WEST LAFAYETTE — Big Ten play on the Wisconsin defense has been no surprise this season, and it certainly wasn’t this Saturday in the Badgers 49-20 win.
The first quarter started off slow for both the offense and defense, but by the second quarter the defense were both making the big plays against Purdue’s offense and giving their own offense the field position to put up 49 points to Purdue’s 20.
“Obviously, we’re not going to have any excuses, but it’s different playing in a cold environment and this environment in general.” outside linebacker T.J Watt said of the first quarter. “We just had to get momentum going.”
Watt may have made the top defensive play in college football this weekend on his interception for a touchdown run, something that even his older brother J.J. hadn’t done in his time at UW. This was the first career interception for Watt.
“To knock it down is a really good play. To get a pick is a really good play,” head coach Paul Chryst said of Watt’s performance.
With 8 minutes left in the second quarter, Watt picked off a pass by Purdue’s David Blough and ran in back 17 yards for the touchdown that put Wisconsin up 14-3.
“Instincts took over,” he said.
Watt’s performance set up a chain reaction of plays for the defense on Saturday. Just in the second quarter, the defense intercepted Blough three times.
Inside linebacker T.J. Edwards got a tip and a pick on Blough that would lead to a one-play offensive drive from Houston to Ingold that resulted in Wisconsin’s third touchdown. Not only that, Edwards also had a sack and a tackle for a loss on Saturday.
With nine seconds left in the first half, safety Leo Musso made the third and final interception on Blough that gave some attention to the Wisconsin secondary after big plays by the linebacking unit.
“I honestly I didn’t realize it was a one-handed grab until someone told me on the sidelines. It kind of just happened so fast. You get excited you get a pick. You don’t realize what’s going on,” Musso said.
The defense was able to keep Purdue off the field with Wisconsin controlling the time of possession 38 to 21 minutes.
“When the plays did come, we were able to capitalize on those plays, provide short fields for our offense and in turn, for them to go out and execute and get some points. Credit to guys, we’re going to continue to have to make some big times plays for our team if we want to get to that fun conversation at the end of our season,” outside linebacker Vince Biegel said.
Biegel recorded both a sack and a tackle for a loss on Saturday. As one of the leaders on this defense, Biegel stressed the importance of this freshman class of players in contributing to this team.
“I think that’s been a credit to our whole team. We’ve been able to stay focused this whole year. It’s the credit to the coaching staff of recruiting the type of Wisconsin guys that we talk about. It’s a credit to the freshman that came in and being able to be coachable, understanding the culture of week to week focused, understanding what we expect as Wisconsin football players. We’ve had a great group of young men coming in. It’s been one of my favorite group of Wisconsin classes. They’ve done a great job of buying into the system and moving forward and getting our wins each week.”
The Wisconsin defense will play their final game of the season at home next weekend against the Minnesota Gophers. For older players such as Biegel, the importance of this Wisconsin-Minnesota rivalry goes without saying.
“They’re hungry for a win against us. It’s a trophy game. It’s a border battle. A lot of storylines. A lot of things on the line this game.”
And a win against Minnesota is a trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship.
“We’ve got to have a great week of preparation so we can have that conversation there at the end of that game,” Biegel said.