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5 observations after rewatching the Badgers' win over No. 25 Purdue

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University of Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz, tailback Braelon Allen and cornerback Caesar Williams speak to the media Saturday after the Badgers defeated the 25th-ranked Purdue Boilermakers 30-13 at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Indiana.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana — A prevailing wisdom came through in the postgame interviews a few yards from the football field at Ross-Ade Stadium.

“If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” senior offensive tackle Tyler Beach said in reference to the University of Wisconsin’s rushing attack in a 30-13 win over No. 25 Purdue. UW racked up 290 yards on the ground against the Boilermakers and won despite throwing just eight passes.

University of Wisconsin senior left tackle Tyler Beach speaks to the media Saturday after the Badgers' 30-13 victory over the 25th-ranked Purdue Boilermakers at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Why did the rushing attack work so well? What happened on the play that made UW coach Paul Chryst hesitant to pass any more? Answers to those questions required extra looks at the game.

Here are five observations after rewatching Saturday’s win at Purdue.

1. Logan Bruss makes a big difference

Having an experienced, steady presence like senior right tackle Logan Bruss back in the lineup was crucial for the Badgers’ rushing success. His work in run blocking was a big step above what UW was getting from his replacement the past two weeks, redshirt freshman Tanor Bortolini.

One play stands out in particular, and it was probably Bruss’ best block of the day. It was the one that sprung freshman Braelon Allen’s 70-yard run in the third quarter. Bruss fired into defensive end Damarjhe Lewis, who lined up a shade inside of him, and pushed him a yard off the ball. He finishes the block so well that it also catches Marvin Grant, who came down into the box on the handoff, in the fray and gives Allen a ton of field to work with.

Bruss also battled defensive end George Karlaftis to stalemates in the run game more often than any other UW offensive lineman.

A healthy Bruss should bring more stability to the edges of the Badgers line, because coaches can provide help to the other side when needed knowing Bruss can handle one-on-one challenges.

2. Up and down day for the interior OL

UW has a lot of statistics to back up that their offensive line played well against Purdue. For the most part, it did, but the interior had some trouble early on that smart coaching changes helped fix.

Early in the game, Purdue linebackers Kieren Douglas and Jaylan Alexander were making plays in the backfield. Douglas in particular was effective shooting through the holes created by a pulling lineman to cause some havoc. UW pulled less frequently until Douglas stopped trying that tactic and utilized a fullback to pick up linebackers trying to snake through the hole created by a pulling guard.

The rushing game was again based more on straight-forward iso and gap schemes than the more nuanced zone schemes UW has been known for — a commonality in each of the past three weeks, all wins.

But two false starts, both on redshirt freshman Jack Nelson, and eight rushes for 0 or negative yards dampened some of the good the interior line did. The worst showing by that group was on the goal line after an interception return set the Badgers up at the Purdue 1-yard line in the second quarter. Two runs up the middle went for no gain, setting up a jet sweep that lost 4.

University of Wisconsin freshman tailback Braelon Allen speaks to the media Saturday after he ran for 140 yards and two touchdowns in the Badgers' 30-13 victory over the 25th-ranked Purdue Boilermakers at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Indiana.

3. Schipper still adjusting

Junior Brady Schipper is doing what he can to fill in the Badgers’ third running back role after departures and injuries have depleted that group, but the junior didn’t have his best day against Purdue.

He had three carries for 12 yards playing in the Badgers’ second- and third-and-long scenarios and in shotgun looks. But it appears that Schipper — who’s lauded for his knowledge of the UW playbook — made a costly error against the Boilermakers.

On the strip-sack of sophomore quarterback Graham Mertz in the second quarter, Schipper missed the blitzing cornerback, Jamari Brown, that he appears to be responsible for. UW’s center Joe Tippmann, left guard Josh Seltzner and left tackle Tyler Beach step left toward a defensive tackle and Karlaftis, who also gets chipped by tight end Jake Ferguson on the play.

That left right guard Jack Nelson and right tackle Logan Bruss responsible for the two players on the other side of the center. Schipper, who started the play in the backfield, appears to be looking at the inside linebackers to see if they rush and when they don’t, going into the flat for a route. He never looks at Brown, who hits Mertz clean in the chest and forces the fumble.

It’s possible Schipper is supposed to ignore that blitzer and Mertz is supposed to throw faster, but a State Journal stopwatch had a snap-to-contact time of 2.6 seconds, so it’d make more sense if Schipper simply missed the second read he was supposed to make before going out into his route.

4. Flowers for Larsh

Senior kicker Collin Larsh continued the best season of his UW career with three field goals and three extra points against Purdue.

None of Larsh’s field goals were from far enough out to warrant too much attention, but all three of his makes came at crucial moments and his poise in knocking each kick through the uprights deserves some credit.

His first field goal, a 37-yarder in the second quarter, gave the Badgers the lead after Purdue had tied the game at 7. Then his chip-shot from 23 yards out later in the quarter ensured that UW tied the game after the offense squandered a golden opportunity for a touchdown after safety John Torchio’s interception return down to the Purdue 1-yard line.

Although it may have been overlooked, Larsh’s 43-yarder in the fourth quarter was the most important kick of the afternoon. First, it paid off another defensive turnover, a fumble recovered by Nick Herbig. But more importantly, it put the Badgers ahead by three scores with four minutes, eight seconds remaining. Miss that kick and Purdue might have thoughts of a miracle rally after catching a break.

Larsh didn’t miss despite Boilermakers repeatedly jumping over the offensive line on field goal tries. Jumping over the line is something UW needs to make an opponent pay for soon by undercutting the leaper or it’ll keep happening.

5. Franklin makes his presence felt

Jaylan Franklin hasn’t made much of an impact on the Badgers since moving from outside linebacker to tight end before the 2020 season. He showed impressive athleticism in spring practices this year, but he hasn’t yet shown what he can do as a receiver.

He may earn those chances for what he did blocking against Purdue. In the Badgers’ effort to throw a multitude of blockers and schemes at Karlaftis, Franklin coming across the formation and kicking him out or cutting him was particularly effective. Franklin threw a key block on Allen’s first-quarter touchdown and he made Karlaftis stop and catch himself on two second-quarter plays, effectively taking away Purdue’s best defender with one blocker.


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