Yesterday I walked away from the game with much more hope than I thought that I would going into it. We had some logistical problems that caused me to miss the onside kick to start the game. Once there though I saw a team in the first half that looked like a football team. It was amazing how much better the defense looked when they were rested. Yet after a day to think about the game I wondered if I should be happy with that result. Last season we were up in arms because the team committed too many turnovers. The team righted that ship against Ohio State, and things started to turn around. Yesterday the Boilers finally had a good outing, but turnovers killed them. I know all the reasons why you should look past the turnovers, but that is hard to do.
The game started off well for the Boilers. Albert Evans who played for the first time since the Minnesota game picked off Scott Tolzien to stop the first Badger drive of the game. It was good to see Albert back at safety. He brings a lot to the table. After a couple three and outs the Boilers forced the Badgers to try a forty yard field goal which they missed. Just before the end of the first quarter the Boilers used Sean Robinson’s feet and arms to drive down the field to go up 7-0. I really hoped that the team could run out the last few seconds of the quarter so that at least we would be leading after the first. That touchdown was huge because along with giving Purdue the lead it was the first touchdown the Boilers have scored against Wisconsin since 2005.
They did manage to hold the lead, and more to the point looked good in the first half. The Boilers seemed a little more comfortable running their offense this week. Robinson had moments where you could see the potential. He looked much better throwing the football in the fist half. The errant passes that we saw in Champaign were missing. He was hitting his receivers. One key to that was keeping it simple. On the day he threw for an average of 3.7 yards every completed pass. The short pass was used to help pick up key third downs, but was also a great way to build confidence. Robinson seemed to stare down his receivers a bit, but also made a couple of nice adjustments. The Boilers took a 10-6 lead into the halftime break. Once again though we went into a defense that allowed Wisconsin to move the ball right down the field to get a field goal as the half ended. That was not the difference in the game, but it would be nice to see the team play hard the entire half. The prevent really does not seem to work with this team.
The second half was not what Purdue had drawn up. Three plays in Sean Robinson threw an interception that gave Wisconsin a short field. Five plays later the Badgers had the lead. Robinson would throw two more interceptions in the second half. Both of those would lead to Badger scores. The balls could have been caught, but were thrown high leading to the tips. Robinson took full responsibility for the errors after the game, and I really think that he will only get better. That being said this game turned on the interceptions. We had a chance only down seven before the two big picks completely changed the outcome of the game. That is also when the mass exodus started. Admittedly I was in on that exodus at the tail end. For the second week in a row I had seen enough. When the game ceases to be fun anymore you just have to go. I had a fan yelling at me as I was leaving that I don’t care enough to stay. That the team deserved it. I had no idea that my attendance during the final seconds of a blowout had an impact. Maybe the team was as upset with me as I was at the late turnovers. If they are I will have to apologize by coming early to the Michigan game. I may even stay late and help clean up the stands.
The Badgers pulled this win out by capitalizing on turnovers. They scored 24 points after a Purdue turnover. Antonio Fenelus had a good day in particular. He recovered the Antavian Edison fumble in the second quarter and ran it back 48 yards to set up the first Wisconsin field goal. In the fourth quarter he picked off Robinson and ran it back 36 yards for a score. His big plays led to 10 points for Wisconsin. With Purdue only down seven in the fourth quarter they used back to back interceptions to seal the game.
When I was thinking about this game earlier in the season I was worried about what John Clay and James White were going to do against our defense. I never thought of Montee Ball. With Clay banged up and White sidelined by injury Ball made the most of his chance. He ran for 127 yards and two touchdowns on the day. He had just run for over 220 yards so far in the season, and was third on the depth chart. He looked good for a third string running back though.
This is not a big play team. Purdue came into the game ranked last in Division I with 18 plays of twenty yards or more. During the course of the game they only managed two big plays. The first was the 23 yard touchdown by Edison for the lone Purdue trip to the end zone. The other was a 22 yard run by Al-Terek McBurse when the game was pretty much over. You don’t need a big play every snap, but it would be nice to break one every once in a while. They are averaging barely over two a game right now. Maybe they can break out against Michigan’s defense next week.
To answer my original question at the top of the post I am encouraged. This team seemed to play better this week. Coming into the game I thought that another 30 point blowout was in order. I know that the final score was 21 points, but it was much closer until we started pressing late. I have a much better feeling going into Michigan week then I did going into this week. A win by the Boilers would leave them one win away from becoming bowl eligible. With no clear front runner in the conference I think that Danny Hope would get some consideration for coach of the year if the team makes it to a bowl. I know that many want him fired for some reason. They must be able to see the future. I see a guy who is making the best with what he has. If he can get to a bowl after all of the injuries I think he will have done a great job. That is thinking too far ahead though. This team still needs to win two of its last three games to become bowl eligible. Michigan I think is the most winnable game. The Boilers seem to be able to stop the run fairly well. I don’t know how the team will do against the Hoosier passing game, but I hope that we can match them score for score. I think the Michigan State game that is sandwiched in between the two will be a very tough game. Playing in Lansing is not easy. In three weeks of course we will know what happens, and hopefully be planning a trip to a bowl.