Taylor, Badgers wear down Purdue
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor kept pounding away on his thick, strong legs Saturday.
Eventually, his patience paid dividends.
Taylor wore down Purdue’s defense, finishing with a career-high 321 yards and scoring three times in the second half, including the decisive 17yard touchdown run in the third overtime, to lead the Badgers past Purdue 47-44.
“That’s something that you watch on TV,” Taylor said. “As a kid, you’re watching and saying that must feel amazing. This is the exact same feeling that you dream of.”
Except it was all real and the elements made this one tailor-made for the Badgers’ bruising back. On a cold, rainy day that turned into night, the 231-pound Taylor certainly packed a punch.
He matched his career high with 33 carries, averaging 9.7 yards per carry while scoring on runs of 80, 12 and 17 yards when the reeling Badgers needed a boost after their playoff aspirations and Big Ten title hopes had been derailed by three losses in their last five games — two of those without injured quarterback Alex Hornibrook who also missed Saturday’s game.
Taylor jump-started the Badgers’ offense with the 80-yard run on the first offensive play of the second half, helped open things up for the passing game with his strong runs and eventually created enough headaches for the Boilermakers to help Wisconsin overcome a 27-13 deficit in the final seven minutes of regulation before reaching the end zone in all three overtimes.
Wisconsin (7-4, 5-3) has won 13 straight in the series and needed to win this game and next week’s regular-season finale to improve their bowl prospects.
“Our guys played as hard as they could. They gave us great effort,” Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said, acknowledging his team needed more depth to stand up to Taylor. “This isn’t going to happen overnight, but if we compete and keep trying to push the envelope every year, hopefully we can improve on that. It will take some time.”
The loss ruined what looked like it would be a perfect send-off for three of t h e mo st p ro d u c t i ve Purdue players in school history — quarterback David Blough and running backs D.J. Knox and Markell Jones.
Blough was 31 of 48 with 386 yards and four touchdown passes in his final home game. Knox rushed for 39 yards and had 49 yards receiving with one TD and Jones bounced off a defender during a 12-yard scoring run that turned a 13-10 deficit into a 17-13 lead.
Freshman Rondale Moore overshadowed all three. He caught nine passes for 114 yards and two TDs, rushed four times for 27 yards and set up another score with a 33-yard kickoff return. His sensational 46yard catch-and-run for a third-quarter TD gave Purdue a 24-13 lead and he followed that by wiggling through four Badgers’ defenders for a 15-yard score to open the first overtime.
Taylor made sure it still wasn’t enough.
“They held them to a field goal,” Taylor said. “I decided to give everything in my power to show appreciation to our defense for stopping them.”