Badgers fly to Happy Valley

· Sep 20, 2001 Tweet

Ask anyone how to get to State College, Penn., and the answer will undoubtedly involve more than one form of transportation. The remote campus nestled in the trees of Pennsylvania is notorious for visitors needing planes, trains and automobiles to get there. This week, one form of travel could be harder to deal with than usual — the plane. Only 11 days after the hijacking of four U.S. commercial planes, the Badgers must make the 705-mile flight in order to open their Big Ten season at Penn State.

But according to Wisconsin players, there is no fear about making the trip. After all, as quarterback Jim Sorgi points out, the UW gridiron squad is tough enough — well, at least big enough — to handle the fears.

“Getting on a plane with however many football players, I think I feel pretty safe,” Sorgi said. “If anyone is going to take over that plane, I’d rather be on it with, like, 60 football players than civilians. It’s probably in the back of everybody’s mind, but if somebody’s stupid enough to hijack a plane full of football players with just a little knife, I’d like to be on that plane (rather) than another plane.”

In the air, UW should be safe. On the ground, a win-hungry Nittany Lion squad awaits them at Beaver Stadium. After going winless in non-conference play, Penn State is in need of a win to prove it is still capable of playing the caliber of football it played in the mid-1990s.

To light a fire under the struggling PSU team, there is a record at stake for their coach, Joe Paterno. The legendary coach is only two wins shy of taking over Paul “Bear” Bryant’s Division I-A record for number of wins. A win against the Badgers would put Paterno in a tie for first place.

But the Badgers aren’t expecting this quest for the record to get in the way of their game plan.

“To tell you the truth, I’m really not worried about [PSU getting motivation from Paterno’s record chase],” Sorgi said.

Where the Badgers do need to point their attention is to the Lions’ tailback combo of Omar Easy and Eric McCoo. At 6-foot-1, 242 pounds, and 5-foot-10, 209 pounds, the PSU seniors are using their short but solid builds to lead the Lions’ backfield. McCoo led PSU last year in rushing with 692 yards. The threat of these two backs on the ground is going to force the Badgers to turn their attention to the run and not the pass, as has been the case in UW’s last two games against Oregon and Fresno State.

“We’ve faced the two best quarterbacks so far, but our key right now is to stop the run,” Wisconsin senior Nick Greisen said. “As long as we stop the run, I feel that we’re going to come away with that ‘W.'”

In two of its first three games, UW had to face two of the nation’s top quarterbacks in Joey Harrington and David Carr. This week, with PSU quarterback Matt Senneca taking the snaps, there is not as big of a threat coming from the pocket. Senneca tallied one pass for one yard in the Lions’ Sept. 1 loss to Miami.

The Badgers will attempt to defend the run at 11 a.m. Saturday in the remote location of Happy Valley.


This article was published Sep 20, 2001 at 12:00 am and last updated Sep 20, 2001 at 12:00 am


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