Landon Feichter, filling in for the injured Frankie Williams, did everything he could to keep Purdue in this game. Feichter was responsible for stopping Wisconsin on three separate drives in three different ways. First on a 4th-1 Feichter found his way into the backfield to stop Wisconsin and cause a turnover on downs. Next, after the half Feichter pulled his best Ryan Kerrigan impression and stripped the running back and fell on the ball for a fumble recovery. Then he intercepted a pass from Joel Stave to stop yet another Wisconsin drive. Unfortunately it wasn't enough. The Purdue offense couldn't capitalize on these gifts and Wisconsin eventually put things back together in the fourth quarter and Purdue's defense couldn't keep up. Purdue falls to 3-7 (1-5) on the season.
The first half was a bit of a surprise as Purdue actually scored on the first drive of the game for just the second time this season finishing up with a Paul Griggs field goal, one of his three field goals on the day with two being over 50 yards. Griggs would end up being the main weapon for this Purdue team for the majority of the game which is never a good sign. The Purdue offensive line looked like the line of last year during much of the game as poor Austin Appleby had absolutely no time to throw or even to look down field without 2-3 Wisconsin defenders in his face. It's a shame because for so much of the game, and particularly the third quarter, the Purdue defense gave the offense chances to not only get back in the game but even take the lead.
Though most of the last two seasons the third quarter has been the bane of Purdue's existence today it was the second quarter. Wisconsin outscored the Boilermakers 17-3. Purdue had no answer for the Wisconsin...passing game? Really? That's not a typo? Alright let's just go with it. Joel Stave who was starting just his first game of the season after splitting time for the majority of the year absolutely torched the Boilermakers including completing nine straight passes in the second quarter. Obviously when you're getting that kind of production out of your 119th ranked passing offense you get the feeling it's going to be a long day.
In the third quarter Purdue actually came to life with Landon Feichter having his best quarter of his career. Purdue's offense had plenty of chances to get themselves back in the game but were only able to take advantage of one play. That one play though was a fantastic pass from Austin Appleby to Akeem Hunt on a simple wheel route that went for a touchdown and brought Purdue within eight at 24-16. Purdue then went all sneaky like and tried for the onside kick immediately following this score. At work my wife was smiling as that's her favorite play of all time. Unfortunately Raheem Mostert wasn't able to control it before he went out of bounds and the momentum went slipping out of Purdue's hands.
The story of the game though was the TFL and sacks that Wisconsin got. There were 10+ tackles for loss and at least 4 sacks by Wisconsin. Austin Appleby was just getting eaten alive in this game especially in the second half. This put Purdue in some terrible situations on third down. Purdue went 0-10 on third and long. First of all you'd hope that you'd be able to convert at least one of those. Second of all though you'd hope that you wouldn't even have 10 of those third and long plays. Purdue has to do better on first and second down to prevent situations like that.
You can really see the injuries on the offensive side of the ball really starting to impact Purdue. WIthout B.J. Knauf and Austin Appleby Purdue's receiving corps was severely limited and relied on a group of young guys that simply aren't playing how you'd hope. Trae Hart had his moments including coming back to a ball that Appleby under threw but he's no Danny Anthrop. Short of that Akeem Hunt touchdown I don't recall a single play where a receiver made a play after the catch.
On the defensive side of the ball you also see the loss of the secondary depth starting to make a difference. While Purdue's pass defense hasn't been extraordinary this year they've certainly been better than in recent years. Today though Joel Stave looked like Russel Wilson. As is Purdue's tradition if it's third and long Purdue will allow you the middle of the field simply daring you to complete an easy pass. Wisconsin did this with regularity today. When playing Wisconsin you always worry about stopping the run but today Purdue truly was beaten by the passing game. Melvin Gordon, Heisman contender, of course still got his yards as he finished with over 200 yards. Still though it felt like the Wisconsin passing game was the bigger weapon today.
So once again Purdue fans are left with positive signs but a bad taste in their mouth. Purdue had the ball three different times down just eight points in the third quarter. They converted on none of them. This Purdue team very likely should've been a bowl team this season but with the loss today they fall to 3-7 and out of bowl eligibility. It's truly a shame because these seniors have really worked to change the culture of Purdue football this year. The rebuild is by no means complete, depth obviously remains a huge concern, but you can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.