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November 5, 2011MADISON - Montee Ball said he set lofty personal goals during the months leading into his junior season shortly after his team dismantled Purdue 62-17 inside Camp Randall Stadium.
There's no way he could have envisioned anything like the season he's having.
The junior tailback rushed for 223 yards, scored three touchdowns and tied former Badger Brian Calhoun's school record for touchdowns in a single season.
All in a day's work, right?
"I really take pride in not letting my teammates down," Ball, who has now scored 24 times this season, said. "When my number is called I want to make sure I produce."
Ball's number was called 20 times during UW's rout of Purdue. Starting with his very first carry, which was also the first play from scrimmage, Ball broke open the Purdue line.
He carried the rock 44 yards and nearly housed the first play from scrimmage. Four short plays later Russell Wilson found a wide-open Jacob Pedersen for UW's first score.
"To come out and compete the way they did today was very special," Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema said. "I thought a lot of guys stepped up. I can't say enough about the senior leadership.
"I can't say enough about my staff."
Wisconsin had endured two of the most painful losses in school history each of the past two weeks, so to bounce back against a Purdue squad that entered Saturday's game tied with the Badgers in the conference standings was essential.
"It started with our week of preparation," senior fullback Bradie Ewing said. "Just showing that pays off in the long run and that we are doing the right things.
"To get a win today was pretty great."
Ball, along with improved offensive line play, was a major reason for that outcome.
"We took it upon ourselves this week to get everything done," senior right guard Kevin Zeitler said. "Everybody was clicking today. I think we protected Russell pretty well. The holes were there.
"Everybody just did their jobs today."
Wilson finished Saturday's game 15-of-20 for 205 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for a third score on an absolutely stunning play-action fake during UW's 24-point second quarter explosion.
The Badgers racked up 425 yards of offense in the first 30 minutes and enjoyed a 38-17 lead at intermission.
"That made it tough," Purdue head coach Danny Hope said. "We still thought we could come out in the second half and manufacture a drive.
"But we didn't have a chance to compete and it didn't work that way."
UW finished Saturday's romp with 605 yards of total offense. Of that lofty number, 383 yards were gained on the ground. Ball finished with a career best 223 yards, Wilson added 76 yards of his own and James White chipped in 50 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensively the Badgers limited Purdue to 284 yards of total offense and forced two Caleb TerBush interceptions.
"They're big when the offense moves the ball like Purdue can," Taylor, who had one of UW's interceptions, said. "Any time you get the ball back to the offense they can put up points."
And from the very first play of scrimmage UW asserted that notion.
The Badgers had scoring drives of five, six, 10, seven, seven, four, four, one, three and 12 plays. The final drive, led by freshman quarterback Joe Brennan took up nearly six minutes off the clock. Wisconsin won the time of possession battle, controlling the ticker for nearly 37 minutes of the game.
Nothing Purdue threw at UW worked.
"We ran out of bodies," Hope said in regards to the injury bug that hit his team this past week. "This is not a good football team to run out of bodies against. They have big, strong bodies across the line of scrimmage.
"They are a really good football team."
Though UW's offense hardly had any problems moving the ball against Purdue, the same old special teams errors that have become an issue in recent weeks continued to pop up.
Following UW's game opening 5-play, 63-yard touchdown drive the Badgers gave up a 49-yard kickoff return to Purdue's Raheem Mostert. It took just two Boilermakers plays to find the endzone, thus tying the game at seven apiece.
Junior safety Shelton Johnson broke assignment on the touchdown play and allowed Purdue tight end Crosby Wright to score easily from 30 yards out.
Following UW's second scoring drive midway through the first quarter, UW's kickoff coverage once again gave up a huge return. This time Mostert sprinted 74 yards down the Purdue sideline, setting up his Boilermaker offense in prime position.
But UW's defense held strong and forced Purdue to settle for a field goal even though it started the drive on the Badger 16-yard line.
That might have been the turning point.
"Our defense has a philosophy no matter what the situation is to put the ball down," Bielema said. "Our guys responded very, very well there. I know they wanted to block the field goal to be quite honest. I felt we had a good scheme there.
"We unfortunately came up a bit short."
Unlike each of the past two weeks, though, the special teams blunders did not hurt the Badgers.
At least for one night, mostly credited to the play of Ball, Wilson and the offensive line, everyone on the Badger roster can smile.
"It's just nice to get rewarded for a lot of hard work," Bielema said. "We put a lot into those past two weeks. This is just week one of a four-step phase to get through. We've got to take it on a day-by-day approach. Our guys did that.
"Now we're into our week of trying to protect and keep the axe."