On October 31, the Purdue Boilermakers football team headed to Madison, Wisconsin looking to “treat” itself to a third consecutive win.
Instead, the Boilers walked straight into a house of horrors at Camp Randall Stadium.
And that about sums up Halloween for the Old Gold and Black.
Purdue put together its most miserable performance of the season Saturday afternoon in Wisconsin, and the Badgers made them pay, posting a 37-0 shutout victory in a game that may have, remarkably, been uglier than even the lopsided final score indicated.
After not committing a single giveaway against Illinois last time out, the Boilermakers reverted to their turnover-prone ways, throwing a red zone interception and getting a punt blocked to hand 14 points to the home team.
Couple that with a complete lack of rushing defense (Purdue was gashed for 266 yards on the ground), some serious Butterfingers from the offense (okay, that was the last Halloween candy joke, I promise), and it all added up to the program’s worst loss since the 1996 season.
The Badgers set the tone for how the contest would play out on their opening drive, marching 80 yards in 11 plays without even thinking about attempting a pass. The visiting Boilermakers didn’t have an answer for Wisconsin’s John Clay, who finished the day with 123 rushing yards and a career-high three touchdowns.
As the game wore on, Clay repeatedly used his patented stiff-arm to leave would-be tacklers sprawled in his wake, and the punishing tailback was all the offense the Badgers would need to outscore a sputtering Purdue attack.
Boilermaker quarterback Joey Elliott had a day to forget, hitting on only 5 of 23 passes for 59 yards before giving way to backup Caleb TerBush late in the third quarter (with the outcome long since decided).
Elliott was victimized by an astonishing number of drops from his wide receivers, so he doesn’t deserve sole blame for the horrendous completion percentage, but still…let’s just say he won’t be sending this highlight tape home for family and friends.
The entire game in Madison can basically be summed up by examining Purdue’s first drive after halftime. Elliott threw an incompletion on first down, with no receiver in sight…a wide-open Aaron Valentin dropped an easy catch on second down…usually sure-handed Keith Smith dropped a routine pass on third down…the Boilermakers committed a false start simply trying to punt the ball away on fourth down.
When Wisconsin finally got the football, their not-so-speedy tight end (who a few of the Purdue cheerleaders might have been able to beat in a footrace) raced 54 yards down the sideline on an end-around play that had already fooled the Boilers a handful of times in the game.
Things got so bad for the Boilermakers that the Wisconsin student section actually cheered for a TerBush fourth-quarter completion to tight end Kyle Adams. It was Purdue’s first pass completion of the second half, coming more than 18 minutes of game-time after intermission.
With their record falling to 3-6, Danny Hope’s team needs to win out to qualify for a bowl game, and that task falls somewhere between difficult and impossible, considering the next destination.
The Boilermakers head to Ann Arbor Saturday to take on the free-falling Wolverines, who have dropped four of their last five contests. Purdue has historically struggled at Michigan, and will be looking for its first victory in the Big House since the days of Bob Griese, over 40 years ago.
The Boilers could snap another long slide with a win in Michigan, as they haven’t won a road game anywhere since 2007 at Minnesota. If Purdue can pull the upset, they have a solid chance to reach 6-6 on the year by beating sub-.500 foes Michigan State and Indiana to close the regular season. Unfortunately, history is against the Boilers.
But after a 37-0 beatdown, there’s nowhere to go but up, right?
Week Ten prediction: Michigan 34, Purdue 19
For more Big Ten football coverage from Bleacher Report writers Tim Cary, Kristofer Green, and Kevin Paul, visit FirstandBigTen.com .