Extra Watt-age

Extra Watt-age

Healthy for the first time since the season opener, sophomore tackle J.J. Watt continues to impress, as his performance, combine with his defensive linemates, shutdown Purdue's offense in a 37-0 blasting Saturday.

MADISON - Take a straw poll of what different members of the University of Wisconsin football team did over the bye week and you'll get a variety of answers from a variety of personalities.

Senior linebacker Jae McFadden caught up on what was happening in the world of college football, senior safety Chris Maragos helped his fiance with some wedding planning for their ceremony in April and sophomore J.J. Watt hit up a pumpkin farm and kept tabs on his high school, top-seeded Pewaukee, in the WIAA Playoffs.

No matter who do what, the bye week could not have come at a better time for Watt, who played his first 100 percent healthy game in Wisconsin's 37-0 win over Purdue Saturday since the season opener.

"In a Big Ten season, you're going to get tweaks, but it feels great to play a healthy game," Watt said. "I feel pretty darn good right now, and this feels great. The defense shut them out and we put 37 on the board. That's a great way to start off this second half of the season."

Entering the game, Wisconsin's defensive line had not allowed a conference team to rush for more than 100 yards and was limiting Big Ten opponents to just 77.2 yards per game on the ground, tops in the conference. Those numbers took a nose dive down Saturday, as the Boilermakers' 60 rushing yards were the lowest opponent total since UW held Michigan State to only 25 yards last November.

Watt was already impressed when he thought the Badgers had held the Boilermakers to less than 180 yards of total offense. Imagine his glee when he found out that number was even lower.

"That's even more impressive," said Watt when he was total the actual number was a 141 total yards. "That's a good rushing, but to hold them to under 150 yards total offense, especially a team that is as explosive as Purdue, that's big for us."

Second on the team in tackles for loss (8.5 for 28 yards) and tied for seventh in tackles (24) entering the game, Watt began to show what a healthy Watt could do against Iowa two weeks ago, registering a personal-best eight tackles and four TFLs.

Regardless, the game left a sour taste in his mouth, as the defense let Iowa score 20 unanswered points and convert five third downs in the second half, one of which was resulted by Watt being offsides

"I wanted to get back out there and avenge those two losses," Watt said. "Having to sit with those two losses the past two weeks has been tough. We want to win, and I know the fans don't like having to sit on those two games with nothing to watch last week."

Battling the flu and ankle sprains since playing in his first game as a Badger, Watt never wavered with his confidence or use weakness as an excuse, a big reason the sophomore, who was put on scholarship by UW coach Bret Bielema in the spring, has started every game.

"He's really a motivational, inspirational person," said linemate Louis Nzegwu, who lives with Watt and Zach Brown. "He takes stuff like that to heart. He wakes up every morning with something inspirational to say, and it really gets the house going."

Although his numbers weren't as eye-popping as they were against the Hawkeyes, Watt showed how dangerous he can be when he is healthy. He had three tackles, another tackle for loss (one of six TFLs for the Badgers Saturday) and preserved the shutout when he batted down a Caleb TerBush pass on fourth-and-goal from the UW 3.

"This is a great start, heading into this last five-game stretch with a 37-0 victory," Watt said. "We're happy with it, but we still have things to improve on. We need to take it one game at a time and if we do every game like this, we'll be all right."

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