Oct 22, 2022; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers safety John Torchio (15) returns an interception for a touchdown during the first quarter against the Purdue Boilermakers at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin Badgers Narrowly Escape Purdue 35-24

A scoring frenzy in the first quarter ultimately led the Wisconsin Badgers to a 35-24 victory over the visiting Purdue University (IN) Boilermakers. This win is the Badgers’ first conference win of the season, improving their overall record to 4-4 and their conference record to 2-3. It is also Jim Leonhard’s first home win as the interim head coach of the program.

First Quarter Duds? Not Anymore!

Entering Saturday’s game, the Badgers averaged 4.7 points scored in the first quarter, continuing the trend from last season where the team averaged a mere 4.8 points scored.

But, something changed in the minds of the players Saturday.

The team scored 21 points in the first quarter, the most they’ve scored in the first quarter all season, including the first time they have scored in double digits in the quarter.  Only a couple minutes into the game, quarterback Graham Mertz set up the team’s first drive with a pass to Skylar Bell at the team’s 29-yard line, leading to a gain of 27 yards to Purdue’s 44-yard line. A couple of plays later, Mertz found Bell again, this time for a trip to the endzone.

Bell finished the day with four total receptions for 87 yards and that first-quarter touchdown. Mertz would also find the endzone one more time, connecting with Chimire Dike on a 3-yard touchdown late in the first quarter.

Torchio Leads Defense in Win

You can consider Purdue quarterback Aidan O’Donnell “torched” after Saturday’s game.

While O’Donnell did throw for 320 yards and a touchdown, senior safety John Torchio created constant pressure on both O’Donnell as well as the Purdue offense all day. Torchio finished with 10 total tackles on the afternoon (three solo tackles), as well as one pass deflection and two interceptions, one of which resulted in a touchdown in the Badgers’ 21-point first quarter.

Purdue Keeps it Close in the End

Purdue’s offense woke up in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Badgers 14-0. Running back Devin Mockobee scored his only touchdown of the day with 12 minutes left in the game. A disputable call in which a replay was necessary to confirm the score, Mockobee added that touchdown to his 107-yards rushing on the afternoon on 23 carries. Late in the quarter, O’Donnell ran a one-yard touchdown himself, making the score 35-24. A botched onside kick finished Purdue’s afternoon, giving the Badgers the victory.

What’s Next?

Following Saturday’s win, the Badgers have their bye week. The team will remain at home following the bye, hosting the University of Maryland Terrapins (6-2, 3-2). The Terrapins are on pace to have their best season yet under head coach Mike Locksley and are one win away from tying their win total from last season (7).

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