Badgers keep pace in race for Big Ten title with win over Purdue

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Landon Feichter did everything he could to keep Purdue's slim bowl hopes alive.

The senior safety forced a fumble, recovered a fumble, prevented one possible touchdown pass with a breakup and intercepted another pass Saturday. Heck, he even returned punts.

But Feichter and his teammates still came up short. Melvin Gordon rushed for 205 yards and one score, and Joel Stave threw for a season high 219 yards and two touchdowns, leading No. 25 Wisconsin to a 34-16 victory and ending Purdue's postseason chances.

"It hurts," Feichter said after playing the best game of his five-year career. "Don't get me wrong, this team is not giving up on the season. But not being able to go to a bowl, it hurts."

Feichter finished with 12 tackles, 10 solo.

For the rest of the Boilermakers (3-7, 1-5 Big Ten), it was a forgettable day.

Purdue rushed 26 times for 26 yards. Austin Appleby finished 17 of 37 for 204 yards with one touchdown, was sacked four times and fumbled once. Akeem Hunt had nine carries for 12 yards and five catches for 81 yards, 79 coming on the Boilermakers only touchdown. And Purdue lost its fourth in a row and its ninth in a row against the Badgers (7-2 4-1, No. 25 CFP).

"I have to do a better job of being on rhythm and finding a safe spot in the pocket and putting the ball right on (the receivers)," Appleby said.

Stave, who lost his starting job before the season and hadn't thrown a pass in Wisconsin's first four games, was brilliant early.

He went 15 of 19 for 190 yards with two touchdown passes in just two quarters.

Even more impressive was the way he used a series of laser-like throws to convert third downs and then followed up with two beautiful touch passes for scores as the Badgers drove into a stiff wind. Stave played so well that coach Gary Andersen scrapped his plan to rotate quarterbacks for a while. Stave wasn't bothered one bit by the chilly, blustery conditions at Ross-Ade Stadium.

"We know that playing in November, the weather is not going to be great, but today really wasn't too bad," Stave said after going 19 of 29 for 219 yards and threw one interception in the second half.

With Gordon running over and around defenders yet again, that was more than enough.

Wisconsin has won four straight, the last three by 18 or more points, nine straight in the series and six straight in West Lafayette, Indiana. And though the Badgers still find themselves in a three-way tie atop the West Division, they know that if Stave and Gordon continue playing this way, they could be headed back to Indianapolis next month for another conference championship game.

Their stingy defense was pretty good, too.

It allowed 230 total yards, limited the Boilermakers (3-7, 1-5) to 26 yards rushing on 26 carries, had four sacks, 10 tackles for loss and only one major breakdown — the long TD pass that got Purdue within 24-16.

After that, Appleby was under constant duress. He finished 17 of 37 with 204 yards and the one score.

Things didn't go exactly according to Wisconsin's script either.

Gordon's first score, a 14-yard run, gave Wisconsin a 7-3 lead. His second changed the game.

Gordon caught Stave's lob pass in stride on the sideline and got it into the end zone after hurdling Purdue cornerback Leroy Clark at the goal line. The 27-yard score made it 17-6. Stave closed the half with a brilliant final drive capped by Alex Erickson's 9-yard TD catch in the back of the end zone with 32 seconds to go for a 24-6 halftime lead.

But the Badgers bogged down in the second half.

Gordon fumbled on the second offensive play, and Paul Griggs converted it into a 52-yard field goal. The Purdue kicker also made a 53-yarder in the first half, becoming the first player in school history with two field goals of 50 or more yards in one game.

Wisconsin turned it over on downs at the Purdue 16 and three plays later Appleby connected with Hunt on the long TD pass.

The Boilermakers had a chance to get even closer when it appeared Raheem Mostert recovered an onside kick, but the replay overturned the call and Wisconsin clinched the game on Tanner McEvoy's 14-yard TD run with 1:05 left in the third quarter.

It's a combination the Badgers have been waiting all season to see.

"Our balance on offense definitely was a step in the right direction," Andersen said. "We ran the ball well at times, and we threw the ball well at times. That mix was good to see."