Wisconsin reaches rock bottom

October, 12, 2008
10/12/08
2:10
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."

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