Melvin Gordon, No. 24 Wisconsin run past Purdue in Big Ten opener
MADISON, Wis. -- Melvin Gordon darted for the end zone, carrying the lunging Purdue defender with him over the goal line.
Nothing seems to stop Wisconsin running backs.
Gordon ran for three touchdowns and 147 yards, James White added 145 yards and a 70-yard score, and the 24th-ranked Badgers opened Big Ten play by trampling over Purdue with a 41-10 win Saturday.
"They're just so dynamic, their ability to make people miss and they really kind of complement each other with the running styles, in my opinion," coach Gary Andersen said.
Wisconsin moved on nicely from last week's stunning 32-30 loss to Arizona State, after officials mishandled the final seconds to deprive the Badgers of a game-winning field-goal try.
No last-minute worries this week. Wisconsin (3-1, 1-0) led by two touchdowns at the half and by three scores early in the third quarter after Gordon fended off Ricardo Allen's failed last-ditch effort to stop the 15-yard touchdown run.
Andersen said he wanted his players to learn from the loss and move on -- but not necessarily forget about it.
That's a very sizable chip on the collective shoulders of the Badgers. They might be a field goal away from being unbeaten heading into next weekend's showdown at Ohio State.
"It's just getting started, it's not as if we're ever going to forget that," linebacker Chris Borland when asked about the Arizona State loss. "We're going to play with the idea of taking frustration out on our opponents all year."
Purdue (1-3, 0-1) got walloped with decisive disadvantages in total yards (546-180), yards rushing (388-45) and first downs (22-12).
Not the way coach Darrell Hazell hoped his first Big Ten game would go.
"Right now, we've got to do a good job as a football team soul-searching," he said. "Obviously, that's not the way Purdue football wants to play. We need to get a lot better."
Quarterback Rob Henry's 22-yard scramble for a score on what appeared to be a busted play provided one of the few highlights for the Boilermakers.
Nose guard Warren Herring had a sack and three tackles, and Borland had six stops and a pass breakup at the goal line with the game still close in the first half.
"We got more push today, overall. We got a few more pressures that came clean early, forced him to escape," Andersen said. "The kids rushed the passer better today and had some opportunities to make some plays, and they made them."
Wisconsin tallied four sacks on the afternoon after recording just one combined over the first three games.
Purdue's defensive highlight came after Allen intercepted an errant throw by Joel Stave and returned it to the Wisconsin 10 to put Purdue in good shape on its next drive.
But two running plays stalled, and Borland broke up the third-down pass to hold Purdue to a 24-yard field goal by Paul Griggs. That made it 14-10 early in the second quarter.
Still, maybe, just maybe, the Boilermakers were going to build on their near-upset last week of Notre Dame before losing 31-24.
One big problem: Purdue couldn't stop the run.
Gordon's 27-yard scoring run sapped Purdue momentum after Griggs' field goal to put Wisconsin back up by 11. He followed with his 15-yard run early in the third quarter.
"We were in the game in the first half. When the second half came, we have to find a way to win. We came out a little bit low and they ganged up on us in the third quarter," cornerback Taylor Richards said. "We have to come out in the second half and find a way to win."
It's not like Purdue didn't know that Wisconsin would run the ball, though. It's as much a part of Badger football as students rocking to House of Pain's "Jump Around" between the third and fourth quarters, even with Andersen in his first year calling the shots in Madison. Statistically, Purdue seemed to be in decent shape coming into the game after holding its last two opponents to less than 100 yards rushing.
Instead, Gordon and White made the poor-tackling Boilermakers look silly.
Gordon had 16 carries in his fourth-straight 100-yard game. White, the FBS' active career leading in yards rushing (3,013), also got 16 carries.
Henry finished 18 for 36 with 135 yards and an interception. He netted zero yards on seven carries.
Overall, Purdue's running game was nonexistent again, with starter Akeem Hunt gaining just 31 yards on nine carries. Herring's solid play early set the tone for Wisconsin's active defensive front.
2022 Big Ten Conference Standings