NCF Nation: Madison 0807
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. -- 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. -- 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.