Welcome to a Boilermaker Homecoming debacle to forget.
Purdue lost 38-14 on a dreary Saturday that, for all practical purpose, ended its Big Ten title hopes. It is 0-2 in the conference and 0-and-forever in optimism. It has been outscored 82-27 in its last two home games despite being the favorite.
A team acknowledged as coach Danny Hope's best is playing like his worst.
Unacceptable, safety Landon Feichter said.
“We're not playing like we're supposed to,” the former Bishop Dwenger standout said. “We didn't play like men. Wisconsin ran all over us. That's not acceptable.”
Feichter had a career-high 12 tackles, which shows how successful the Badgers, Montee Ball in particular, were in getting into the secondary. Ball finished with a career-high 247 yards and three touchdowns. Wisconsin rushed for 467 yards overall.
Ball has 72 career touchdowns, the most in Big Ten history (passing ex-Badger Ron Dayne's 71 total) and good for third place in NCAA history. Miami of Ohio's Travis Prentice has the record of 78.
“He's a hard runner,” Feichter said. “When conditions are wet and slippery, it's a little tougher, but no excuses. We still have to bring him down a lot better than we did.”
Purdue (3-3 overall) entered the game in position to take charge of the Big Ten's Leaders Division. Instead, it fell behind Wisconsin (5-2 overall, 2-1 in the conference) and now must travel to No. 8 Ohio State next week.
“It's surprising we played like this,” Feichter said. “Hopes were high all week. Everybody was into the game. We have to come back and get it turned around next week.”
Added Hope: “We came in believing one of two things would happen — we'd play well enough to win and be in the driver's seat in the Leaders Division or we'd play well and still be in great position for postseason play.
“The odds of us competing for the Leaders Division have diminished, but I believe the players will rally back and win a ton of games.”
Perhaps, but questions remain. The Boilers cannot control the line of scrimmage, cannot run effectively or pass consistently. Quarterbacks Caleb TerBush and Robert Marve combined for 11-for-31 for 124 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
The running game is a major concern. Purdue had minus-three rushing yards by halftime, and finished with 128, but that was distorted by Akeem Hunt's 81-yard touchdown run in the final two minutes against Wisconsin reserves.
Take away Purdue's 52-yard pass by TerBush on the game's opening play and Hunt's long run and you have 119 total yards in 57 plays, barely two yards a play.
The Boilers also were 3-for-15 on third down conversions after going 1-for-11 the previous week against Michigan.
“The offensive line didn't pass protect as well as needed to,” Hope said. “We threw some ugly passes and dropped some balls. It was poor play for the entire offense.”
On a positive note, defensive tackle Kawann Short tipped a missed Wisconsin field goal. That's six blocked field goals for his career to set a school record. He has eight blocked kicks overall.
Purdue set an instant tone. It won the opening coin toss, and took the ball. Hunt returned the kickoff 43 yards to midfield. On the first play, TerBush hit Antavian Edison for 52 yards (the longest completion of TerBush's career) to the 1-yard line. TerBush scored on a sneak on the next play. After 38 seconds, the Boilers led 7-0.
Wisconsin made its own statement, driving 75 yards in five plays and two minutes to tie the score at 7-7. Quarterback Joel Stave hit a wide open tight end Jacob Pedersen for a 21-yard touchdown.
Raheem Mosert's 57-yard return on the ensuing kickoff set up Purdue for another scoring opportunity, but TerBush's interception ended that threat.
Ball's 3-yard TD run made it 14-7 early in the second quarter. Kyle French added a 30-yard field goal for a 17-7 halftime score.
Ball bolted 67 yards on the second play of the second half to make it 24-7. He added a three-yard TD run early in the fourth quarter to make it 31-7.
White had a 14-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter for a 38-7 score before Hunt ended the scoring his with run.
“We'll have to step up,” Hope said. “I believe we have the guys who want to do it. We have to do some soul searching.”