STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Senior linebacker T.J. Edwards and his teammates on the University of Wisconsin football team’s defense weren’t going to play the blame game Saturday afternoon.
There was no chance of any public finger-pointing from Edwards and Co. following a 22-10 loss to Penn State at Beaver Stadium, even though the defense did its part to keep the Badgers in the game.
Afterward, Edwards was asked if the defense did enough to win the game?
“Obviously not,” Edwards said. “They scored more points than we did, so you can’t say that. There are definitely some things that we could have done better.”
That list started with UW’s inability to contain Penn State junior tailback Miles Sanders, who finished with 159 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries.
The Wisconsin Badgers fell to the Penn State Nittany Lions, 22-10, on Saturday at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania.
UW senior safety D’Cota Dixon was so impressed by Sanders that he made a point of tracking him down after the game.
“Really good running back,” Dixon said. “Had great balance. Very patient, I thought.”
UW spent most of the game with five defensive backs on the field to combat Penn State’s spread look. While the Badgers did a good job of limiting the Nittany Lions’ passing game – Trace McSorley finished 19 of 25 for 160 yards and a touchdown – they gave up yards on the ground in chunks at times.
Sanders finished with six runs of 10 yards or longer. One of those was a 23-yard burst in the second quarter that moved the chains on third-and-7 and set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Sanders later in the series, giving Penn State a 16-7 lead.
“He’s a good running back,” UW senior linebacker Ryan Connelly said. “You just have to sure you wrap up and make a tackle because if he gets loose he can be a problem.”
There were a few other plays that UW’s defense would like to have back. One was a pass interference penalty on Rachad Wildgoose in the first quarter that kept alive a drive which ended with a touchdown.
On Penn State’s opening drive of the second half, the Nittany Lions executed a fake punt on fourth-and-1 to move the chains. If that wasn’t bad enough, UW junior outside linebacker Zack Baun was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct on the play, a 15-yard penalty that moved the Nittany Lions into UW territory.
That drive ended with a field goal to help Penn State extend its cushion to 19-10.
“You’ve got to find a way to not give them any momentum,” Edwards said.
Perhaps the thing that irked Edwards and others the most was that they didn’t produce enough big plays to flip the momentum in UW’s favor. Baun recovered a fumble late in the game, but the offense couldn’t turn it into any points.
That was the theme of the day – the offense not being able to get out of its own way – but the guys on the other side of the ball left Happy Valley feeling like they could have done more to help provide a spark.
“I definitely think we could have done more to kind of ignite the team,” UW sophomore defensive end Isaiahh Loudermilk said.