On Saturday, the Wisconsin Badgers got back to their roots as a football program. They relied heavily on a great rushing attack, a stout defense, and the wearing down of opposing defenses in a solid 30-13 victory over the No. 25 Purdue Boilermakers, snapping an 8 game losing streak against ranked opponents.
The Badgers got the scoring started on their second possession of the game. Facing a 3rd and 15 deep in their own territory, tight end Jake Ferguson grinded his way for 17 yards to get a first down and keep the drive alive. After that, it was a heavy dose of Chez Mellusi and Braelon Allen, with the 13 play, 92 yard drive culminating in an Allen 4 yard rushing touchdown.
Wisconsin took a 7-0 lead into the second quarter, but Purdue had the football after a Braelon Allen fumble and a 10 yard touchdown pass from Purdue QB Aidan O'Connell to Payne Durham tied the game up at 7.
Wisconsin answered back with a 37 yard field goal from Collin Larsh as the drive stalled just outside the red zone. But on the next series from Purdue, the Badgers defense got their first of five takeaways with an interception by Caesar Williams with 7:45 left in the second quarter. Unfortunately, the Badgers offense couldn't do anything with it as QB Graham Mertz was sacked on a corner blitz and ended up fumbling the ball, which Purdue recovered and took into the end zone, taking a 13-10 lead.
On the next Purdue offensive possession, Badgers safety John Torchio intercepted O'Connell and almost took it to the house, getting tackled at the 1 yard line. Despite three attempts, the Badgers offense was not able to punch it into the end zone from the 1 yard line and kicked a field goal to tie the game at 13.
In the second half, on Purdue's first possession the Boilermakers thought they had a first down completion, but Collin Wilder ripped the ball out of the hands of Payne Durham for Wisconsin's third takeaway of the day. Later in the 3rd quarter, the Badgers got a massive 70 yard run from Braelon Allen, then put in Chez Mellusi to give Allen a breather, and Mellusi finished the drive with a 20 yard touchdown run to put Wisconsin back on top 20-13, and give them a lead they would not relinquish.
A Collin Wilder interception early in the fourth quarter gave Wisconsin the football again and Braelon Allen punched it in from 14 yards out to make it 27-13. With 6:38 left in the 4th quarter and needing a big drive, Purdue fumbled the ball on the first play of their possession and it was recovered by Nick Herbig for Wisconsin's fifth and final takeaway on the day. Wisconsin added a 43 yard field goal to make it 30-13 and that's how the score would stay.
Graham Mertz only had eight pass attempts and completed five of them for 52 yards. Chez Mellusi had 27 carries for 149 yards and a touchdown, while Braelon Allen had 12 carries for 140 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensively, it was the Leo Chenal Show, with Chenal tallying 3.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss on 9 total tackles. Jack Sanborn also had 0.5 sacks and 1.5 tackles for loss. Torchio, Williams, and Wilder combined for three interceptions while Wilder and Herbig each recovered a fumble.
Next up, the Badgers will face off against No. 11 Iowa at Camp Randall on Saturday, October 30th at 11 AM. Iowa is the top team in the Big Ten West and if Wisconsin is going to win the Big Ten West this year, they'll need to beat Iowa. A strong victory against Purdue will be a good lead in to next week.