Big Ten: Madison 0807

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

MADISON, Wis. -- His 81-year-old father doesn't have much use for the Internet, but Penn State quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno spends plenty of time browsing for barbs.

Despite Penn State's sparkling start and the dominating fashion in which it wins games, the younger Paterno continues to find plenty of material to motivate his players.

"Jay tells us all the time," quarterback Daryll Clark said. "He goes on the Internet and prints out an article about something about somebody saying something about us. Then he comes back and tells us."

The common criticisms are:

  • Can't win on the road, especially in league play;
  • Inflated national ranking;
  • Weak nonconference schedule and no signature wins.

"This week, we were listed under the most overrated teams," center A.Q. Shipley said. "Our goal was to prove that we're one of the best teams out there. We feel like we haven't gotten the respect that we deserve."

After a 48-7 win at Wisconsin, the sixth-ranked Nittany Lions should start to get their due. Aside from non-BCS flag bearer BYU, no Top 10 team has been as convincing in victory as Penn State, which has won all seven of its games by 14 points or more.

The Lions have won by an average of 34.3 points and rank among the top 10 nationally in at least six major statistical categories. They have answered questions about their quarterback situation, their response from a troubled offseason, their ability to withstand personnel losses on defense and their poise in tough road environments.

"We came out to prove something to the world," Shipley said, "and I think we did."

Did they prove they should be in the national title talk?

"We certainly deserve to be considered right now," head coach Joe Paterno said.

The elder Paterno spent his second consecutive game in the press box, hobbled by an injured right hip. On the advice of his wife, Sue, Paterno is now using a cane to move around.

His desire to be on the field is obvious, but the view from the top has its benefits. Paterno can "do a better job," whether it's communicating more effectively with all of his assistants or watching the flow of the game.

"I'm afraid somebody's going to come around and ask me for my ticket," Paterno said.

He witnessed quite a show Saturday night, as Penn State built its lead with sparkling special teams play and destructive defense before turning things over to Clark, who led scoring drives of 76 and 82 yards on the Lions' first two possessions after halftime.

As a first-year starter, Clark's poise in road games had been a question mark. But like the rest of the team, the 6-2, 235-pound junior is maturing at a rapid pace.

(Read full post)

Wisconsin reaches rock bottom

October, 12, 2008
10/12/08
1:13
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

 
 Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire
 Wisconsin Badgers head coach Bret Bielema walks off the field Saturday after the Badgers were manhandled by Penn State, losing 48-7.

MADISON, Wis. -- DeAndre Levy stood in the darkness outside the McClain Center on Saturday night, trying to make sense of a three-week nightmare.

Wisconsin was the first team ever to open Big Ten play with games against traditional powers Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State. The Badgers entered the stretch with a Top 10 national ranking, an extra week of rest and confidence on both sides of the ball.

They leave it with their BCS title hopes dashed, their Big Ten title hopes effectively dashed and their dominance at Camp Randall Stadium a distant memory. Each loss brought its own breed of disappointment.

An inexcusable second-half collapse at Michigan, which fell to Toledo on Saturday.

A hard-fought heartbreaker against Ohio State, which snapped Wisconsin's 16-game home win streak.

Then came Saturday night's disaster, a thorough beating at the hands of a national title contender that cleared out Camp Randall Stadium halfway through the fourth quarter. The 48-7 pounding marked Wisconsin's worst loss since 1989. The Badgers fell to 0-3 in Big Ten play.

"That's very unlike this ball club," said Levy, the senior linebacker and co-captain, who had only two tackles in the loss. "I'm kind of at a loss for words right now to explain it, for it to be such a big game like this and for them to come in our house and do what they did to us, it's disappointing."

Levy and the defense struggled to stop Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark and the dynamic Spread HD scheme, but Wisconsin's continued struggles on offense were more troubling.

Fifth-year senior quarterback Allan Evridge had an interception and a fumble, and after boos boomed from the home crowd, he was replaced in the third quarter. Backup Dustin Sherer provided a mini spark that quickly extinguished with an interception near the end zone. Sherer completed seven more passes than Evridge but had the same number of turnovers (two).

"We went into the game and I had basically told him that he needed to be ready," head coach Bret Bielema said. "He went in there and I really like the energy he showed in the huddle."

"It's obviously very frustrating to get taken out of a game," said Evridge, who completed only 2 of 10 pass attempts. "It wasn't the way I wanted to play."

A quarterback conundrum faces Bielema and his coaches this week, and the schedule doesn't get much easier. Wisconsin next will travel to Iowa, which finally broke through Saturday, before hosting Illinois and then visiting a strong Michigan State team.

Can the Badgers bounce back?

"It's going to be tough," Levy said. "It's going to hurt tonight, it's going to hurt tomorrow, but I'm kind of anxious to see how we respond to it. "We've still got a whole season in front of us."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

 
 David Stluka/Getty Images
 Wisconsin quarterback Allan Evridge spent much of Saturday's game being chased by Penn State's linemen.

MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin's offensive line is an imposing group of super-sized men -- average weight: 322 pounds -- but the Badgers' behemoths didn't intimidate Penn State's Aaron Maybin on Saturday night.

Maybin might not have seen a bigger group this season, but the defensive end certainly sees a meaner one every week in practice.

"We have the meanest offensive line that I've gone against," Maybin said. "I haven't really played against an offensive line that I feel is better than ours."

"You can't really teach being mean. That's just something that everybody on our offensive line has in 'em."

Maybin and the rest of the Lions defensive linemen aren't exactly nice guys. Just ask the Wisconsin ball-carriers who paid the price throughout Saturday night's game at Camp Randall Stadium. Penn State's ability to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball resulted in total domination, a 48-7 win that put the sixth-ranked Nittany Lions in the national championship discussion.

Maybin, who had 3.5 tackles for loss, led a defense that shut out Wisconsin in the second half, forced a quarterback change and held bruising backs P.J. Hill and John Clay in check. A veteran-laden Lions offensive line kept Daryll Clark clean -- no sacks allowed for the third time this season -- and provided the quarterback plenty of time to find his open receivers.

Wisconsin's experienced defensive front was a non-factor. Left tackle Gerald Cadogan and his teammates had faced a bigger test earlier in the week.

"I'm well prepared for anybody else," Cadogan said. "I don't think there's anybody that can match Maybin's speed here in the Big Ten. Going against that, whether it's Josh Gaines or Maurice Evans, they're great defensive ends."

"It's a constant battle in practice, doing 1-on-1's and 9-on-7's and different drills that we [do] throughout the week."

Maybin has been one of the defense's bigger surprises. He entered Saturday night's game leading the Big Ten in sacks (7) and ranking third in tackles for loss (9). The sophomore turned in another ferocious performance that included two forced fumbles, a sack, a quarterback hurry and a pass breakup. His only problem might be his size (6-4, 245 pounds).

"He's doing really well," head coach Joe Paterno said. "I just wish I could put a little weight on him. The guy doesn't eat. He's so quick and he's an aggressive player. You can see that."

Maybin and the rest of the Lions' linemen remain hungry for a Big Ten title -- and a shot at the national title.

"We don't practice for nothing and go through the motions," Cadogan said. "We're definitely out there to establish Penn State."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

MADISON, Wis. -- Penn State has got this one well in hand. Most of the starters are out of the game, and the Nittany Lions are rolling to an impressive road win.

Some will question a free-falling Wisconsin team, but Penn State is legit. The Lions have done everything asked of them this season, and they should get credit. This was total domination in every facet of the game. Penn State took the crowd out of the game early and never gave Wisconsin a chance to make things close.

I'm headed down to the field for interviews. Check back later for more updates.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

MADISON, Wis. -- Camp Randall Stadium is shaking again, thanks to the House of Pain hit "Jump Around." But Penn State has sent the real tremors through Wisconsin and the rest of the Big Ten.

The Nittany Lions have validated themselves as the best team in the Big Ten and one of the best in the country with another dominating performance. After defense and special teams sparked a 24-7 halftime lead, Daryll Clark raised his play in the third quarter, racking up 175 passing yards.

The downfield passes have been there all game, and Clark is finally converting in a big way. Clark somehow found James McDonald after being flushed out of the pocket and then hit a wide-open Deon Butler for a 44-yard touchdown.

Wisconsin fans finally got something to cheer about when backup quarterback Dustin Sherer replaced the struggling Allan Evridge at the end of the quarter. Sherer completed two passes and led the Badgers into Penn State before throwing an interception to Lydell Sargeant, who picked off his second pass of the quarter. The Badgers could have a quarterback controversy brewing, but they need something to change on offense in a hurry.

Wisconsin injury update

October, 11, 2008
10/11/08
10:08
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

More bad news for Wisconsin's offensive line, which is playing without starting left tackle Gabe Carimi (knee) tonight.

All-Big Ten right guard Kraig Urbik injured his left knee and will not return.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

MADISON, Wis. -- Any questions?

Right now, Penn State seems to have all the answers.

The Nittany Lions are doing what a national championship contender is supposed to do. They're dominating an inferior team in every aspect of the game. And it's been the same way all season. Joe Paterno is in the press box for the second straight week with what is now being called a right hip injury, but the 81-year-old could coach this team from just about anywhere.

Daryll Clark, Evan Royster (58 rush yards) and the Spread HD offense cranked it up in the second quarter, but Penn State's special teams have been the most impressive element of its play. Derrick Williams continues to reaffirm himself as a major threat, notching his first punt return for a touchdown this season after two scores on kick returns. The Lions' kickoff and punt coverage has been tremendous, and dangerous Badgers return man David Gilreath has paid the price every time he touches the ball.

Wisconsin finally showed a pulse midway through the quarter, as quarterback Allan Evridge used his legs to get the struggling offense in the end zone. The problem continues to be the passing game. Evridge has completed just 2 of 8 attempts, and his fumble deep in Wisconsin territory turned a manageable halftime deficit into a nearly insurmountable one. Penn State sophomore defensive end Aaron Maybin is for real (1.5 TFLs), and Badgers running backs P.J. Hill and John Clay aren't getting through for any big plays.

At least the Badgers band is back. But if the offense doesn't notch a big play or two, this could get even uglier.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

MADISON, Wis. -- Neither team has done much on offense, though Penn State is certainly a lot more fun to watch. The Spread HD is certainly a departure from what the Lions usually run.

Still, the teams have combined for just three first downs. Ugh.

The Lions haven't converted big-play opportunities, but they rotate personnel nicely and get the ball to different weapons. Their approach should pay off later in the game. Still, three possessions into Badgers territory have yielded only a Kevin Kelly 50-yard field goal. Wisconsin has done a nice job on short-yardage situations, which are quickly becoming one of Penn State's few weaknesses.

Wisconsin's offense has been extremely vanilla. The Badgers are rotating running backs P.J. Hill and John Clay, but without a viable passing attack, neither ball-carrier has had much success. Embattled quarterback Allan Evridge attempted only one pass, a sideline fade to Travis Beckum, but could not connect. The Badgers finished with just 36 yards on 14 plays in the quarter.

Paterno back in the press box

October, 11, 2008
10/11/08
8:01
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

MADISON, Wis. -- Penn State head coach Joe Paterno will spend his second consecutive game in the press box because of a right leg injury. The 81-year-old Paterno didn't come out to the field during pre-game warm-ups and reportedly entered the stadium with the assistance of a cane. He injured the leg before the season demonstrating kicking techniques in practice.

Wisconsin left tackle Gabe Carimi did not dress for the game and will sit out with a knee injury.

Game night at Camp Randall Stadium

October, 11, 2008
10/11/08
6:39
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

MADISON, Wis. -- Penn State enters tonight's game trying to further validate itself as a top 5 team and a national title contender. Wisconsin is simply trying to save its once-promising season.

Throw in the possibility of hobbled Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno spending another game in the press box and the game has some intriguing storylines.

Penn State (6-0, 2-0) hasn't won Big Ten road games in consecutive weeks since 1995, when it beat Purdue and Iowa. Wisconsin (3-2, 0-2) had its 16-game home win streak snapped last week against Ohio State and is trying to avoid an 0-3 start to Big Ten play.

A good game night atmosphere, as usual. You know you're in a swing state when people are parading Barack Obama and John McCain signs at house parties before a football game. Things were getting a little heated over on Breese Terrace, which flanks the west side of Camp Randall Stadium, but no punches were thrown.

Nice to see everyone involved in the political process.

The weather is unseasonably warm. Should make for a real nice night of football.

INJURIES Penn State starting wide receiver Jordan Norwood is expected to play tonight after missing the last two games with a hamstring injury.

Wisconsin starting left tackle Gabe Carimi is questionable with a knee injury sustained last week. Redshirt freshman Josh Oglesby would start in his place.

WHAT TO WATCH

* Daryll Clark played an extremely smart game last week at Purdue, and the Penn State quarterback will need another poised performance against Wisconsin. Clark has proven himself as a passer, but his ability to scramble and use his athleticism could loom large tonight.

* Wisconsin redshirt freshman running back John Clay has provided a big boost in the last two games, but how much will the coaches give him the ball? Clay's problem isn't ability, but being able to grasp the offense and his responsibilities. The Badgers need him to grow up fast tonight to have a shot at the upset.

* Aside from the final drive, Wisconsin's defense limited the damage against Ohio State's offense. Tonight will provide a much bigger challenge for linebackers DeAndre Levy, Jonathan Casillas and Jaevery McFadden. Penn State's veteran offensive line allows little penetration, and both Evan Royster and Stephfon Green average more than six yards per carry. Missed tackles will result in points, and the Badgers' back seven needs to be sharp.

* Penn State's defensive line has turned in a heroic performance thus far this season, barely skipping a beat despite dismissals and suspensions. Wisconsin quarterback Allan Evridge has been struggling, and if the Lions can apply steady pressure and force a turnover or two, Evridge could quickly lose confidence. Penn State also could capitalize if Carimi can't play and Oglesby makes his first career start. And finally ... some tidbits for you, courtesy of ESPN's fine research department.

* Bret Bielema will be coaching in his 32nd career game on Saturday. When Bielema was born on Jan. 13, 1970, Joe Paterno had already coached in 43 career games and had two undefeated seasons. Bielema was born 12 days after Penn State beat Missouri in the Orange Bowl following the 1969 season to cap a perfect 11-0 campaign.

* Wisconsin has held Penn State to six points combined in the last two series meetings at Camp Randall Stadium.

* The Badgers love playing night games. Since a 17-9 win at Penn State in 1995, Wisconsin is 21-2 in night games, with one of those losses coming last week against Ohio State.

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