Wisconsin-Penn State: Run Defense Must Improve for Badgers to Beat Nittany Lions
It only took two games for the Wisconsin Badgers to fall straight out of the national polls, but the Badgers will look to rebound at home Saturday night and rejoin the Top 25.
Unfortunately, Saturday's visitors will be the No. 6 Penn State Nittany Lions. Backed by dual-threat quarterback Daryll Clark and running back Evan Royster, Penn State will look to grab its first win at Camp Randall Stadium since their 34-31 victory in 2002.
Clark is equally as dangerous through the air as he is on the ground, which may present problems to a Wisconsin defense that, at times, struggled with Ohio State freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor.
Royster isn’t quite at the level of Ohio State’s Chris “Beanie” Wells, but he’s surely no slouch. His performance Saturday night may decide which team leaves Camp Randall with the victory.
Wisconsin’s highly regarded defense has been absent over the past two weeks, especially in the running game. The Badgers have allowed more than 170 yards rushing in both losses this season. Joe Paterno’s squad knows how to grind it out on the ground and won’t shy away from any early resistance.
That resistance needs to come from the interior defense. Senior defensive tackles Jason Chapman and Mike Newkirk were erased from the equation by Michigan and Ohio State. This must change in order for the Badgers to walk away with a victory.
On the other hand, the strong play of the remainder of the front seven must continue for Wisconsin’s defense to succeed against Penn State.
Defensive ends O’Brien Schofield and Matt Shaughnessy did a great job minimizing the damage Pryor and Michigan’s Steven Threet did with their legs.
Jonathan Casillas and Jaevery McFadden have each pulled their respective weight over the past two weeks and should continue their success Saturday night in Madison. They must get more defensive production from fellow linebacker DeAndre Levy, though.
The Wisconsin defense must make improvements as a whole if they expect to beat the Nittany Lions.
Bret Bielema’s defense is stopping the opposition on third down only 42.3 percent of the time, ranking them 180th in the nation. They must also pressure the quarterback more often, as the Badgers have tallied only nine sacks in five games this season.
Clark and his receiving corps should expect their share of struggles against a solid Badgers pass defense, though.
Wisconsin’s pass defense is allowing a measly 5.8 yards per pass attempt and is holding opposing quarterbacks to a 102.1 passer rating. Both marks rank the unit in the top 35 in the nation.
A combination of containment and improvement by the front seven, coupled with the continued success on pass defense, will key a Badgers' victory Saturday night. If the Badgers can’t shut down the Penn State running game, they’ll lose back-to-back games in Madison for the first time since 2002.
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