WEST LAFAYETTE – Joel Stave threw two touchdown passes and Melvin Gordon ran for 205 yards Saturday as No. 25 Wisconsin defeated Purdue 34-16.
The Badgers (7-2, 4-1 Big Ten) have won four straight overall and remained in a three-way tie atop the West Division with Nebraska and Minnesota. Wisconsin has won nine straight in the series and still hasn’t lost at Purdue since 1997.
The Boilermakers (3-7, 1-5) lost their fourth straight and fell out of bowl contention with the loss.
After Gordon ran for Wisconsin’s first score, he caught a 27-yard TD pass before Stave closed the half with a 9-yard TD pass to give the Badgers a 24-6 lead.
Purdue closed to 24-16 in the third quarter. But Tanner McEvoy’s 13-yard TD run late in the quarter sealed Wisconsin’s win.
For Stave, it was a breakout first half.
On a damp, chilly day, the former starter who only reclaimed his job last month looked as good as he has all season when he went 15 of 19 for 190 yards with the two TD passes in the first two quarters. He finished 19 of 29 for 219 yards with one interception.
With Gordon, one of the top Heisman candidates, having his third 200-yard game of the season, it was good enough. He carried 25 times. The Badgers ran for 264 yards altogether and pushed around the Boilers defense to the tune of 489 total yards. Purdue managed just 26 yards rushing against the Badgers defense, ranked No. 2 in the nation in total offense allowed.
But Stave changed the game in the second quarter when the Badgers were going into the stiff wind at Ross-Ade Stadium.
He used a laser-like touch to keep drives alive and completed two drives with beautiful touch passes for scores.
Gordon caught the first, a 27-yarder to Gordon down the left sideline, and hurdled Purdue defensive back Leroy Clark to sneak inside the pylon for a 17-6 lead.
The second, a 9-yarder to Alex Erickson in the back of the end zone, came in the final minute of the half as Stave managed the clock brilliantly. That made it 24-6.
In the second half, the Badgers bogged down.
Gordon fumbled on the second offensive play and Paul Griggs converted that into a 52-yard field goal. He made a 53-yarder in the first half and became the first Purdue player with two field goals of 50 or more yards in one game.
Wisconsin then turned it over on downs at the Purdue 16 and three plays later Austin Appleby hooked up with Akeem Hunt on a 79-yard TD pass to cut the deficit to 24-16. The Boilermakers tried to keep the momentum with an onside kick but the recovery by Raheem Mostert was overturned on replay and they never got any closer.
The Badgers clinched it late with 1:05 left in the third quarter as McEvoy’s score capped a four-play drive that included four straight runs of 13 or more yards to give Wisconsin a 31-16 lead.
Appleby was 17 of 37 for 204 yards with one touchdown.
Purdue safety Landon Feichter recorded a career-high-tying 12 tackles to go with an interception – his fifth of the season and third in the last two weeks – and a forced fumble that he also recovered.