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Chris Maragos got the starting nod Saturday at free safety in place of junior Shane Carter.
“We looked at some things defensively and felt that Maragos might give us a better chance of tackling,” head coach Bret Bielema said. “The way [Maragos] supported the run in the first five games, we just felt there were some plays Shane wasn’t able to do that.”
Maragos finished the game with six tackles.
Carter did see playing time against Penn State — recording four tackles — and last year’s Big Ten interception leader is still expected to see plenty of reps.
“We got a good thing going there just because two guys have got some experience,” Bielema said.
Penn State given short field
In the early going against Penn State, Wisconsin was hampered by poor field possession that made it tough for the offense and even tougher for the defense.
“Especially in the first half, we always played on a short field and didn’t have an opportunity to get much going offensively,” Bielema said.
Penn State had drives start at their 48, 44 and 49-yard lines at one period during the game, while Wisconsin had drives start at their own 20, 21 and 10-yard lines.
“That was a big factor of the game,” Bielema said. “In the first quarter, we were able to sustain it a little bit; obviously, in the second quarter to give up the short field … was a huge impact.”
Still, the defense doesn’t view the short field as an excuse for their inability to prevent the Nittany Lions from scoring.
“It is what it is. …We still have to stop them,” linebacker Jaevery McFadden said. “As a defensive player, you should love that … just go in there and stop them. Obviously, it didn’t work out today like we wanted to.”
The Nittany Lions’ early field position came as punter Brad Nortman struggled for Wisconsin.
Nortman had a 15-yard punt in the first quarter and had four punts that failed to clear 40 yards in the first half.
Clay, Hill split carries early on
Wisconsin showed a new look from its running backs against Penn State. Junior P.J. Hill started the first series, but Hill and freshman John Clay alternated drives for the first half and each went into the half with nine carries.
“We have a nice situation. We can kind of go with the guy we feel gives us the best chance in each situation,” Bielema said.
Hill finished the game with 15 carries for 62 yards while Clay carried the ball 15 times for 43 yards.
“It was mainly whoever had the hot hand at the time,” Clay said. “If we needed a little blow, we’d give our little signal. Other than that, we were just rotating in and out.”
Sophomore Zach Brown had just one rushing attempt in the game.
Gilreath limited offensively
After getting eight offensive touches last week, wide receiver David Gilreath was virtually inactive offensively against Penn State. The sophomore didn’t catch a pass for the first time all season as the Badgers struggled to move the ball.
Gilreath entered the game with 14 receptions on the season.
As a kick returner, though, Gilreath had plenty of opportunities. He finished the game with 137 kick return yards.