Banged-up Boilers prep for No. 25 Wisconsin
At 333.4 yards a game, the Badgers (6-2, 3-1) lead the Big Ten and rank second nationally. Furthermore, in it's three most recent meetings with the Boilermakers (3-6, 1-4), Wisconsin has averaged 406.3 rushing yards.
The task became more difficult for the Boilermakers after a Nov. 1 loss at No. 15 Nebraska, during which several key defenders were injured.
Safety Frankie Williams (concussion) will not play Saturday, and nose guard Ra'Zahn Howard will be a game-time decision with a sprained foot. linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley suffered a broken hand at Nebraska and while he is expected to play, he did not practice Wednesday or Thursday.
Ryan Russell suffered an injured ankle at Nebraska but the defensive end also is expected to play. Defensive end Jalani Phillips (bruised thigh), safety Taylor Rivhards (sprained foot) and defensive end Evan Panfil (sprained toe) also are nursing injuries but should play.
Wisconsin has rushed for at least 280 yards in each of its past six games, led by running back Melvin Gordon, who ranks second nationally with 162 yards a game. In two games against Purdue, Gordon is averaging 9.87 yards per carry.
''It all comes down to being able to stop the great back that they have,'' Purdue coach Darrell Hazell said. ''It's a monumental task. He is a very good player. He is really, really fast to the hole. He also has the top end speed once he hits the edge. He will run for 2 yards or 3 yards and then all of a sudden will hit the 70-harder.''
Purdue starting safety Landon Feichter said there is only one way the Boilermakers can win.
''We have to tackle,'' Feichter said. ''If we miss a tackle, it could be a 70-yard run. We have to put our emphasis on tackling.''
Hazell has watched hours of Wisconsin game action and understands why the Badgers are so successful running the ball.
''They trade the tight ends, and they run zone,'' Hazell said. ''They run a little bit of power, but they are a zone football team. They are going to run it over and over again from condensed formations. They really are good at combination blocks and then getting to the second level.''
Here are some things to watch in Saturday's game:
Wisconsin has won 27 consecutive games with 11 a.m. Central Time starts. Saturday's another chance for Wisconsin, which has won five consecutive games in West Lafayette. The Badgers have not lost an 11 a.m. kickoff since Oct. 17, 2009 against Iowa.
WIN OUT TO BOWL:
In 2012, Purdue was 3-6 with three games to play and defeated Iowa, Illinois and Indiana to earn a bowl bid.
''There's no more pressure than there is any other week,'' Hazell said. ''You prepare as hard as you can for that opponent, and you put yourself in the best position to win the football game. In three weeks (bowl eligibility issues) take care of themselves.''
Having lost leading receiver Danny Anthroo for the season with a knee injury at Nebraska, Hazell has decided to go with a first-year player in the starting lineup against Wisconsin.
Freshman Trae Hart will start at wide receiver. Hart has one reception this season for 12 yards.
With Williams out with the concussion, Feichter is expected to return punts against the Badgers.
Since a surprising 20-14 loss on Oct. 4 at Northwestern, the Badgers have average 42.3 points in beating Illinois, Maryland and Rutgers.
Wisconsin's 34:11 average time of possession this season ranks fifth among all FBS schools. Purdue's average time of possession is only 28:51.