Montee Ball's career day lifts Wisconsin past Purdue

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Wisconsin wasn't worried when it trailed at halftime against upstart Purdue.

After all, the Badgers were in a similar situation at Iowa two weeks earlier and came out with a win. So the Badgers skipped the motivational speech some teams might use.

"We knew we were going to come out and play Wisconsin football and play smashmouth football, and that's what we do," running back Montee Ball said. "We had a chance to come in, sit down and talk about what the goals were and our mistakes and we got a chance to correct them, and we came out and performed."

It was that simple for the no-nonsense Badgers. Ball ran for a career-high 127 yards and two touchdowns, and Wisconsin (No. 9 BCS, No. 7 AP) rallied to beat Purdue 34-13 on Saturday.

Ball, who got extra work because starter John Clay was a bit dinged up and No. 2 running back James White was out with a knee injury, had scoring runs of 31 and 15 yards for the Badgers (8-1, 4-1 Big Ten).

"I knew I was going to play this game, get more carries than I did before in a game situation," Ball said. "I knew the team was going to look at me and expect me to carry the load. I didn't want to let them down at all."

Clay was held to 42 yards on 12 carries.

Purdue led 10-6 at halftime, but Wisconsin's defense dominated the second half. 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.

"We kind of saw their offensive plan," Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said. "We thought we might be able to get our hands on a couple balls and we talked about being opportunistic. Defensively, I thought our guys really played well in the second half."

Purdue quarterback Sean Robinson passed for 141 yards and ran for 31 in his first start. He stepped in for Rob Henry, who sat out with a cut finger on his right hand. Antavian Edison had six catches for 73 yards for the Boilermakers (4-5, 2-3).

It was a tough loss for Purdue, which had lost its previous two against Ohio State and Illinois by a combined score of 93-10. Aside from turnovers, the statistics were fairly even. Both teams gained 303 yards of offense, but Purdue was minus-3 in turnover margin.

"We've got a good football team," Purdue coach Danny Hope said. "We played really hard today. It's tough to win when you commit four turnovers."

Purdue won the coin toss and deferred, then recovered an onside kick. But a Purdue player was offsides and the Boilermakers settled for a conventional kickoff after the penalty.

Wisconsin threatened to score on its second possession, but Philip Welch missed a 40-yard field goal with 5:23 left in the first quarter.

Robinson ran for two first downs, then completed a screen pass to Edison that he turned into a 23-yard touchdown to give the Boilermakers a 7-0 lead.

On Purdue's next possession, Keith Carlos was stopped on a third-and-3 at the Wisconsin 36, but Purdue went for it and converted. Robinson later completed a pass to Edison, but he fumbled, and Fenelus returned it 48 yards. A 44-yard field goal by Welch cut Purdue's lead to 7-3.

Welch made another field goal as time expired in the first half, but Purdue -- the same team that trailed Ohio State 42-0 at halftime -- led 10-6 at the break. It was the lowest-scoring half of the season for the Badgers, and the first time they failed to score a TD in a half.

"Give credit to Purdue, they came in all jacked up," Bielema said. "At halftime, we regrouped, I changed my jacket. I think we just wanted to take a different approach to the second half and relax. I told the guys that we didn't need any superhuman effort, we just need to go out there and execute the fundamentals of what we do."

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 the first down. On the next play, Scott Tolzien used a play-action fake, then found Jared Abbrederis near the back of the end zone for a 13-10 lead.

Wisconsin nearly added to its lead, but Ball's 42-yard TD run was called back because of holding. Gerald Gooden sacked Tolzien on the next play to take the Badgers out of scoring range.

Ball added a 31-yard touchdown with 6:20 left in the third quarter, and although Wiggs made a 35-yard field goal to cut Wisconsin's lead to 20-13, the Badgers added a pair of scores to put the game away -- and remain in the hunt for the Big Ten championship.

"We have great character and we never give up," Wisconsin defensive lineman J.J. Watt said. "We have to remember if we get down, we're not out. In the second half, we played the way a first-place team should play."

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