football

A step back

MADISON,Wis.-Themomentumisgone.
No.24Wisconsinmadesureofthat.
Newcoachingstaff,newoffense,newdefense,newleaders,noneofitmattered.
TheBadgerscontinuedtheirdominanceoverPurdueinsimilarfashion:TheyranoverandthroughtheBoilermakers.
Wisconsinrackedup388yardsrushing,hadapairofbacksgoover100yardsforthesecondconsecutiveseason,andcruisedtoa41-10victorythatleftPurduecoachDarrellHazellstunned.
Especiallyconsideringthefirst-yearcoachthoughthisteammadeprogresslastweek,takingrivaland21st-rankedNotreDametothefinalquarter.
ButtheBoilermakers(1-3)tookastepbackintheirBigTenopener.
"Rightnowwehavetodoagoodjobasafootballteamofsoulsearching,"Hazellsaid."Obviouslythat'snotthewayPurduefootballwantstoplay,andweneedtogetalotbetter.Itwasaprettycloseballgameearly,missedsometackles,didn'tconvertthirddownsandwhenyouplayagoodfootballteamlikeWisconsin,thosethingsseemtospiralonyou.Itgotoutofhandinthethirdquarterprettyquickly.
"Obviouslywehavetotakealonglookatourselves,coachesandplayers,andmakesurewe'retakingthecorrectstepstomakesurePurduefootballgetsbetter."
Pickanareaforimprovementafterthisone-fewunitsperformedwell.
Thedefenseknewit'dbechallenged,facingthenation'sfifth-bestrushingoffensewithalinethatwasfilledwithphysical,300-plus-poundersandexplosivebacks.
Itdidnotrespond.
Wisconsin(3-1)had214rushingyardsbyhalftimeandaccomplisheditbysimplybeingmorephysicalandmoreassignment-sound.
TheBadgers'offensivelinemendidagreatjobpullingandreachingPurdue'slinebackersandofteneithersmotheredthemorpushedthemoutofaplay.
AndwhentheBoilermakerswereintherightplace,theycouldn'tdeliver.
OnWisconsin'sfirsttouchdowndrive-a95-yardone-WillLucasandSeanRobinsonmissedtacklesononeplay;TaylorRichardswhiffedtwoplayslater;ArmsteadWilliamsgotjuked;LucasandAnthonyBrowncameupemptyonthenext;and,onMelvinGordon'sfive-yardtouchdownrun,JoeGilliamwastherebutgotbeatonacutbackandwasleftwithaweakarmtackleattempt.
SophomoresuperstarGordonandstarterJamesWhitearen'tgoingtobetakendownbyarmtackles.
Andtheyweren't.
Ever.
Gordonrushedfor147yardsandthreeTDson16carries-awhoppingaverageof9.2yards.Whitehada70-yardtouchdownrunandfinishedwith145yardson16carries,a9.1-yardaverage.
Purdue'sdefenseknewexactlywhatitwasinforandstillcouldn'tstopit.
Richardscalledtheunit'sperformance"minimal,"asWisconsinpiledup546yardsandhadscoringdrivesthatcovered95,79,75,33,68,69and61yards.
BruceGastonsaidthedefenseisstilltryingtofinditsidentity,butitwantstobe"dominant,"physicalandfast.Itwasn'tanyofthemonSaturday.
"Sometimeswedidn'tstaypoisedlikeweweresupposedto,"Gastonsaid."Wewereinpositiontomakeplays.WewereinpositiontogetTFLsandtackles,butwedidn't.Weknowthatwe'redefinitelycapableofdoingthat,sowehavetojustgetbetter.
"Weallhavetostepup,practicebetter,playbetter,playfaster,playharderandwhenwe'reinpositiontomakeplays,wehavetomakethem.Sometimesthat'swhatseparatesthescore.Whenyou'reinpositiontomakeplays,youhavetomakethem."
SamecouldbesaidforPurdue'soffense.
TheBoilermakerswerewithin14-7andhadtheballfirst-and-goalfromthe10-yardlineafterRicardoAllen'sinterceptioninthesecondquarter.
Buttheirinabilitytoproduceintheredzonereareditsheadagain.
AkeemHuntgotfiveyardsonafirst-downpitchbutthenwasburiedforalossoftwoonsecond,tryingtorunwidebutfindingnoplacetocutupfield.Onthirddownfromtheseven,RobHenrytriedathree-stepdropanddeliveredapassintotheendzone.Theclosest"receiver"wasaWisconsinplayerwhodroppedaninterception.
Purduehadtosettlefora24-yardfieldgoal.
ThenWisconsinrippedoffa75-yarddriveforaTD,Purdue'soffensewentthree-and-outandtheBadgersdrained5:09offtheclocktoendadrivewithafieldgoaljustbeforehalftimefora24-10lead.
Purdue'sfourseriesinthesecondhalf:41yards.
"Wedidn'tgooutandexecuteaswellinthosecriticalmomentswhenwecouldhavegottenourselvesbackinthegameandkeepbattling,"saidHenry,whowas18-for-36foronly135yardsandaninterception."That'ssomethingwehavetodoisexecutewhenthegamegetstightandwhenweneedto."
That'llbeonefocusnextweek,whenPurduehasabriefrespitefromconferenceplaywhenMid-AmericanConferencechampionNorthernIllinoiscomestoRoss-AdeStadium.
Butitwon'tbetheonlyone.
"Lackofexecutiononoffenseandlackof(tackling)ondefensewereprobablythetwobiggestculpritsoftheday,"Hazellsaid."You'relookingata14-10footballgame,andtheydriveitdownthefieldonusandscoreagain,andtheoffensecan'tstayonthefield.We'rethree-and-out,three-and-out,Idon'tknowhowmanythree-and-outserieswehad.Sothatputsmorepressureonthedefense.Soit'sawholeteamthingthatwe'vegottogetfixed."
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