No. 7 Wisconsin 34, Purdue 13

In prime position to win the Big Ten title and contend for a BCS

championship after rallying to beat Purdue, Montee Ball knows what

Wisconsin needs to do to end up on top.

”We just keep moving forward,” the running back said. ”Our

focus is now is on Indiana.”

The Badgers topped the Boilermakers 34-13 on Saturday after

trailing at halftime, and have moved up to No. 6 in the AP Top

25.

With losses by Utah and Alabama on Saturday, Wisconsin trails

only one one-loss team, LSU, in the AP poll.

The Badgers (8-1, 4-1 Big Ten) already have played the other

one-loss teams in the conference: Michigan State, Iowa and Ohio

State. The Badgers host Indiana on Saturday, then are at Michigan

and close at home against Northwestern. Those teams are in the

lower half of the league standings and have a combined conference

record of 4-11, though Michigan and Northwestern already have the

necessary six overall wins to become bowl-eligible.

All could have been lost with a slip against the Boilermakers,

but Ball filled in nicely for John Clay. Ball ran for a career-high

127 yards and two touchdowns. He got 21 carries because Clay, the

top running back, got dinged up during the game and No. 2 running

back James White was out with a knee injury.

Ball felt comfortable in the role.

”I was getting the load in practice,” Ball said. ”James was

sprinkled in a little bit in practice, but he’s going to come back

strong, John’s going to come back strong.”

Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema was never worried that Saturday

would be the day the Badgers would slip.

”They just kind of handle the situation,” he said. ”They’re

kind of in a mode where you can just shift them into gear and let

them go play football. I don’t worry about this team showing up and

not being physical.”

Antonio Fenelus returned one of Wisconsin’s three second-half

interceptions 36 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. The

Badgers scored 21 points off the miscues.

”Obviously it was a tale of two different halves,” Bielema

said. ”In the first half, we were uncharacteristic of what we’ve

been doing to have success. I just wanted guys to focus in on the

details of playing winning football.”

Wisconsin’s defense was steady, even though the Boilermakers led

at halftime. The Badgers held Purdue to 303 yards.

”In the first half, there was really the one drive, and then

most other times, we were pretty good of shutting them down,”

Bielema said.

Purdue quarterback Sean Robinson looked as if he might do

something special in his first career start, but things fizzled. He

passed for 141 yards and ran for 31 in his first start while

stepping in for Rob Henry, who sat out with a cut finger on his

right hand.

Purdue tried adding to its 10-6 halftime lead early in the

second half, but Robinson threw an interception to Culmer St. Jean

on the third play of the third quarter, and Wisconsin took over at

the Purdue 18.

Wisconsin went for it on a fourth-and-1 from the Purdue 9, and

Clay powered for 2 yards. On the next play, Scott Tolzien used a

play-action fake, then found Jared Abbrederis near the back of the

end zone for a touchdown that gave the Badgers a 13-10 lead.

Ball went 31 yards for a touchdown, and Wisconsin took a 20-10

lead with 6:20 left in the third quarter.

Purdue, trailing 20-13, started to move the ball, but Niles

Brinkley tipped a pass intended for Cortez Smith, and linebacker

Mike Taylor returned it 26 yards to the Purdue 14. Two plays later,

a 15-yard TD run by Ball gave Wisconsin a 27-13 lead with 8:54 to

play. Minutes later, Fenelus caught a tipped pass and took it to

the end zone to give Wisconsin a 34-13 lead.

Purdue still could become eligible for a bowl game. The

Boilermakers (4-5, 2-3) will host Michigan on Saturday.

”We just have to keep fighting,” Purdue running back Dan

Dierking said. ”If we played the whole game today like we did in

the first half, we could’ve won, no matter what the other team was

ranked.”

Wisconsin would prefer more performances like its second-half

effort.

”We came in and got the mistakes down,” Taylor said. ”We got

a chance to talk to everybody. We needed to play Wisconsin

football. We got focused, and went out and did it.”