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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Sunday, June 26, 2022
Vince Biegel

Vince Biegel and the Wisconsin defense will put the pressure on QB David Blough all afternoon. 

UW welcomes struggling Purdue

This Sunday will mark the 12-year anniversary of the last time Purdue (0-2 Big Ten, 1-5 overall) beat Wisconsin (1-1, 4-2). It isn’t easy to find many people who think that streak will end when the two teams play Saturday.

The Boilermakers’ season has been a bit of a mess, as their only win came Week 2 against the Indiana State Sycamores, and despite giving Michigan State a scare in their fifth game, their 13-41 loss to Minnesota last week was a microcosm of their season as a whole.

Many of Purdue’s issues have started with its offensive line. They can’t get good pass protection, particularly at the tackle positions, which doesn’t bode well for them as they go against the Badgers’ premier pass rushers.

“You definitely look at the weaknesses and focal points you can take advantage of on any offensive line,” redshirt junior outside linebacker Vince Biegel said. “Purdue has some strengths up front, and they have some weaknesses, and that’s what we’re going to attack.”

One way that Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda has attacked offensive lines is by lining up Biegel and redshirt senior outside linebacker Joe Schobert on the same side of the defense, forcing opposing offenses to shift their protection to one side, opening up one-on-one opportunities on the other.

“When me and Schobert are on the same side, it definitely draws some attention to us,” Biegel said. “It’s fun to pass rush with your buddy and have two guys who have the same kind of mindset and attack mode going at it.”

When Schobert and Biegel are “going at it,” it makes it very difficult for opposing quarterbacks. They’re hurried, under pressure, and never able to get comfortable, and this is what Purdue’s quarterbacks have had to deal with all season. It started with redshirt junior Austin Appleby, who was later benched for redshirt freshman David Blough.

Appleby’s benching was a result of his turnovers, having thrown six interceptions over the first three games. Then Blough took over, and he’s already thrown five in his three games. The redshirt freshman has already been sacked 10 times, though, and that pressure has clearly affected his performances.

It hasn’t been all bad from Blough. It’s hard to blame the quarterback too much, and Aranda knows the younger quarterback is doing his best with what he’s got.

“He’s got a great instinct in the pocket to run the ball,” Aranda said. “I think there’s a savviness to him. He’s been impressive with what he has had to work with.”

One of the few bright areas that Blough has had on his side is his young running back duo, led by sophomore D.J. Knox with freshman Markell Jones behind him. Knox has been more of  the workhorse, but with the struggling offensive line, he hasn’t been able to maintain consistency. Jones has provided a great change of pace, leading all freshmen running backs in the country with 6.2 yards per carry.

“I think the two tailbacks they have are good players,” Aranda said. “I think they’re probably the most skillful guys on that offense.”

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It all comes back to the Boilermaker offensive line. With poor protection, their offense stalls, putting the onus on their defense that isn’t able to hold up. Then they get behind on the scoreboard, their offense can’t catch up and they end up 1-5 heading into Camp Randall.

Wisconsin is a 24-point favorite in this game, despite coming off of two straight shaky Big Ten games. They say winning cures all, and a very favorable matchup against Purdue might be just what the doctor ordered for the Badgers. 

Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium. 

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