominated the second half. Antonio Fenelus returned one of Wisconsin's three second-half interceptions 36 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. The Badgers scored 17 points off the miscues.
Purdue won the coin toss and deferred, then recovered an onside kick. But a Purdue player was offsides, and the Boilermakers settled for a conventional kickoff after the penalty.
Wisconsin threatened to score on its second possession, but Philip Welch missed a 40-yard field goal with 5:23 left in the first quarter.
Robinson ran for two first downs, then completed a screen pass to Edison that he turned into a 23-yard touchdown to give the Boilermakers a 7-0 lead.
On Purdue's next possession, Keith Carlos was stopped on a third-and-3 at the Wisconsin 36, but Purdue went for it, and Robinson completed a pass to Cortez Smith. Robinson later completed a pass to Edison, but he fumbled, and Fenelus returned it 48 yards to the Purdue 27. A 44-yard field goal by Welch cut Purdue's lead to 7-3 with 8:08 left in the first half.
Welch made another field goal as time expired in the first half, but Purdue — the same team that trailed Ohio State 42-0 at halftime two weeks earlier — led 10-6 at the break. It was the lowest-scoring half of the season for the Badgers, and the first time they failed to score a TD in a half. The powerful Badgers rushing attack was held to 43 yards in the first 30 minutes.
Robinson threw an interception to Culmer St. Jean on the third play of the third quarter, and Wisconsin took over at the Purdue 18 in the opening minute of the second half.
Wisconsin went for it on a fourth-and-1 from the Purdue 9, and Clay powered for 2 yards. On the next play, Scott Tolzien used a play-action fake, then found Jared Abbrederis near the back of the end zone for a touchdown that gave the Badgers a 13-10 lead.
Wisconsin nearly added to its lead, but Ball's 42-yard scoring run was called back because of holding. Gerald Gooden sacked Tolzien on the next play to take the Badgers out of scoring range.
Purdue went three-and-out on its next possession, and Wisconsin took over at its 49. On the Badgers' second play, Ball went 31 yards for a touchdown, and Wisconsin took a 20-10 lead with 6:20 left in the third quarter.
Purdue, sensing a need to make a play, went for it on fourth-and-1 from its 42. A fake inside to the fullback and a pitch out to Keith Carlos netted 12 yards and a first down. Wiggs made a 35-yard field goal with 13:35 to go to cut Wisconsin's lead to 20-13.
Purdue started to move the ball on its next possession, but Niles Brinkley tipped a pass intended for Cortez Smith, and linebacker Mike Taylor returned it 26 yards to the Purdue 14. Two plays later, a 15-yard TD run by Ball gave Wisconsin a 27-13 lead with 8:54 to play. Minutes later, Fenelus caught a tipped pass and took it to the end zone to give Wisconsin a 34-13 lead.