WEST LAFAYETTE -- There’s a new leader for Wisconsin’s football program, but they’re still the same old Badgers. A stable of talented running backs carry the load for coach Gary Andersen's team.
Purdue defensive coordinator Greg Hudson sees similarities in this year’s Wisconsin offense, compared to previous seasons.
“They give it to the running back and he scores touchdowns,” joked Hudson.
The Badgers’ three-headed rushing attack features sophomore Melvin Gordon, senior James White and freshman Corey Clement, a trio that’s totaled nine touchdowns and has averaged 341.7 yards per game.
Gordon, the 6-foot-1, 207-pounder, leads the way with an average of 159 yards on the ground through the first three game. But White and Clement have caused opposing defenses plenty of problems, too.
“They’re physical, they run downhill, they’re very patient, and they’ve got some top-end speed,” said head coach Darrell Hazell of the Badgers’ backs. “They get to the edge, you think you have them, and all of a sudden, they’re separating from guys.”
The Boilermakers face quite the challenge in slowing down Wisconsin’s dangerous runners. Combine the speed and power each back presents with the raucous atmosphere inside Camp Randall Stadium and it will be a difficult task.
During a meeting of Purdue’s defense, coach Jon Heacock offered a message for the unit.
Execute under fire.
“That means, there’s going to be a lot going on the field,” linebacker Will Lucas said. “It’s one of the loudest stadiums. We’ve got to execute with all this stuff going around.”
In practice this week, the Boilermakers did their best to prepare for the environment in Madison. The loudspeakers blared “Jump Around” at top volumes as the defense ran through plays.
Purdue’s defense is working to ensure it stays collectively poised against the hostile home crowd and a ranked team.
“We’ve just got to do our jobs,” said linebacker Joe Gilliam. “That’s what it really comes down to. They have a lot of weapons, but if we do our job each and every down, we’ll be pretty successful.”
But executing is one thing. The challenge is keeping up with the Badgers’ backfield.
“They’re good running backs,” Lucas said. “They’re fast and they’re good at finding open holes. If there’s an open gap, they’ll find it. If there’s a seam, they’ll find it.”
There won’t be any surprises for the Boilermakers come Saturday. It’s the same Badgers they’ve seen for years—a team that’s competing at the top of the Big Ten each season. Nothing different this year.
“It’s Wisconsin football,” Hudson said. “You know what you’re going to get. They’ve been doing it for 20 years. We know what’s coming.”