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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Grades: Ball carries offense; linebackers stellar once again

Linebacker Chris Borland was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after he recorded 11 tackles (3.5 for loss), two forced fumbles and one interception Saturday.[/media-credit]

Every week, Herald Sports will look back and evaluate the most recent game by the Wisconsin football team on a scale of zero to five.

The Badgers (7-2, 3-2) finally rebounded from a brutal two-game losing streak Saturday, returning to the friendly confines of Camp Randall Stadium to trounce the Purdue Boilermakers (4-5, 2-3) 62-17. The victory returned some semblance of normalcy to Wisconsin and kept them tied with Ohio State for second place in the Big Ten Leaders division, two games behind Penn State. This weekend, the Badgers will head to Minnesota for the annual Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe with the Gophers in what will surely be a fascinating battle as the Big Ten schedule winds to a close.

Quarterbacks – 5 out of 5


After making some questionable decisions and, for the first time this season, struggling with his accuracy in Wisconsin’s two road losses at Ohio State and Michigan State, Russell Wilson was stellar Saturday against Purdue. Against the nation’s No. 44 passing defense, Wilson completed 15 of 20 passes for 205 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. In a little more than three quarters of play (Joe Brennan was brought in for mop-up duty at the 11:01 mark), Wilson found seven different receivers against Purdue and also a completed 66-yard pass to wide receiver Jeff Duckworth in the first quarter.

Brennan, meanwhile, completed three of his four passes for 36 yards in his latest glimpse at playing time. Moving forward, if Wisconsin continues to find itself up by large margins in the fourth quarter, Brennan should gain further snaps.

Backfield – 4 out of 5

If Montee Ball took all the carries among Wisconsin running backs Saturday, this grade would definitely be a full 5 out of 5. Ball rushed for a career-high 223 yards on 20 carries (11.1 yards per) and three touchdowns, tying Brian Calhoun’s single-season school record with 24 touchdowns on the season. On the first play from scrimmage, Ball showed just how welcome the return back to Madison was for the Badgers, surging straight through the middle of the Boilermaker’s defense for a 44-yard rush. Four plays later, the Badgers scored their first touchdown of the day. Ball’s efforts ultimately earned him Co-Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors.

However, James White continued to struggle and held the Badgers’ running backs from earning a perfect grade. White rushed 17 times for 50 yards, a paltry average of just 2.9 yards per carry. He did score twice, from five and one yards out, and led the team with four receptions. Since rushing for 6.7 yards per carry against Indiana Oct. 15, White’s averages have fallen in each game since – 3.8, 3.2 and 2.9, respectively.

Fullback Bradie Ewing continued his stellar play, helping to pave running lanes for Ball and also catching two passes for 25 yards.

Tight ends – 3.5 out of 5

Saturday was more of the same from Jacob Pedersen, who caught two passes for 28 yards, including a two-yard touchdown grab from Wilson for UW’s first score of the game. Pedersen was quiet for the rest of the game, though, with Wisconsin comfortably in the driver’s seat by halftime.

Wide receivers – 3 out of 5

UW’s wideouts were unspectacular Saturday, mainly because they didn’t have to be while Ball was pounding the rock as effectively as he was. Jared Abbrederis, whose breakout season has prompted questions as to whether Nick Toon is really the Badgers’ No. 1 receiver, finished with two receptions for 19 yards and a touchdown. Toon finished with three catches for 35 yards. No. 3 receiver Jeff Duckworth saw the more playing time than he has in any other game this season and caught two passes for 78 yards, including that 66-yard bomb from Wilson.

Offensive line – 4.5 out of 5

Throughout that dreaded two-week-long nightmare against OSU and MSU, UW’s offensive line was widely criticized for not allowing Wilson more time to stay in the pocket and not creating enough holes for Ball and Co. to run through. That changed for the better against Purdue, as Wisconsin totaled 605 yards (364 rushing, 241 passing) and Wilson was sacked just once.

Defensive line – 3.5 out of 5

Wisconsin’s defensive line was adequate Saturday, nothing greater or worse. The unit failed to sack Purdue quarterbacks Caleb TerBush and Robert Marve, but the Boilermaker rushing attack totaled just 120 yards and averaged 4.1 per carry.

Linebackers – 5 out of 5

The strength of Wisconsin’s defense hardly surprises anymore, though the numbers the Badger linebackers are able to consistently post are staggering. Middle linebacker Chris Borland earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after leading the team with 11 tackles (3.5 for loss), two forced fumbles and one interception. As usual, outside linebacker Mike Taylor was right behind him with nine tackles and one interception of his own. Ethan Armstrong recorded five tackles, while Kevin Claxton had three.

Secondary – 4 out of 5

Both of UW’s two interceptions fell into the hands of Borland and Taylor, though that is hardly an indictment of the secondary. Cornerback Antonio Fenelus continued his lockdown coverage while opposite him cornerback Marcus Cromartie  was once again solid. No Purdue receiver caught more than four passes (wide receiver O.J. Ross had four), and tight end Crosby Wright had the highest yardage total with 46, though 30 came on Purdue’s first touchdown. Purdue did have three passes go for at least 20 yards, indicating that allowing big plays still might be an issue for Wisconsin’s defense.

Specialists – 3 out of 5

A lower grade was tempting here, though kicker Phillip Welch’s 52-yard field goal as time expired in the first half and his overall length on kickoffs buoyed the unit. However, kickoff coverage was again exceedingly troubling for Wisconsin, which allowed Purdue returner Raheem Mostert to average 41.2 yards per return on his five attempts for 206 yards. Mostert’s first kick return of the day went for 49 yards and set Purdue up at Wisconsin’s 41-yard line, while his second was for 74 yards and brought the Boilermakers to the Badgers’ 16-yard line.

UW did a better job containing DeVarro Greaves, who returned two kicks for just 40 yards. But the repeated special teams issues that developed barely more than two weeks ago in East Lansing have persisted and exposed a major weakness that could cripple Wisconsin in the stretch run of Big Ten play.

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