Saturday, October 13, 2012
Instant analysis: Wisconsin 38, Purdue 14
By Brian Bennett
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- The Wisconsin-Purdue tilt was billed as a possible de facto Leaders Division championship game. The result proved that we probably weren't jumping the gun on that notion, but only one team played anywhere near a championship level.
Hint: it wasn't the home team. Wisconsin now has a commanding lead in the race to Indianapolis after its 38-14 victory at Ross-Ade Stadium, which wasn't even as close as the score suggests. Here's how it went down.
It was over when: Montee Ball used a jaw-dropping stutter step to break off a 67-yard touchdown run just 49 seconds into the second half. That gave the Badgers a 24-7 lead, and the way they dominated the line of scrimmage, it was more than enough.
Game ball goes to: Ball. Regaining his 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist form for really the first time all season, the senior running back tore up the Purdue defense for 247 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries. Ball torched the Boilers for 223 yards and three scores a year ago in Madison. The senior became the Big Ten's leading career scorer with his 72nd touchdown.
Stat of the game: Purdue completed a 52-yard pass on the first snap of the game. From that point until Akeem Hunt's meaningless touchdown run with 1:39 left, Wisconsin outgained the Boilermakers 598 yards to 119. The Badgers had 467 rushing yards.
Unsung hero of the game: Wisconsin's Jacob Pedersen had a disappointing start to his season with only 10 catches for 111 yards coming into Saturday. The Badgers finally got him more involved in the offense, and Pedersen responded with four catches for 77 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown. He also gained 10 yards on a tight end rush.
What Wisconsin learned: There's a whole lot of season left, but it's hard to imagine any team but Wisconsin representing the Leaders Division in the Big Ten championship game now. The Badgers have a virtual two-game lead over Purdue in the standings, and the Boilers haven't shown the ability to beat -- or even come close to -- upper-echelon Big Ten teams. The best news for the Badgers is that their offensive line and running game looked like the one we expected to see all season. Even if Purdue's defense played a role in that, there's no denying that this offense has made progress the past few weeks. And if Ball can keep playing at this level, Wisconsin is going to be more than just the default Leaders team in Indianapolis.
What Purdue learned: This was supposed to be the breakthrough year for Danny Hope's team, but instead things just look broken. A season of great promise and opportunity has dissolved, as the Boilers have lost their first two Big Ten games (both at home) by a combined score of 82-27. With a trip to Ohio State next week, an 0-3 start in league play seems highly likely. Pressure will be rising on Hope from a disgruntled fan base -- which barely bothered to show up to Ross-Ade Stadium on homecoming and then left quickly once the rain arrived. Purdue is a mess on both sides of the ball right now, and Hope had better find some answers soon.