Wisconsin 20, Purdue 17
-- With less than three minutes to play and Wisconsin trailing Purdue by three points, Badgers cornerback Scott Starks suddenly had the game sitting at his feet.
Starks returned a fumble by Purdue quarterback Kyle Orton 40 yards for a touchdown to lift 10th-ranked Wisconsin to a 20-17 win over No. 5 Purdue.
The Boilermakers (5-1, 2-1 Big Ten) were clinging to a 17-14 lead when Orton, a Heisman Trophy hopeful, took a naked bootleg and lunged for a first down. Starks hit Orton low and safety Robert Brooks hit him high, forcing the fumble.
Starks scooped up the loose ball and sprinted to the end zone with 2 minutes 36 seconds to play, capping a stunning comeback for the Badgers (7-0, 4-0), who have started the season with seven straight wins for just the second time since 1912.
"If the ball would've been bouncing around, I probably would have just covered it," Starks said. "But it was just sitting there. I saw the perfect opportunity there."
The play was reviewed, and replays showed the ball was out before Orton's arm hit the ground.
"I've been in this racket for a long time," Wisconsin Coach Barry Alvarez said. "And I've never been part of a game like this."
Orton tried to recover on the ensuing series, driving the Boilermakers to the Wisconsin 25. But Ben Jones's 42-yard field goal was wide right, and the Badgers ran out the clock.
"We had a chance at the end, we just blew it," Orton said.
Until Starks's big play, the Boilermakers -- not the Badgers -- appeared poised to join Michigan as the only Big Ten teams with perfect conference records.
Orton scored from six yards with eight minutes to play to give Purdue a 17-7 lead.
But that kicked off a scoring binge in a game that started as a defensive slugfest.
Badgers sophomore quarterback John Stocco calmly led a 73-yard drive and hit Booker Stanley for a seven-yard touchdown that pulled Wisconsin within 17-14.
After playing so well for the first three quarters, the Purdue defense let this one slip away. Kyle Smith had a chance to seal the win, but he dropped a potential interception that hit him right between the numbers. Five plays later, Stocco found Stanley for the score.
"There were plays there to be made," Purdue Coach Joe Tiller said. "When you don't make plays, you don't beat a team like Wisconsin."
Fittingly, it was Wisconsin's defense that did come through.
The Boilermakers came into the game averaging more than 500 yards and 41.8 points a game, but Orton and company were all but shut down on Saturday. They had yet to face a defense as tough as Wisconsin's, which entered the contest leading the nation in scoring defense with 6.5 points a game.
Orton, one of the front-runners for the Heisman Trophy, was 25 for 45 for 235 yards and a touchdown. But he had three turnovers -- he was picked off once and fumbled twice in critical situations.
"They're a very good defense," Orton said. "The best front four I've probably ever seen in the Big Ten."
Stocco was 17 for 32 for 211 yards and a touchdown and Anthony Davis rushed for 66 yards and a score for Wisconsin.
"It's always deflating to lose a big game that you had won," said Purdue linebacker George Hall. "We had them beat and we threw it away."