After two consecutive losses to ranked opponents, the Badgers finally found themselves facing a less formidable opponent in Purdue. This was evident in the lack of crispness to Purdue’s offense and the weakness of their defensive line. Offensively, Purdue was never able to get anything going. They had no running game that I could see, and they had numerous dropped passes. All of this contributed to zero offensive points to go along with their zero total points for the game. Honestly, this game was kind of a joke. What was nice to see was my advice being taken for once (not that Brett Bielema reads my blog, I’m sure).
I’ve been saying for awhile that I don’t trust Scott Tolzien’s ability to carry a team if the pressure is put on him. It seems that for this game, the Wisconsin coaching staff agreed with me. Their offensive game plan was run first, run second, then do some more running, then occasionally pass just to keep the defense honest. The Badgers racked up just 115 passing yards to their 266 yards gained on the ground. John Clay rushed for 123 yards and 3 TDs in comparison to Tolzien’s 87 passing yards and no TDs. He actually only dropped back to pass 13 times the entire game. This was a game based on the run, and it worked to a T. Purdue simply didn’t have a defensive line capable of hanging with the Badgers’ front line, and it resulted in numerous opportunities for successful running plays. And when Clay couldn’t bust it up the middle, he was fast enough to get to the outside, turn the corner, and head upfield that way. It was a dominating performance from the Wisconsin running game, mixed with the foresight to not overly rely on the pass.
What also worked about this game was Wisconsin’s ability to sustain long offensive drives. This not only ate up clock time (36:45 minutes of possession vs Purdue’s 23:15) but also allowed the defense to not have to play quite as much as they did in previous games. This meant they were fresher for the second half and it showed. The defense finally played a complete game, keeping up the first-half intensity they featured all season with a second-half to match. The result: a shutout.
Overall, this was a nice statement game by the Wisconsin Badgers. The win made them bowl-eligible, and this win showed they deserved to be there. The offense features a more-than-competent run game that, when on, can be very difficult to stop. The defense is strong and filled with play-makers, capable of making the big play when necessary and able to hang with strong offenses when they’re rested and refreshed. The key to Wisconsin’s future is consistency in its offense. As long as Tolzien is not relied upon, I think Wisconsin will do just fine. He is a competent quarterback, to be sure, and he sees the field decently well. But Wisconsin is absolutely a run-first kind of offense, and that’s ok with me.