Published November 20, 2014
To make sure that a two-game funk didn't snowball into a lost season, No. 19 Wisconsin returned to the familiar formula that worked so well earlier: Keep handing the ball to Montee Ball, and sprinkle in some big plays from Russell Wilson.
Ball rushed for a career-high 223 yards with three touchdowns and Wisconsin rebounded from back-to-back losses with a 62-17 rout of Purdue on Saturday.
"We needed this," Ball said. "Badly."
Saturday's victory was a boost to the Badgers (7-2, 3-2 Big Ten) after late collapses at Michigan State and Ohio State the past two weeks cost them a potential shot at the national championship.
"Two weeks that seemed like an eternity have come to an end," Badgers coach Bret Bielema said. "We've won so many games around here. I was thinking about this, I was trying to remember the last time we lost games back-to-back. It's been a while, and you're just not used to that feeling. You're not used to it, and I don't want our kids to ever get used to it."
Ball was the star but the Badgers got another standout effort from Wilson, who threw two touchdowns and scored on a scramble. Wilson was 15 of 20 for 205 yards, and had 76 yards rushing before Bielema rested him early in the fourth quarter.
"He's right up there with Denard Robinson as far as his ability to extend plays," Purdue linebacker Joe Holland said. "He's a really, really good decision-maker and he's not going to throw too many stupid passes. If he doesn't see anything, he's going to make something happen with his legs."
Raheem Mostert had five kickoff returns for 206 yards for the Boilermakers (4-5, 2-3), helping them stay in the game early on. Caleb TerBush started at quarterback for Purdue, with Robert Marve also getting some time.
"Of course everybody's upset right now," Purdue running back Ralph Bolden said. "We're just worry about next week now, this game is done and over with."
Already trailing 38-17 at halftime, the Boilermakers tried a fourth-down conversion early in the third quarter but Wisconsin's Mike Taylor stopped Akeem Shavers short on fourth-and-5 at the Wisconsin 36.
The ball went back to the Badgers — and it wasn't long before Ball broke free for a rambling 29-yard touchdown to put Wisconsin ahead 45-17.
Bielema said Ball might be the most complete running back he has coached.
"He's wired in a way right now where he expects success on every play," Bielema said.
Wisconsin's Chris Borland then came up with an interception deep in Purdue territory, and the Badgers' James White scored on a 5-yard touchdown run to make the score 52-17 with 11:01 left in the third quarter.
The Badgers made it look easy on their first possession, as Ball went through a big hole in the middle of the line to break a 44-yard run on Wisconsin's first play from scrimmage. A 1-yard touchdown to tight end Jacob Pedersen gave Wisconsin a 7-0 lead.
But the Boilermakers came right back, getting a 49-yard kickoff return from Mostert. TerBush immediately found tight end Crosby Wright up the middle for a 30-yard touchdown to tie the game.
Wisconsin took a 14-7 lead later in the first quarter, as Wilson's 66-yard strike to wide-open receiver Jeff Duckworth helped set up Wilson's 5-yard touchdown pass to Jared Abbrederis.
But the Badgers' recent special teams problems struck again, allowing a 74-yard kickoff return to Mostert. The Badgers held the Boilermakers to a 25-yard field goal by Carson Wiggs, cutting Wisconsin's lead to 14-10 with 1:13 left in the first quarter. Wisconsin's special teams came under scrutiny the past two weeks after breakdowns in the Michigan State and Ohio State losses.
"I think we're going to have to re-evaluate our personnel," Bielema said.
Ball then got on the scoreboard early in the second quarter, taking it up the middle on second-and-goal from the 1 for an easy touchdown and a 21-10 lead.
The ensuing kickoff went out of the end zone, preventing another big return by Purdue and earning a sarcastic cheer from the crowd.
Taylor picked off TerBush, and Wilson took over with his feet, with a 20-yard scramble to help set up his 6-yard scoring run on second-and-goal. The Badgers led 28-10 with 6:16 left before halftime.
Purdue put together a long drive just before halftime, ending in Justin Siller's 2-yard touchdown run to cut the Badgers' lead to 35-17. But Wisconsin drove for a late 52-yard field goal by Philip Welch and took a 38-17 lead into half.
Notes: Wisconsin lost safety Aaron Henry to a right ankle injury in the first half, but Bielema said his X-rays were negative. ... Wisconsin had 425 yards of total offense in the first half. ... Saturday's attendance was 80,566.