The last time Purdue defeated the Wisconsin Badgers in a football game, the number one song in the country was “In Da Club” by 50 Cent. It was Oct. 18, 2003.
Since then, Purdue (4-6, 3-4 Big Ten) has been almost an automatic victory for the Badgers (8-2, 5-2), who have 13 straight against the Boilers. No opponent has had a longer winning streak against Purdue. The last time the two teams faced, it was an offensive shootout and Wisconsin defeated Purdue 47-44 in triple overtime. The Boilers couldn’t stop Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor, and the Badgers couldn’t stop Purdue’s aerial attack.
If the Boilers do pull off this upset, they will be in a similar situation as last year: having to defeat the Indiana Hoosiers in order to become bowl eligible.
The biggest problem standing in their way again is Taylor. He has the most rushing yards through his junior season of any other running back in college football history.
Last year he rushed for 321 yards and three touchdowns against the Boilers. Slowing him down will be the defense’s main focus this week.
“He’s a great talent. A big, strong specimen. He has some good players around him,” head coach Jeff Brohm said. “That will be a challenge. We have to try to limit him as much as we can.
“We had a hard time last year, especially towards the end of the game. (We) got worn down, handed the ball off to him, he pounded it in there, got some big runs. That’s going to be the key. (We) got to be able to hit him early, tackle him, get him to the ground. Whether that’s tackle him low and wrap your arms around him, one or two people tackling.”
With the Boilers’ multitude of injuries, it’s going to be hard on both sides of the ball for Purdue. The Boilers will be leaning again on the freshmen who have scored their last 19 touchdowns.
“They’re good against the run, good against the pass, whatever you’re going to bring to them,” wide receivers coach JaMarcus Shephard said. “They’ve played tremendously well in all phases on defense.”
The Boilermakers will be led this week by sophomore walk-on quarterback Aidan O’Connell. After stepping up in the wake of freshman quarterback Jack Plummer’s injury, O’Connell has led the Boilers to a two-game win streak.
“He’s done a very good job for us,” Brohm said. “For someone to just kind of come in, learn the offense, sit behind people, continue to study, still grasp the principles and things we’re doing, takes some reps along the way. I think when he’s had an opportunity, he’s done a very good job. We feel confident that he can continue to get better.”
At the moment, sophomore wide receiver Rondale Moore and junior wide receiver Jared Sparks along with senior defensive tackle Lorenzo Neal are still questionable for this weekend’s game. If these three suit up, it could be a game-changer for the Boilermakers
On the bright side for Purdue fans, freshmen safeties Cory Trice and Jalen Graham used the bye week to get healthy and should be available for many more reps than in the Boilers’ last game.