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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
5 Things to watch

5 Things to watch: Here are some parts of the game to keep an eye on against Penn State

5 Things to watch

1. Clay Taking Shape 

 

Saturday night's game will highlight two rushing attacks that rank among the nation's top 20 in yards per game. The Badgers' running game features junior P.J. Hill, sophomore Zach Brown and freshman John Clay, with Hill tallying almost half of the team's total carries. However, Clay has amassed an impressive 260 yards on the ground this season on only 39 carries, good for 6.7 yards per carry. The freshman seems like he could take it all the way every time he touches the ball. Head coach Bret Bielema should be taking notice that Clay is rapidly emerging as the most feared component of the three-headed monster. Look for Clay to be handed the ball a few more times than his average 7.8 carries per game after an impressive showing over the past weeks. Also keep an eye on Brown, who received just one carry against Ohio State. The breakthrough of Clay may have nudged him out of the offensive game plan. 

 

2. Running Wild 

The Penn State running game showcases sophomore running back Evan Royster, who averages 7.9 yards per carry and is second in the nation among BCS running backs. Also carrying the load for Penn State is freshman Stephfon Green, who adds an impressive speed component to an already talented group of backs. At 5-10 189 pounds, Green runs a 4.25 40-yard dash and is averaging 6.94 yards per carry in Penn State's first six games. As if the talented duo of Royster and Green wasn't enough, junior quarterback Daryll Clark is very mobile and will certainly force the Badgers into a contain-minded defense. A running game where both the running back and quarterback are capable of taking off is similar to that of Ohio State's, and the Badgers were unable to get the job done against the Buckeyes last weekend. Stopping the run early, something Wisconsin could not do against Ohio State last weekend, will be critical. 

 

3. Taming the Offense 

So far this season Penn State has thrashed opposing defenses, scoring 44.8 points per game. On Sept. 6, Penn State embarrassed Oregon State 45-14, the same Oregon State team that upset then-No. 1 USC just weeks later. Head coach Joe Paterno's spread offense is second in the nation in total points and can move the ball equally as well in the air as it can on the ground. Clark's favorite targets in the air are a trio of talented senior wideouts in Jordan Norwood, Deon Butler and Derrick Williams. Butler and Williams have 19 catches this season for 311 and 240 yards, respectively, and Norwood has 18 grabs for 318 yards. Wisconsin linebackers junior Jaevery McFadden and seniors DeAndre Levy and Jonathan Casillas, along with the Badgers' front four, will have to halt Penn State's versatile running game and force the Nittany Lions into a one-dimensional offense. That will require Clark to beat them through the air.  

 

4. One-Dimensional 

In order for the strength of the Wisconsin running game to come out Saturday night, senior quarterback Allan Evridge and the Badgers' talented receiving core must show Penn State that the running game is not the only threat. Last weekend Evridge had an opportunity to drive his team down the field late in the game for a game-tying field goal or even a go-ahead touchdown. With the Buckeyes expecting the pass, Evridge promptly threw an interception that squashed any hope of a comeback. For Penn State to respect Evridge, he must be clicking on all cylinders with sophomore wide receivers David Gilreath and Kyle Jefferson and senior tight end Travis Beckum. Penn State, ranked 11th in the nation by allowing just over 80 yards rushing per game, must be forced to think about the Badgers' receivers if Wisconsin wants to be successful on the ground. A balanced offense is a necessary component for the Badgers if they hope to put up points against a tenacious Nittany Lion defense. 

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5. Red Out 

Wisconsin is hoping its home field advantage can mess with the rhythm of the Nittany Lions' offense. Penn State's visit to Purdue last weekend produced their lowest point total of the season at only 20 points. When the Nittany Lions come into a hostile environment at Camp Randall Saturday night, they will certainly be facing a tougher and louder road crowd than they did last weekend in West Lafayette. Along with its visit to Purdue, Penn State has only played one other road game, which was a visit to Syracuse. So though the Nittany Lions are undefeated and ranked No. 6, they have not endured a significant test on the road this season. The Badgers, despite being the losers of two games in a row, are hoping to provide that test by using the crowd as a 12th man. And after having its 18-game home win streak snapped, Wisconsin will be hungry to start another one.

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