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Wisconsin Badgers overcome turnovers to roll over Purdue Boilermakers on Senior Day


Wisconsin Badgers overcome turnovers to roll over Purdue Boilermakers on Senior Day

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Wisconsin’s Aron Cruickshank runs for a touchdown during the first half of the Badgers’ win over the Purdue Boilermakers on Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison. 

MORRY GASH, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Chris Orr took a microphone, addressed the crowd still occupying the stands at Camp Randall Stadium and said exactly what was on his mind.

The senior inside linebacker for the University of Wisconsin football team thanked fans for their support through his career, saying he appreciated the love they showed him. For good measure, he let them know what he and his Badgers teammates’ plans were next week.

“We’re goin’ to get our axe back!” Orr said, drawing a loud cheer.

After Orr and the UW defense found a way to shut down Purdue’s offense in the second half Saturday, the Badgers pulled away with a 45-24 win over the Boilermakers despite committing four turnovers on offense. That victory puts UW (9-2, 6-2) into a winner-take-all matchup next week at Minnesota.

The annual meeting between the teams, the longest-running rivalry in college football, has more than just Paul Bunyan’s Axe on the line — the winner will represent the Big Ten Conference’s West Division in the league’s championship game.

Purdue (4-7, 3-5) hit a couple of trick plays in the first half and took advantage of turnovers to get a 17-14 lead over the Badgers midway through the second quarter. From there UW’s defense negated Purdue’s attack and both sides of the ball combined to outscore the Boilermakers 31-7.

“They emptied (the playbook) out early,” senior linebacker Zack Baun said. “They were doing a bunch of uneven sets, trick plays, some grab-bag stuff. When it came down to lining up and playing football, I think we did a good job. They had a bye week, they had time to prepare those plays and put them into motion.”

The Boilermakers scored on their first three drives — a field goal and two touchdowns — and both touchdown drives were anchored by gadget plays that caught the Badgers off-balance.

The first, a flea-flicker on Purdue’s first play following a 51-yard Jonathan Taylor touchdown run that put UW up 14-3, gained 38 yards and injected life into the Boilermakers’ sideline. Purdue followed that with a big run, and then scored a touchdown on a short pass to tight end Brycen Hopkins on the first play of the second quarter.

After senior receiver A.J. Taylor fumbled on the ensuing drive, Purdue scored on a double pass — quarterback Aidan O’Connell threw behind the line to receiver Milton Wright, who then threw down field to Hopkins for a 37-yard touchdown.

“There were some things that we lost our eyes on it and they executed it,” UW coach Paul Chryst said of the trick plays.

The Badgers turned the momentum their way on the last drive of the first half and the opening sequence of the second half.

Senior kicker Zach Hintze capitalized on his chance to create a memory on Senior Day, booting a 62-yard field goal just before halftime to give the Badgers a 24-17 lead. The UW-record kick was set up by a lightning-quick drive that started with 22 seconds left in the half.

After Purdue had its opening drive of the second half into Badgers’ territory, junior safety Eric Burrell ranged over from the middle of the field to pick off O’Connell on a deep throw intended for David Bell. UW backed up the turnover with a nine-play, 95-yard drive — capped by Garrett Groshek’s run from the 6 — in which every play was a run, and the lead never dropped below two scores after that point.

“We didn’t change anything in the second half, we just had to be more disciplined,” Burrell said. “There was nothing really spectacular that we did from the first half to the second half. I don’t think there was a big difference, we just executed the playbook.”

The defense answered the bell and stopped the Boilermakers following a turnover twice in the second half.

In the third quarter, Jonathan Taylor and Aron Cruickshank mishandled a handoff on a wildcat play, resulting in a fumble. UW’s Christian Bell tallied a sack on fourth down to end the ensuing series. In the fourth quarter, quarterback Jack Coan threw an interception and Purdue still had life, down 14 with 12 minutes, 42 seconds to play. But UW’s defense stymied the Boilermakers’ drive near midfield, and the offense scored on the next possession to put the game away.

“I love the resolve,” Chryst said. “I am proud of the way they kept playing. And absolutely, you don’t want to give up anything. And yet that happens and how do you keep playing in response is, I think, a big part of this game and I’m proud of the way they did respond.”

UW had a season-high four turnovers — three lost fumbles out of five total and an interception. However, the Badgers didn’t punt and racked up a season-high 606 yards of total offense.

Jonathan Taylor produced his third consecutive 200-yard rushing game, tallying 222 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries. It was his third career 200-yard outing against Purdue, and his 5,856 yards through three seasons passed Donnel Pumphrey (5,653) for the most in any three-year span in Football Bowl Subdivision history.

Coan was 15 of 19 passing for 203 yards and two touchdowns.

The pregame ceremony honoring seniors ended with Orr embracing a group of family members that met him on the field. The night at Camp Randall ended with Orr’s statement regarding the matchup with the Golden Gophers.

He said he’s not worried about giving them bulletin-board material.

“It’s cool,” he said. “Enjoy it while they can.”

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