It has been a long time since the Purdue Boilermakers defeated the Wisconsin Badgers. The feat hasn’t happened in over a decade. Wisconsin has won the last 11 meetings.
Purdue won the two prior meetings. One of which took place in 2003. The other one, took place during a magical year: 2000. This was a time when Joe Tiller walked the sidelines, watching his quarterback Drew Brees sling the ball downfield.
The Badgers that season, led by current AD and occasional fill-in coach Barry Alvarez, were pretty good in their own right. Granted, it’s hard to top the ’99 Rose Bowl campaign that featured a 2,000-yard rushing Heisman winner. However, Wisconsin was a stable, solid program.
Both teams jumped out of the gates picking up early season non-conference wins. Wisconsin started 3-0, which included wins over Oregon and Cincinnati. Purdue won two of its first three games, though. They had easy wins over Central Michigan and Kent State but lost 23-21 to Notre Dame, thanks to a 38-yard game-winning field goal by Nick Setta.
The Boilermakers bounced back by winning three of its next four, including a 32-31 upset over sixth-ranked Michigan. Meanwhile, close losses to Northwestern and Michigan, as well as a third to Ohio State, dropped Wisconsin to a 3-3 record. The week before the Purdue game, Wisconsin got back on track with a win over Michigan State.
Purdue and Wisconsin found itself in interesting positions. The Boilermakers knew a win would improve their chances of winning the Big Ten and going to the Rose Bowl. Wisconsin couldn’t afford to lose any more conference games.
The two teams faced off on a fall day at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison. It featured backup quarterback Jim Sorgi in for Brooks Bollinger, who was injured. This would be a game in which Drew Brees became the Big Ten’s all-time leading passer. However, neither team scored or did much on offense during their first two drives of the game. In fact, neither team scored during the first quarter.
However, Sorgi had a touchdown pass, and Michael Bennett ran one in for a score as the Badgers took a 14-7 lead into halftime. Brees also had a touchdown pass during the first half.
It wouldn’t take long for Purdue to bounce back. On the opening drive of the second half, Brees completed a 15-yard pass to Seth Morales on 3rd and 9 at the Wisconsin 21. This set up a six-yard TD run by Brees to tie the game early in the third quarter.
Wisconsin regained the lead on the next drive with a Vital Piesetsky 35-yard field goal.
The Purdue offense wasn’t even close to being done. Brees connected again with Morales, this time on a 78-yard touchdown pass to put the Boilermakers ahead 21-17.
Purdue added a 44-yard field goal about halfway through the fourth quarter, courtesy of Travis Dorsch, to make it 24-17.
Time started to run out for Wisconsin. They appeared in danger of losing another Big Ten game. Wisconsin set themselves up in good field position, their 38-yard line, thanks to a strong kick return by Nick Davis.
From there, the Badgers relied on Bennett to power his way through for first downs, with the occasional throws by Sorgi.
Wisconsin made it all the way to the Purdue five-yard line and faced a 4th and 1 situation. Sorgi found John Sigmund in the end zone for a touchdown pass. It was all tied 24-all.
Both teams had opportunities to try and get the game-winning score, however, they would need overtime to determine a winner.
The Badgers got the ball first in overtime. It didn’t go very well for them. The first two plays, which included a Bennett run on first down, led to no yardage for Wisconsin. A false start moved them back five yards. On 3rd and 15, defensive end Akin Ayodele broke through and sacked Sorgi, putting Wisconsin at the Purdue 40.
With it being 4th and 25, Purdue at little choice but to attempt what would turn out to be a 58-yard field goal. The Boilermakers broke though, easily blocking the kick (officially by Craig Terrill, according to the stats at the time).
As the ball bounced away from the line of scrimmage, Ashante Woodyard scooped up the ball and took it the remaining 36-yards into the end zone, giving Purdue a win and stunning the crowd in Camp Randall.
That win was important for Purdue. It kept them in the Big Ten conversation. It featured a solid passing performance by Brees, who went 21-for-43 for 274 yards and two touchdowns. But Sorgi held his own, especially in the backup role, going 21-of-29 for 243 yards and two touchdowns.
The loss hurt Wisconsin, though. They were now 4-4 on the season and 1-4 in Big Ten play. It wouldn’t destroy their season. The Badgers went on to win their last five games of the season, including the Sun Bowl over UCLA.
As for Purdue, the following week they knocked off 12th-ranked Ohio State and would reach ninth in the country in the polls. The four-game winning streak came to an end two weeks after the Ohio State game with a road loss at Michigan State. A week later they defeated Indiana and thanks to a tiebreaker they were the Big Ten champions.
It would be the first Rose Bowl trip for the Boilermakers since 1966. Since then, Purdue hasn’t made it to a major bowl game.
We’re now starting to see the turnaround of Purdue. Jeff Brohm has injected excitement into a program that hasn’t really seen it for more than a decade. Whether they can go through the roadblock known as Wisconsin remains to be seen. If they do pull off the upset, it will undoubtedly be one of the biggest wins Purdue has had since that magical season in 2000.