MADISON, Wis. — Jonathan Taylor ran for 219 yards on 30 carries, including a 67-yard touchdown, and No. 7 Wisconsin relied on its stifling defense to overcome a three-turnover afternoon and beat Purdue 17-9 on Saturday.
Alex Hornibrook was 13 of 18 for 199 yards and a score but threw two interceptions for the Badgers, who held on to beat another division foe and take a commanding lead in the Big Ten West.
Defense saved the game for Wisconsin (6-0, 3-0).
Purdue (3-3, 1-2) drove from its 39 to the Wisconsin 7 before linebacker Leon Jacobs stepped in front of a sideline pass to Jackson Winthrop, staying inbounds for an interception with 8:14 left in the game.
“We played really good team defense. And certainly, as much as those turnovers hurt, that was a huge takeaway by Leon,” coach Paul Chryst said.
The Badgers’ punishing ground game ran out the clock from there with a 16-play, 77-yard drive, getting 32 yards rushing on two important carries from backup Garrett Groshek.
“A great response by the offense to finish that game with the ball in their hands,” Chryst said.
Wisconsin lost three turnovers and had a punt blocked but still managed to win because its defense held the Boilermakers to just three points over the four ensuing series. Wisconsin is the only unbeaten team left in the West, and every team but Nebraska already has two defeats — and the Badgers beat the Cornhuskers last week.
The Badgers could have sealed their latest win much earlier, but the normally reliable Taylor fumbled at the Purdue 4 on the first play of the fourth quarter. The defense held again on that drive and forced another punt.
Purdue settled for three field goals, two from Spencer Evans.
“It was not enough execution. That’s a good defense and they put it to us,” coach Jeff Brohm said. “I think we hung in there and we could do a few things but the defense did a good job and they stopped us.”
Linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley led Purdue with 12 tackles, while cornerback Da’Wan Hunte and defensive end Danny Ezechukwu each had interceptions.
The Purdue defense recovered nicely after giving up the long touchdown run to Taylor on the game’s opening drive. Receiver Danny Davis threw a key block on fellow freshman Taylor’s 67-yard scamper up the middle for a 7-0 lead with 13:35 left in the first quarter.
Davis left the game in the fourth quarter with a left leg injury.
Purdue: The fact that the Boilermakers hung around into the fourth quarter speaks volumes about how much the defense has improved in just one season under first-year coach Brohm. It was especially impressive given that Purdue played without linebacker and leading tackler T.J. McCollum (ankle/knee). Purdue had 12 takeaways coming into the game.
“The turnovers were big for us,” Brohm said. “They gave us a chance to score points. We just could not capitalize offensively.”
Wisconsin: The defense held up in the second half in spite of losing two key players. Starting inside linebacker T.J. Edwards was ejected for targeting with 18 seconds left in the second quarter, and defensive end Isaiahh Loudermilk limped off the field in the first quarter with a left leg injury. But coordinator Jim Leonhard has depth and athleticism across the field.
Purdue: At Rutgers on Oct. 21.
Wisconsin: Hosts Maryland on Oct. 21 in a homecoming weekend game.