Badgers fully focused on Purdue, not Arizona State
SEP 17, 2013 10:13a ET
MADISON, Wis. -- On the unofficial gut-punch scale, Wisconsin's 32-30 referee-bungled loss against Arizona State on Saturday night ranks as an all-timer among Badgers players. And that's saying something considering the excruciatingly close losses the team has endured the past three seasons.
But there is a time to sulk and a time to focus attention on punching back against a different opponent. The first option has passed. Now, Wisconsin players have been tasked with moving on and understanding the big picture goals that lie ahead.
"It's the third week of the season," Badgers tight end Jacob Pedersen said. "We've still got a lot of football left to play. Big Ten opens this week with Purdue. That's our full focus."
No. 24 Wisconsin (2-1) begins the recovery process against Purdue (1-2) at 2:30 p.m. CT Saturday to begin Big Ten play. In reality, nothing has changed despite the Arizona State loss -- unless you truly believe the Badgers had a shot to compete for a national championship. In which case, Wisconsin is now listed in Vegas as a 1,000-to-1 long shot (Arizona State is listed at 75 to 1, for what it's worth).
The Badgers, meanwhile, remain fully in control when it comes to winning a fourth consecutive Big Ten championship. And they start that quest against a team they have beaten seven consecutive times, including the past four by an average of 31.8 points.
"The thing that I am most excited about being a lineman is we're playing a traditional offense now," Badgers defensive end Ethan Hemer said. "A pro-style offense instead of this spread stuff where they try and get us out in space. (Nose guard) Beau (Allen) and I both talked and said this is an exciting change of events for us."
Purdue is coming off a 31-24 loss against No. 21 Notre Dame in prime time. Boilermakers quarterback Rob Henry threw for 256 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. But Henry did not throw a touchdown in either of his first two games against Cincinnati and Indiana State. And he'll likely have to beat Wisconsin with his arm because the Badgers' front seven has proven to be especially tough against the run.
"The quarterback has been solid," UW coach Gary Andersen said. "You watch him last week, they're up 10-0, did some good things at Notre Dame. Obviously ended up losing that football game, but they were right in there from a physicality standpoint, which was impressive."
Recent history suggests Wisconsin will perform well despite suffering perhaps the most controversial loss of the college football season, when referees failed to spot the ball in a timely manner after quarterback Joel Stave took a knee to set up the potential game-winning field goal. The Badgers are 6-2 following a loss since the beginning of the 2010 season.
In 2011, the Badgers lost in consecutive weeks on last-minute Hail Mary touchdown passes against Michigan State and Ohio State. They went on to win their next five games, including a rematch against Michigan State in the Big Ten championship, to reach the Rose Bowl.
"The most recent one stings the most," Hemer said. "The Ohio State, Michigan State games back to back, those games were especially tough. This one stung a lot because we had a chance to win it and it just didn't work out for us the way we wanted it to."
The feeling of being wronged will no doubt linger. But as Andersen has said this week, the last thing the Badgers need is for Arizona State to beat them twice.
"We all realize this is not an end all be all," Hemer said. "We have a very talented team, and we plan on winning a lot of games this year. And we know that one setback early in the season will not define how this season will go for us."
Watt ready: Fullback Derek Watt was held out of the second half against Arizona State because of what Andersen called fatigue. But he should be ready to play against Purdue.
Watt strained his hamstring while running down a kickoff in Week 1 against UMass and missed Wisconsin's Week 2 game against Tennessee Tech. He was involved only in running plays against Arizona State during the first half.
"He handled it until halftime," Andersen said. "Just felt a little fatigued, I would say, at halftime, not injured, not re-tweaked at all. So we decided to move along in the second half and sit him down."
Honoring firefighters: Wisconsin defensive end Brendan Kelly, one of four senior captains for Saturday's game against Arizona State, held a No. 19 uniform in his hands as the teams met at mid-field before the contest.
The uniform served as a tribute to 19 firefighters who died battling a wild fire in Arizona on July 1. Arizona State players wore a "19" decal on their helmets, and the school's mascot did 19 pushups every time the Sun Devils scored.
Andersen said he was unaware of the tribute when asked Monday.
"B.K. had a jersey?" he said. "My bet was something like that would be … First of all, I let the captains be picked by the leadership committee, and my bet, if B.K. did something like that, it was to have great respect again for somebody within the community or within Badger Nation.
"I was unaware of it, but there's a lot of things these kids do in the community that are such a positive thing that I don't know about. I try to let that leadership committee really handle themselves in some situations."
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