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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


UW football to travel to Purdue, seeks fourth straight conference win

Hayley Cleghorn

The University of Wisconsin football team is starting to look like one of the best in not only the West Division, but the Big Ten in general.

After a disappointing loss to Northwestern in the Big Ten opener, the Badgers (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten) have rattled off three straight conference wins, outscoring their opponents 127-35. This stretch includes two straight victories over Big Ten newcomers, Maryland and Rutgers, in which UW held the Terrapins and Scarlet Knights to seven combined points.

The Badgers have just four games remaining in the Big Ten, with the final three coming against Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota, respectively. However, before they hit that crucial final three-game stretch, UW will head to West Lafayette, Indiana, this weekend to take on Purdue.


Wisconsin currently finds themselves in a three-way tie for second place at 3-1 in the Big Ten West with Iowa and Minnesota, and all three teams are behind Nebraska, which remains in first place with a 4-1 Big Ten record.

The Boilermakers (3-6, 1-4 Big Ten) have lost three straight games after their lone win in conference play against Illinois Oct. 4. Purdue faces an uphill challenge this weekend against the Badgers who, after their shutdown performances against Maryland and Rutgers, have the nation’s top defense in terms of yards allowed (253.8) and rank third nationally in points per game (14.1).

However, Purdue will need to replace their leading wide receiver, junior Danny Anthrop, who tore his ACL last weekend and is out for the rest of the season. Anthrop currently leads the Boilermakers in receptions (38) and receiving yards (616).

But regardless of Purdue’s record, Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen isn’t taking the Boilermakers lightly. He especially has to consider their spread offense that boasts two rushers, who average over 5.5 yards per carry, in seniors Akeem Hunt and Raheem Mostert.

“Purdue is an offensive football team that causes you a lot of problems, and they’ve got two very fast running backs, as fast as we’ve played all year long as far as sheer speed.

“Both those young men are very good football players and very, very fast. It’s an offense that’s changed from a year ago. They’re much more wide open. Their play is to obviously spread the field both ways on you from sideline to sideline, from end zone to end zone, and they’ve done a nice job, created big plays,” Andersen said.

Arguably one of the biggest benefits to the Wisconsin defense’s strong play has been the field position it has given to an offense that is still working through the implementation of a two-quarterback system.

While it goes without saying that the UW run game is one of the best in the country, it’s the passing game that has yet to find its groove other than two weeks ago against Maryland. Against Rutgers last week, the combination of redshirt juniors Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy went just 8-for-20 with 87 passing yards and an interception.

But while the passing attack has struggled, Stave is quick to admit that they’ve been able to feed off the energy and field position the defense has given. The defense’s performance has given both quarterbacks a chance to get acclimated to the two-quarterback offense, and Stave feels they’re moving forward in a positive direction.

“I think we’ve played really well as a team the last two weeks,” Stave said. “I think we’re really putting … the right foot forward and moving in the right direction. The defense has played unbelievable the past two weeks, and as an offense, we’ve done a good job of feeding off their energy and the good field position they’ve given us.”

One thing the Wisconsin passing attack was able to accomplish last weekend in New Jersey was the chance to get some valuable playing time for their young wide receivers. After leading receiver redshirt junior Alex Erickson went down with an injury, freshman wide outs George Rushing and Krenwick Sanders saw the field in the final two quarters of play. For Rushing, who has four catches this season for 55 yards, the extra snaps against the Scarlet Knights were instrumental as he tries to progress week-to-week.

“It felt good,” Rushing said. “Unfortunately Alex [Erickson] went down and I had go in. But it was good experience to get out there and just prove myself.

“I just feel like each week I’m progressing,” Rushing said. “Now I’m starting to get more comfortable running out there. The speed of the game is different than high school, and now that it’s slowing down for me and I understand it, now I can play the game the way I want to.”

Andersen has been looking for his freshman wide receivers to get more playing time, and Saturday was finally a chance to see all of them on the field for a significant amount of plays – and to actually be involved in the offense.

“It was good to see those young men get in,” Andersen said. “The most important thing is George’s ability to catch the ball was fantastic, make a couple of plays, very important, same thing with Krenwick [Sanders], being able to make a play. The reps are invaluable, get in there and not just catch it, but to block it, get lined up, understand where they’re going.”

The Badgers and Boilermakers will kick off Saturday from Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette at 11 a.m.

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