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Keys to the Game: Wisconsin Badgers

The Boilers have now lost 16 straight to the Badgers over the last twenty years. Can they end the streak in Ryan Walters’ first year?

Syndication: Journal-Courier Alex Martin/Journal and Courier / USA TODAY NETWORK

Twenty years. Twenty years and sixteen games. That’s the length of time the last time the Purdue Boilermakers were able to defeat the Wisconsin Badgers. That means current Boilermakers who are nearly legal to drink at Harry’s have yet to see the Boilers defeat the Badgers in football. That’s far too long but do the Boilers have what it takes to realistically defeat the Badgers? Let’s take a look at the keys to make it happen!

#1: Take Care Of The Ball & Win the Turnover Battle
Well, this one went really sideways quickly last week. After not having a turnover in the first two weeks, Purdue coughed the ball up four times. In fact, Purdue had a total of seven fumbles against Syracuse. That is more than some teams may have for the entire season this year in college football. That just isn’t a recipe for success against anyone at any level of football.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 16 Syracuse at Purdue Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The surprise of all of this is the struggle that Devin Mockobee has had in holding onto the ball up to this point in the season. After only one fumble through the entire 14 game season in 2022, Mockobee has fumbled the ball four times through 3 games. This is one reason why against the Badgers the depth chart now lists the starter at running back as Mockobee OR Tyrone Tracy. But, the issue isn’t the running backs alone as Hudson Card has suddenly seen issues of throwing bad throws that cost Purdue an interception and two fumbles of his own against Syracuse.

Syndication: Journal-Courier Alex Martin/Journal and Courier / USA TODAY NETWORK

If Purdue wants to beat the Badgers, they can’t give them extra possessions and they have to extend their drives as much as possible. It isn’t going to be enough though to just not turn the ball over and they’ll need the defense to turn Wiscosnin over multiple times.

#2: Scourton & Jenkins Need To Up The Pressure

This is a tough one because the two are already near the top of the B1G in their ability to get pressure on the passer but Purdue’s defensive backfield just isn’t good enough to be left to their own devices all too often. This pressure doesn’t just mean sacks of the quarterback but also means preventing the very talented running backs from Wisconsin from getting downhill and into the second level of the defense. Purdue has got to force Wisconsin into obvious throwing downs that allows Thieneman to roam the deep part of the field to make plays.

The bigger key might be simply having a defensive line that clogs the running lanes and doesn’t allow a quarterback to run freely off read option plays. Mordecai is not the running threat that Garrett Schrader is but he does currently average 2.7 yards per carry and has 59 yards on 22 carries. The point is that Mordecai isn’t just a statue in the backfield and can escape the pocket to hurt the Boilers. Scourton and Jenkins are the playmakers from the front 7 and those two having good ro great games is a key against the Badgers.

#3: Convert on 3rd and Short

This has sort of been the ‘Nightmare on Wooden Drive’ for Purdue this season. Time and again the Boilers have been shut down on 3rd down when they have less than three yards to gain because of a number of different reasons. Execution on those third downs to extend drives has been excruciatingly bad so far in 2023 but in actuality they convert at a 39.53% rate which is good for 68th. Not good by any stretch of the imagination but definitely not as bad as many would likely think it would be. The issue has been the ineffectiveness in the situations where you HAVE to convert, whether it is a situation to extend leads, gain an early swing of momentum, or down just one score in a late stage of a game. Those types of failures make everything seem much worse but Purdue could easily be much higher on that list with just marginal success on third and short.

#4: Hudson Card Makes A Statement

So far this season Deoin Burks and Abdur Rahman-Yaseen have been a pleasant surprise with Burks ranking 3rd (221 yards receiving) and ARY ranking 5th (218 yards receiving) in the conference. Having two options for Hudson Card to find down the field, who is ranked 2nd in the conference with 825 passing yards, opens up the throwing lanes for running backs and tight ends to hit during key downs. The offense has been good so far beyond the struggles on those short yardage situations. Expect a lot of opportunities as Wisconsin’s defense currently ranks 107th in the country in passing yards allowed per game (276 yards), 81st in passing first downs given up per game (10.7), 125th in completions per game (26.7), and 90th in completion percentage given up (63.49%).

This is a Wisconsin defense who gives up yards and completions at a high rate and a player as talented as Card with the weapons he has around him in Burks, ARY, Mockobee, Tracy, Miller, and Klare should be able to move the ball. The key is finding pay dirt more and leading the team to a significant victory in their quest to win the West in back to back seasons.