The 37-0 victory was the Badgers’ first shutout since a Sept. 16, 2006, victory over San Diego State by a margin of 14-0. More impressively, however, it was Wisconsin’s first shutout in Big Ten play since blanking Indiana 59-0 on Oct. 16, 1999.
“We just showed ourselves what we can do when we don’t beat ourselves,” defensive end O’Brien Schofield said. “[The shutout] speaks volumes about our defense.”
Wisconsin’s defense held Purdue — the Big Ten’s fourth-leading offense in terms of yardage entering the contest — to only 141 total yards as they gained just 60 yards on 29 rushing attempts and 81 yards through the air on just nine completions.
The Badgers came into the game hungry after waiting two weeks to play following their loss to Iowa, and they were determined not to let the Boilermakers put up any points.
Even after a Curt Phillips interception in the fourth quarter, the defense held strong. The Boilermakers drove 36 yards behind backup quarterback Caleb TerBush, but were held to no gain on the final three plays of the drive, including an incomplete pass on fourth down.
According to safety Chris Maragos, the goal line stand was like the “icing on the cake” of the Badgers’ first shutout of Purdue since 1955.
“Guys went out there and they took it upon themselves to make plays,” he said. “It was great to pitch a shutout, but I think it was even greater because we held them at that goal line stand there at the end.”
Purdue’s offensive leaders were held well below their season averages because of the Badgers’ aggressive, smothering defensive play.
Running back Ralph Bolden tallied only 37 yards rushing despite entering the weekend with a 90 yards per game average. Likewise, quarterback Joey Elliott was just 5-of-23 through the air for 59 yards and an interception before being replaced by TerBush, who wasn’t much better, going 4-of-10 for 22 yards.
Turnovers caused by Wisconsin’s opportunistic defense took away any chance the Boilermakers had of scoring against UW. Cornerback Devin Smith intercepted an ill-advised Elliott pass in the second quarter that gave the Badgers a short field at the Purdue 20-yard line and set up an eventual one-yard touchdown run for running back John Clay.
Smith’s interception was the best play in a strong game for the Wisconsin cornerbacks, who had been challenged during the bye week by the coaches to perform better going forward.
“We were really focusing on challenging every route and just getting respect because no one believed in us,” Smith said. “Focusing on tight coverage, reading keys and basically just having great fundamentals.”
What made matters worse for Purdue were backup running backs Jaycen Taylor and Al-Terek McBurse, who each lost fumbles in the game.
Freshman linebacker Chris Borland, who made his first career start at outside linebacker in place of the injured Mike Taylor, recovered both fumbles. Borland also forced the fumble by McBurse near the end of the third quarter, which set up a UW field goal.
“I just do my job and let opportunities come to me and try to take advantage,” Borland said. “I am having a lot of fun out there.”
Gilbert celebrates his birthday in style
You wouldn’t have guessed it by watching him play, but defensive lineman David Gilbert was only 17 years old through the first seven games of the Badgers’ season, which is the reason his teammates call him “Young David.”
So when he turned 18 on Saturday, he celebrated it the best way he could: by blocking a punt in the second quarter that was later recovered by cornerback Aaron Henry at the nine-yard line and taken into the end zone for the touchdown, making it 24-0 for UW.
“Happy 18th birthday,” head coach Bret Bielema said. “It’s his 18th birthday, it’s kind of amazing. … Right before that play Dave looked at me and said, ‘Coach can I jump this one?’ I said absolutely, knock yourself out, and he did.”
It was the second time Gilbert was involved in a blocked punt this season.
The first came at home against Wofford when Borland went airborne for the block, which Gilbert later recovered in the end zone for the score.
This time, however, with friends and family in attendance all the way from Coral Springs, Fla., Gilbert borrowed a page out of Borland’s playbook.
“I stole from Borland obviously,” Gilbert said of the move. “I didn’t steal the landing on my neck from him, (but) I told him all week I was going to ‘pull a Borland.'”