5:30 PM ET, October 16, 2004
Ross-Ade Stadium, WEST LAFAYETTE, IN
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) -- With less than three minutes to play and Wisconsin trailing Purdue by three points, Badgers cornerback Scott Starks suddenly had the game sitting at his feet.
Starks returned a fumble by Purdue quarterback Kyle Orton 40 yards for a touchdown to lift 10th-ranked Wisconsin to a 20-17 win over No. 5 Purdue.
The Boilermakers (5-1, 2-1 Big Ten) were clinging to a 17-14 lead when Orton, a Heisman Trophy hopeful, took a naked bootleg and lunged for a first down. Starks hit Orton low and safety Robert Brooks hit him high, forcing the fumble.
Starks scooped up the loose ball and sprinted to the end zone with 2:36 to play, capping a stunning comeback for the Badgers (7-0, 4-0), who have started the season with seven straight wins for just the second time since 1912.
"If the ball would've been bouncing around, I probably would have just covered it," Starks said. "But it was just sitting there. I saw the perfect opportunity there."
The play was reviewed, and replays showed the ball was out before Orton's arm hit the ground.
"I've been in this racket for a long time," Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez said. "And I've never been part of a game like this."
Orton tried to recover on the ensuing series, driving the Boilermakers to the Wisconsin 25. But Ben Jones' 42-yard field goal was wide right, and the Badgers ran out the clock.
"We had a chance at the end, we just blew it," Orton said.
Until Starks' big play, the Boilermakers -- not the Badgers -- appeared poised to join Michigan as the only Big Ten teams with perfect conference records.
Orton scored from 6 yards out with 8 minutes to play -- the first scoring run allowed by the Badgers this season -- to give Purdue a 17-7 lead.
But that kicked off a scoring binge in a game that started as a defensive slugfest.
Badgers sophomore quarterback John Stocco calmly led a 73-yard drive and hit Booker Stanley for a 7-yard TD that pulled Wisconsin within 17-14.
After playing so well for the first three quarters, the Purdue defense let this one slip away. Kyle Smith had a chance to seal the win, but he dropped a potential interception that hit him right between the numbers. Five plays later, Stocco found Stanley for the score.
"There were plays there to be made," Purdue coach Joe Tiller said. "The defense had a chance to make a play to stop the drive and they didn't. The offense had a chance to make a play to keep a drive going, and they didn't. The kicking game had a chance to make a play and they didn't. When you don't make plays, you don't beat a team like Wisconsin."
Fittingly, it was Wisconsin's defense that did come through.
"A lot of guys don't do that, a lot of guys just jump on the ball," Alvarez said of Starks' big play. "His awareness was unbelievable."
The Boilermakers came into the game averaging more than 500 yards and 41.8 points a game, but Orton and company were all but shut down on Saturday. They had yet to face a defense as tough as Wisconsin's, which entered the contest leading the nation in scoring defense with 6.5 points a game.
Orton, one of the front-runners for the Heisman Trophy, was 25-for-45 for 235 yards and a touchdown. But he had three turnovers -- he was picked off once and fumbled twice in critical situations.
"They're a very good defense," Orton said. "The best front four I've probably ever seen in the Big Ten."
Badgers defensive end Erasmus James was in the middle of much of the trouble.
James had two sacks and countless pressures on Orton. He forced an interception when he hit Orton's arm in the first half and also caused a fumble on a sack deep in Wisconsin territory at the end of the second quarter to preserve the Badgers' 7-0 lead.
It wasn't until James left the game with a left ankle injury in the third quarter that Purdue finally got going.
James was hurt when Purdue tight end Charles Davis hit him low on a cut block. There was no immediate word on his condition.
As James watched from the sidelines, Orton picked apart the defense on an 83-yard drive that culminated with an 8-yard TD pass to Davis that tied the game.
"We just weren't the same in the second half without (James)," Alvarez said. "No one is playing as well as he is."
Stocco was 17-for-32 for 211 yards and a touchdown and Anthony Davis rushed for 66 yards and a score for Wisconsin.
"It's always deflating to lose a big game that you had won," said Purdue linebacker George Hall. "We had them beat and we threw it away."
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||6-14||9-18|
|4th Down Conversions||0-0||1-1|
|TD||1:42||ANTHONY DAVIS 6 YD RUN (MIKE ALLEN KICK)|
Drive info: 10 plays, 78 yards.
|TD||4:32||CHARLES DAVIS 8 YD PASS FROM KYLE ORTON (BEN JONES KICK)|
Drive info: 11 plays, 82 yards.
|FG||13:43||BEN JONES 35 YD FG|
Drive info: 4 plays, 19 yards.
|TD||8:00||KYLE ORTON 6 YD RUN (BEN JONES KICK)|
Drive info: 9 plays, 65 yards.
|TD||5:29||BOOKER STANLEY 7 YD PASS FROM JOHN STOCCO (MIKE ALLEN KICK)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 73 yards.
|TD||2:36||SCOTT STARKS 40 YD DEFENSIVE FUMBLE RETURN (BLOCKED XP)||20||17|