Big Ten Action; Penn St. at Wisconsin

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Wisconsin rallied to its fifth straight victory last week without star running back P.J. Hill. The Badgers would like to avoid having to do that again Saturday.

The No. 17 Badgers (8-1, 5-1 Big Ten) hope to have Hill back in the lineup when they face Penn State (6-3, 4-2) at Camp Randall Stadium.

Wisconsin, which suffered its only loss to No. 2 Michigan on Sept. 23, came back from a 14-point halftime deficit to defeat Illinois 30-24 last week.

The Badgers did it without Hill, who suffered what coach Bret Bielema described as a nerve injury in his neck in the first quarter.

Hill, who ran for 50 yards on 12 carries before getting hurt, has 1,222 yards on 214 rushes this season.

``P.J.'s an extremely tough individual,'' Bielema said during his Monday press conference. ``I know that he's going to be able to battle himself back.''

Bielema said Hill would be evaluated Monday, and the team would decide on his status for the rest of the week.

Hill is sixth in the nation with 135.8 yards per game and is part of a Wisconsin rushing attack that leads the Big Ten with 185.4 yards per contest.

With that powerful rushing attack at less than full strength, John Stocco helped the Badgers battle back against the Illini. He threw a first-quarter interception that was returned for a touchdown, but directed Wisconsin to 20 unanswered points after halftime, throwing a pair of TDs.

Stocco finished 15-of-26 for 217 yards and the two scores.

``You can't faze him no matter what happens,'' Bielema said. ``It's not only the plays that he makes, but our offensive entirely. We need someone to control the game.''

The steady Stocco has guided Wisconsin during its five straight wins, throwing 10 touchdowns and just three interceptions. The Badgers had outscored their previous four opponents by at least 21 points.

``We knew we weren't going the whole season beating everyone by 40 points,'' senior safety Joe Stellmacher said of Saturday's win. ``We got their best effort and we didn't play particularly well, especially in that first half.''

Stocco hopes to help Wisconsin avoid a similar first-half performance this week against Penn State, which sacked the senior a career-high nine times in a 35-14 loss Nov. 5. The Badgers fell behind 21-0 at halftime in that contest.

``Last year in the Penn State game, they were able to pressure John and get hits on John from using a variety of four-man pressures as well as bringing extra blitzers,'' Bielema said. ``They are very, very good on defense. So its going to be an interesting challenge.''

Penn State, the defending Big Ten champion, heads into its final road game after posting its first shutout in four years, 12-0 over Purdue last week.

``This was huge for us defensively, especially against a team like Purdue,'' linebacker Paul Posluszny said. ``This was a big step for us. As long as we tackled well and held them short of the sticks, it would be all right.''

Anthony Morelli completed just 14 of 31 passes for 182 yards, but Tony Hunt powered the offense with 31 carries for 142 yards and the game's only touchdown. The Nittany Lions amassed 240 rushing yards, one week after managing 40 against Illinois.

``I think we was getting tired of hearing, blah blah blah, running game, offensive line this, so we went off this week and it was probably the toughest and best week of practice we had all season,'' Hunt said.

Hunt and the Nittany Lions hope to continue that run of strong practices as they gear up for the Badgers.

``We didn't score as many points as I think we should have,'' Hunt said of the Badgers, who average 22.6 per game. ``We had penalties in the red zone, things like that. So there's more things we've got to work on this week.''

Penn State and Wisconsin have split four meetings at Madison, but the Badgers lead the series 7-4.

by: Anthony White - - Email Us

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