Coming off its win over No. 2 Iowa, Purdue is ranked for the first time since 2007. For their next trick, the No. 25 Boilermakers will try to take down a foe it has not beaten since 2003.
The Wisconsin Badgers, winners of 14 in a row against Purdue – a streak that began with Kyle Orton's fateful fumble in 2004 – visit Ross-Ade Stadium on Saturday. As the game approaches, the Boilers are cognizant that, notwithstanding the upset win over the Hawkeyes and their long-awaited ascendance into the AP poll, there is still half a season to play and they haven't accomplished any of their goals yet.
“Our guys understand if you can achieve some things, it makes a whole lot of people happy, and you want to represent the school and your football team and all the alumni as best you can,” coach Jeff Brohm said. “You do that by working hard, putting your head down, grinding away, not allowing the hand to be patted on your back by yourself and your family and your buddies too much after a win and being able to grind just as hard as you did the week before.”
Brohm's players have seemingly internalized that message and insisted that they have put the 24-7 triumph over Iowa, Purdue's first road win over a top 10 opponent since 1974, fully behind them.
“What we have is a 24-hour rule,” quarterback Austin Burton said. “We enjoy the win, glad we won, but after that we move on. It's a new week, got a big opponent, great defense, great team. We move past the (Iowa) game and now we're focused on Wisconsin.”
Burton, nominally the No. 3 quarterback on Purdue's depth chart, was a part of the game plan against Iowa and will likely be again against the Badgers (3-3, 1-2 Big Ten), as will backup signal-caller Jack Plummer.
The Boilermakers (4-2, 2-1) have struggled to run the ball from traditional setups this season and starting quarterback Aidan O'Connell doesn't provide much of a rushing threat on read-option plays. Enter Burton and Plummer, capable passers who can also pull the ball down and run it themselves, a possibility that gives running backs King Doerue and Dylan Downing a modicum of breathing room.
“The other team has to practice for that,” Plummer said of the multiquarterback system. “They've gotta spend time out of their practice worrying about what quarterback is going to be in there and what they're going to run and try to figure out what we're going to do. It adds an element to where if you're going to run one of us, it gives us an extra hat in the run game and frees up some runs.”
Sowing confusion could be Purdue's best bet against a Wisconsin team that has won two straight to climb back to .500 after a difficult start – all three losses came against teams currently ranked in the top 15 – and features a formidable defense with instinctive, talented linebackers, ready to plug any holes the Boiler offensive line might create.
O'Connell, who threw for 375 yards and two touchdowns against Iowa, could find throwing windows tighter against the Badgers and any running game Purdue can fashion will make his job easier.
“Wisconsin is going to put more guys in the box (than Iowa),” Brohm said. “They're going to not give easy completions. They're going to challenge every route. They're going to blitz from all over. They're going to use simulated blitzes and drop guys in coverage and try to fool the quarterback. They're going to disguise things.”
Note: Brohm was named the Dodd Trophy Coach of the Week for Purdue's victory over the Hawkeyes.
When: 3 p.m. Saturday
Where: Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette
Records: No. 25 Purdue (4-2, 2-1 Big Ten), Wisconsin (3-3, 1-2)
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: 1380 AM, 100.9 FM