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Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, Indiana Attendance: 55,529
Badgers' ground game overwhelms Boilermakers in 38-17 victory
By MICHAEL MAROT
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) The Wisconsin Badgers wanted to celebrate their conference-opening win at Purdue.
It wasn't much of one.
Not after they watched running back Chez Mellusi down on the ground after getting tackled late in Friday’s 38-17 victory at Purdue. Not after seeing trainers put his left leg in an air cast. Not even after rushing to his side to show their support as Mellusi was carted off the field.
Instead, they waited for news on the injury - and to get him back in the locker room.
“I don’t know a lot just yet,” first-year coach Luke Fickell said when asked about the severity of the injury. “It doesn’t look good. I think he’s coming home from the hospital now."
The Badgers (3-1, 1-0) had been splitting carries between Mellusi and third-year back Braelon Allen through this season’s first three games and again Friday night - until Mellusi’s left leg appeared to get bent inward as he was tackled with 6:37 left to play.
Wisconsin rebounded from the emotional jolt to finally put away a game in which Allen ran for 116 yards and two scores, Mellusi added 11 carries for 39 yards and quarterback Tanner Mordecai ran 14 times for 58 yards with scoring runs on the Badgers’ first two possessions.
Mordecai lso threw for 174 yards and caught two passes, the first a 19-yarder to set up his second score and the second on a 2-point conversion to help seal the game.
Fickell had no complaints with the offense's performance.
“He (Mordecai) ’s an aggressive guy, not a ton of those (runs) were true calls,” he said. “But he’s smart, he understands. We had to come out, had to play fast.”
The result: Wisconsin has won two straight overall and continued to dominate the series. The Badgers extended their winning streak over the Boilermakers to 17 and still have not lost at Ross-Ade Stadium since 1997.
Purdue (1-3, 0-1) struggled in the first half when the Badgers converted eight straight third downs before finally getting a stop. But by then, they were already down 21-3.
“There’s a lot of different things that contributed to this loss, so it’s frustrating,” Purdue coach Ryan Walters said after falling to 0-3 at home in his first season. “We’re not playing complimentary football right now.”
The Boilermakers did make it interesting after holding Wisconsin to a field goal to start the second half. Quarterback Hudson Card sped up the offense and Tyrone Tracy Jr. capitalized with a 20-yard TD run to make it 24-10.
When Wisconsin settled for another field goal, Card found an opening by sprinting from the harsh mark closest to Purdue's sideline across the field for a 6-yard TD to cut the deficit to 27-17.
The Badgers closed it out with a field goal, Allen's second touchdown, two late turnovers and a turnover on downs. But it was the loss of Mellusi that tamped down the celebration.
“I think we grew up a little bit more tonight,” Fickell said. “The guys really kind of bowed up and finished well.”
Card was 21 of 38 with 202 yards and two interceptions while rushing 13 times for 50 yards. Tracy had eight carries for 84 yards and Deion Burks caught six passes for 73 yards for the Boilermakers.
Wisconsin: Three up-and-down games and a befuddling defensive letdown Friday wasn't how new coach Luke Fickell expected to start. But on a short week, they still seemed to take a step forward. They overpowered the Boilermakers run defense and had some intriguing wrinkles in their new offense. The loss of Mellusi hurts, but Wisconsin must eliminate penalties - and find consistency.
Purdue: The defending Big Ten West champions opened this season with so much promise under new coach Ryan Walters. But after four games, the Boilermakers have just one win. The defense struggled in Week 1, the offense turned the ball over in Week 3 and while they fought back in the second half, they came up short. Again.
Wisconsin: Mellusi's injury is yet another in his career. He missed four games with a wrist injury last season and tore his ACL in 2021.
Purdue played without injured kicker Ben Freehill and tight end Garrett Miller dislocated a finger in the first quarter. Defensive tackle Cole Brevard and linebacker Kydran Jenkins also left the game briefly in the first half.
Wisconsin: Takes next week off before returning to action Oct. 7 against Rutgers.
Purdue: Concludes a three-game homestand against Walters former team, Illinois, next Saturday.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll
Updated September 23, 2023