October 11, 2008

Five things to watch: UW vs. PSU

MADISON, Wis. - There are two different types of offensive teams. One, like Wisconsin, likes to methodically more the ball down the field and does not heavily rely on the big play. The other, like Penn State, averages nearly 45 points per game and dominates their opponent by nearly five touchdowns. On Saturday, these two offensive teams will meet up inside Camp Randall Stadium.

The following are five things to watch during Saturday night's game:

1.) Daryll Clark:

The Badgers have already faced multiple spread units so far this season, but Penn State's version might be the best they will see. New quarterback Daryll Clark has been a welcome surprise for Nittany Lions fans since the graduation of Zach Morelli. He possesses a big body and has a strong arm. While Clark is not quite the talent Terrelle Pryor is, going against Ohio State's phenom last weekend had to help the Badgers in regards to playing a similar style quarterback this week, although Clark likes to throw more often. So far, Clark has thrown nine touchdown passes and only has one interception.

2.) Redemtion

A season ago, the Badgers went out to Happy Valley following their loss to Illinois and got run out of the building, losing 38-7. Then, last week, UW lost at home, late in the fourth quarter on top of it, for the first time in their last 16 games in Camp Randall. Add those two elements together, as well as the 0-2 conference start, and this team has a lot to play for this Saturday against Penn State.

"Our players are motivated for this game," defensive line coach Charlie Partridge said earlier in the week. "I don't think they feel they've performed up to their abilities last year and they just want to perform to the best of their abilities and let the best team win."

3.) Molding the Clay:

In short, John Clay makes things happen when he carries the ball. In the first two Big Ten games, Clay has rushed for 121 yards on only 13 carries. That is an average of 9.3 yards per carry against conference opponents. Compare that with P.J. Hill's 3.5 yards per carry average against the same opponents, and many are wondering why Clay does not get more opportunities even while the coaches have taken notice to his elevated play.

"John Clay played his most complete game (against Ohio State)," head coach Bret Bielema said during his weekly press conference. "(He) did a good for us running the football and also did some nice things for us in protection. So he's made a gigantic step forward."

4.) Allan Evridge

While moving down field to set up a potential game tying field goal with just over a minute to play would have been tough last weekend, Evridge did not give the Badgers much of a chance when he threw an interception on the drive's first play. Following the second straight conference loss, the Badgers will need a big game from their fifth year signal caller Saturday night if they hope to beat the Nittany Lions.

Having both Travis Beckum and Garrett Graham back on the field at the same time will only help the quarterback as it will give him two primary targets to throw to, and really generate some offensive momentum. In the end, Evridge does not need to be a superstar quarterback, he just needs to be more accurate and decision sound.

5.) The band is back

After sitting out the first Badger home football game in 40 years, the UW marching band will be back Saturday night for the big conference showdown. How much not having the band last week against Ohio State hurt last week's football game is tough to gage. Having them back, though, can do nothing but help. It will add to what promises to be another electric atmosphere and may be enough to help push UW over and get a much-needed victory.

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