First-year Purdue coach Ryan Walters dove into a self-scouting assignment ahead of the Boilermakers' opening Big Ten assignment, a Friday night home game against Wisconsin in West Lafayette, Ind.
First-year Wisconsin coach Luke Fickell believes the Badgers (2-1) are ready to peak, pointing to a furious rally from down 14-7 on their home field in the third quarter to Georgia Southern. The Badgers punched in four second-half touchdowns and won 35-21.
"Rome wasn't built in three weeks, but we're hoping that Madison was built a little bit different right now in the first three weeks," Fickell said.
Fickell has a few things to fall back on, even as he's still getting familiar with Madison. For starters, Wisconsin has 16 consecutive wins over Purdue. The last time the Boilermakers knocked off Wisconsin in West Lafayette, Ind., an undersized freshman quarterback named Drew Brees was a backup (1997).
Based on what Walters saw in his self-assessment, the 2023 Boilermakers (1-2) have two glaring issues they hope to erase in this primetime matchup: turnovers and pass defense.
"No need to push the panic button now, but definitely need to continue to grow and improve, which I think this team will do as the year goes on," Walters said.
Purdue quarterback Hudson Card committed four turnovers (three fumbles) last week in a 15-point loss at Ross-Ade Stadium to Syracuse. Walters said he's not considering a change at that position. Card, who passed for 323 yards in the loss to the Orange, knows killing the giveaways is a must for Purdue to contend against the Badgers and their Big Ten brethren.
"I feel like he's been poised under pressure. He doesn't really get rattled. He has great arm talent and is athletic enough to get you out of some situations and make plays," Walters said. "I think he's becoming comfortable with his receiving corps and they're comfortable with him, so I think that we would all be feeling a lot different right now if we didn't have the turnovers we had when we had them."
Wisconsin wants to get running back Braelon Allen going as he acclimates to a more diverse role with increased receiving responsibilities in the new Badgers' scheme. Allen rushed for 94 yards and two scores last week, when he was a game-time decision vs. Georgia Southern. Chez Mellusi started and rushed for 61 yards and a TD on 15 carries.
Considering that UW quarterback Tanner Mordecai can move and Purdue was ripped for four rushing touchdowns by Syracuse quarterback Garrett Shrader (195 rushing yards, 184 passing last week), Wisconsin might look more like a throwback Badgers' power offense this week.
"It's contagious when everyone does their job," Mordecai said.
--Field Level Media