Early scoring flurry sends No. 6 Wisconsin past Purdue 49-20

Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Watt (42) returns an interception for a touchdown past Purdue quarterback David Blough (11) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in West Lafayette, Ind., Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Watt (42) returns an interception for a touchdown past Purdue quarterback David Blough (11) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in West Lafayette, Ind., Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — No. 6 Wisconsin did everything it could to get back in the College Football Playoff chase Saturday.

It’s probably going to take more than a blowout at Purdue.

T.J. Watt returned an interception 17 yards for a touchdown, and the Badgers scored 35 points in the final 8½ minutes of the first half of a 49-20 victory against the lowly Boilermakers.

Now comes the hard part: Figuring out if Wisconsin belongs in college football’s Final Four.

“When we looked at our schedule, we thought that there wasn’t one that we couldn’t win,” quarterback Alex Hornibrook said. “We thought we would win every one of them. We did a good job focusing from week to week.”

To have any chance, the Badgers must keep winning. Wisconsin (9-2, 6-2, No. 7 CFP) has won five straight and can clinch the Big Ten’s West Division title with a win next weekend.

Two more victories, and the Badgers would be right in the mix. But to pull that off, they are going to need a better start than they had against Purdue, when they were hampered by a stagnant ground game, ineffective passing attack and struggling defense.

Then coach Paul Chryst inserted fifth-year senior Bart Houston at QB, and everything changed. The opening-day starter immediately led Wisconsin on an 87-yard drive that ended with Alec Ingold’s 1-yard plunge for a 7-3 lead. Watt picked off David Blough on the next offensive play.

Bradrick Shaw scored on a 7-yard run with 3:03 left in the half. After another Blough interception, Houston hooked up with a wide-open Ingold on a 19-yard TD pass and Shaw added a 33-yard TD run in the last minute of the half.

All the Boilermakers (3-8, 1-7) mustered during the stretch was a 75-yard TD pass from Blough to DeAngelo Yancey.

“I have to do my job,” Blough said. “I can’t do my job just half the time. The turnovers hurt. We can’t turn it over and expect to be in the game against one of the top teams in the country. With those two interceptions, it was one big joke with one batted ball and then another batted ball.”

Corey Clement rushed for 112 yards and a touchdown for Wisconsin.