MADISON, Wis. -- It seemed as if each play served up a harsh dose of reality.
Progress—that word uttered so often in the past two weeks—isn’t here just yet. A hungry Wisconsin team proved that from the opening kickoff to the final knee, pounding Purdue to the tune of a 41-10 score.
“We’ve got to do a great deal of soul searching,” said head coach Darrell Hazell, showing more frustration than ever before. “That’s not the way Purdue football wants to play.”
You name it, Wisconsin did it better. 546 yards of offense, compared to 181. Or 388 rushing yards, against 45. Also, try a lot of missed tackles, matched to a lot of touchdowns.
Purdue was outplayed the whole way. There wasn’t much that went right.
“It’s a whole team thing that we’ve got to get fixed,” Hazell later said.
Throughout the week, the members of Purdue’s defense discussed what needed to happen in order to contain Wisconsin’s three-headed rushing attack: execute.
But the Badgers’ talented trio of tailbacks had their way with a weak Boilermaker defense. Melvin Gordon provided three touchdowns on 147 yards. James White was just two yards behind, posting 145 and a touchdown. Later, Corey Clement took his turn, adding 83 yards and a score on the ground.
The Boilermakers didn’t have a chance to stop them. Forget executing; it wasn’t even close. The defense missed one tackle after another, leading Wisconsin to big gain after big gain.
“We know we’re capable of [tackling better],” senior defensive tackle Bruce Gaston said. “We have to get better.”
The story on offense wasn’t pretty, either. The Boilermakers’ only touchdown came on a broken play early in the second quarter, where quarterback Rob Henry scrambled 22 yards for a touchdown. Shortly after, a Ricardo Allen interception put Purdue back in the red zone. But a three-and-out led to a field goal and a 14-10 score. The momentum shifted to Wisconsin’s side.
Purdue couldn’t counter the Badgers’ high-flying offense. Henry completed 50 percent of his passes for just 135 yards—his longest pass going for just 19 yards. Starting running back Akeem Hunt offered just 31 yards, while Dalyn Dawkins added only 15.
“Credit Wisconsin’s defense, they were sound all day,” said Henry. “They were prepared and really well coached. But it comes down to me needing to make better throws.”
Henry, the senior leader, has shouldered the blame after each loss. But there’s plenty to go around. There must be a cleanup in all three phases. For the coaching staff, that includes a re-evaluation of personnel.
“We’ve got to make sure we get better as a football team, and find out which guys get us better,” Hazell said.
The Boilermakers’ road is likely to see more bumps ahead. Northern Illinois, the team coming to town next Saturday, isn’t your average MAC team. After that, contests with Nebraska, Ohio State and Michigan State await.
That p-word might not be spoken again until late October. Purdue must collectively patch its wounds and hope it can show some positives. A little soul searching is just the beginning of it.
“When you hit this point four games into the season,” Hazell said, “and you take a step back, which we did—we’ve got to look into ourselves.”