UW football: Remembering some recent thrilling moments in series with Purdue

2010-11-04T12:20:00Z 2010-11-06T15:01:48Z UW football: Remembering some recent thrilling moments in series with PurdueTom Mulhern | tmulhern@madison.com | 608-252-6169 madison.com

 Few people would put Purdue on a list of the University of Wisconsin football team's best rivals.

 In fact, when the Big Ten Conference made the announcement earlier in the season of the split for its two divisions when Nebraska joins the fray in 2011, few Badgers fans were excited about the prospect of being in the same division with Purdue.

 Yet, a case could be made that some of the Badgers' most exciting victories in the last dozen years have come against the Boilermakers.

 UW's 31-24 victory over Purdue in Madison in 1998 was an instant classic. That was the game in which Purdue quarterback Drew Brees set an NCAA record with 83 passing attempts and threw for 494 yards. But four interceptions thrown by Brees paved the way for the Badgers' victory.

 (Programming not: That game will be broadcast on Friday at 5 p.m. as part of the Big Ten Network's Greatest Game series.)

 The following year at Purdue, in what was billed as a Heisman Trophy elimination game, UW and tailback Ron Dayne bested Brees and the Boilermakers again, this time by a score of 28-21. That game was critical to Dayne winning the Heisman and the Badgers claiming a second straight Big Ten title.

 Then, in 2004 at Purdue, in Bret Bielema's first season as UW's defensive coordinator, the 10th-ranked Badgers escaped with a thrilling 20-17 victory against the fifth-ranked Boilermakers on cornerback Scott Starks' fumble recovery and return for a touchdown.

 There were plenty of reasons those were great games. They involved great teams, with great players -- and an interesting contrast in styles between the pass-happy Boilermakes and run-first Badgers. It made for compelling theater, regardless of any rivalry or connection between the two teams.

 That's a reminder about the uncertainty over the new-look Big Ten starting next season. Yes, the Boilermakes have fallen on hard times, but will they stay there? Nobody knows for sure. They could be one top quarterback recruit away from being a good team again.

 Just like nobody knows for sure what will happen at Penn State when coach Joe Paterno finally retires. Yes, the Nittany Lions should continue to be a top team, but the Michigan situation shows even powerhouse programs can make coaching mistakes that have lasting ramifications.

 The Boilermakers have the worst offense in the Big Ten this season, mostly due to quarterback injuries. It's unlikely the game on Saturday will be entertaining, much less another classic.

 But it doesn't mean things will always be that way.

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