Wisconsin Badgers Defense Faces Daunting Task Against Penn State Nittany Lions

Steve RoelandCorrespondent IOctober 9, 2008

Coming off two consecutive losses, including last week's 20-17 heartbreaking defeat at the hands of Ohio State, the Wisconsin Badgers must be looking for some sort of respite.

Unfortunately, there is no rest for the weary.

The Badgers (3-2, 0-2 Big Ten) square off against the No. 6 team in the nation this Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium. Joe Paterno and his Penn State Nittany Lions (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten) look to continue their dominance in the Big Ten and hand Wisconsin their third straight loss.

The most difficult task for the Badgers is figuring out how to contain PSU quarterback Darryl Clark. A dual-threat to run or pass, Clark has thrown for nine touchdowns and only one interception. Clark has also managed 4.2 yards per carry and four scores on the ground.

Speaking of rushing, Nittany Lions tailback Evan Royster must also be a focus of the Badgers' defense. Royster is averaging 7.8 yards a touch and has eight touchdowns. In other words, Wisconsin needs to be on the top of its game on defense.

Luckily, the Badgers have had some shining moments on the defensive side of the ball in the previous games. Sophomore safety Jay Valai has come on strong in recent weeks, tallying seven tackles, a sack and two forced fumbles against the Buckeyes.

Valai will need to be in top form against Penn State, who feature talent at the tight end position—players who Valai will be matched up with in coverage. After struggling early in the season in pass defense, Valai has made strides, holding Fresno State tight end Bear Pascoe to just three catches and 32 yards in Week three.

The Badgers must also tighten up their mental game on defense. Last week, confusion between several players resulted in the go-ahead score, an 11-yard option scamper from OSU quarterback Tyrelle Prior.

Wisconsin must be sharp in all four quarters if they hope to upset Penn State. A big win over PSU on their home field will gave the Badgers a chance to turn things around for the remainder of their conference schedule.