MADISON, Wis.| On the surface, a 17-9 win over Purdue is far from impressive. The Boilermakers are clearly tougher under new coach Jeff Brohm and continued to fight despite falling behind by two scores in the first half, but it’s still a program that has been at the bottom of the Big Ten for more than a decade. That said, after what happened all over the college football world this weekend, the Badgers should take their 6-0 record and run. Because while four top-10 teams fell to unranked opponents, and a total of five unbeaten clubs picked up their first losses of the season, coach Paul Chryst and company are off to the school’s best start since 2011.
Why did they avoid the pitfalls the others could not? Because they made the necessary plays that the likes of No. 2 Clemson and No. 4 Washington could not against double-digit underdogs. Whether it was Leon Jacobs’ clutch fourth-quarter interception, or redshirt freshman Kendric Pryor converting a key third-down with his first career catch or sophomore Quintez Cephus pushing his way through two defenders on another third down to help keep Wisconsin’s final drive going, the Badgers came through at the most important times. Wisconsin found ways to win that others did not.
After the game, though, fans took to social media and post-game radio shows to bemoan how Wisconsin won, including being critical of the Badgers inability to finish possessions and the play of quarterback Alex Hornibrook. And it’s easy to see why they complain, considering the offense rolled up 494 yards yet scored just 17 points, while the angst over Hornibrook’s struggles in Big Ten play grew as the day went on, with the sophomore throwing two more interceptions, bringing his total to five in the last three games. Those are legitimate gripes, but they come on the same weekend in which seven top-25 teams fell and the number of unbeaten teams went from 13 to eight.
There were others worried that efforts like Saturday will haunt Wisconsin when it comes time for the College Football Playoff committee to choose its four teams, but that’s foolish. The Badgers only path into the playoff is to win all of their games. It was that way before the season, and it’s even more evident now. 6-0 is 6-0 no matter how they got there.
So, again, when you turn the ball over three times, commit eight debilitating penalties and get a punt blocked, yet still come out on top, you take that win and run. Yes, you acknowledge your mistakes and work to get better, but you don’t have to apologize to anyone. On this weekend, a win was a win.