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Badgers' defense is still full of questions

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- DeAndre Levy spent a considerable amount of time last week addressing the state of the University of Wisconsin football team's struggling defense.

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- DeAndre Levy spent a considerable amount of time last week addressing the state of the University of Wisconsin football team's struggling defense.

The gist of his brutally honest assessment following last week's loss to Illinois: The Badgers needed to tackle better, be more assignment-sure and play better fundamentally in order to prevent the big plays that were becoming commonplace against them.

And, it was the players' responsibility to make the fixes.

"I saw DeAndre's comments in the media where he said what he said after the (Illinois) game," UW coach Bret Bielema said during his Monday news conference this week. "And it's one thing to say it, but now you've got to go out and do it."

While the UW defense certainly did some of those things better this Saturday against Penn State -- tackling first and foremost -- it still didn't do them well enough to slow down the Nittany Lions' offense in a 38-7 loss at Beaver Stadium.

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"This week of practice was probably our best week of practice all year," Levy said of the Badgers' defense. "Guys were flying around, having fun again, coming out hitting in practice. It just didn't carry over on Saturday. That's kind of unfortunate and kind of disappointing."

Again disappointing for the Badgers' defense was the number of big plays it allowed.

A week after giving up nine plays of 20 yards or more in a loss to Illinois, UW surrendered 11 plays of 17 yards or more against the Nittany Lions. And two of Penn State's scoring plays were 19 yards or longer.

The first came early in the second quarter Penn State quarterback Anthony Morelli found wide receiver Deon Butler for a 29-yard score after Butler shook free of UW cornerback Allen Langford -- who was replaced by freshman Aaron Henry in the Badgers' base defense in the second half -- with an inside fake.

The second came one possession later when running back Evan Royster went untouched around the left end for a 19-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-1 to give the Lions a 24-7 lead. Levy said he, and others, were out of position on that play.

"I think it's been the same things," Levy said. "Guys slipping up on a play or two. And a good offense will capitalize on that. That's what they've been doing."

The Badgers, who allowed 437 yards to Penn State, now have given up 400 yards or more in each of the last three games.

Those aren't the type of numbers a UW defense, one that returned seven starters from last season, had designs on at the outset of this year.

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"I'm definitely surprised. On paper, we're supposed to have a better defense than we had last year," junior cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu said.

"I don't know what's going on. ... I can't really tell you what the problem is right now, but there's a problem and it's got to be fixed."

The question at this point of the season: How?

"We've just got find it within ourselves right now," Levy said. "There's a lot being said within the program, outside the program. (There's) nothing more to say. Guys have just got to come out and do it, myself included.

"We're very close. When we go back on film, it's kind of scary how it really could be. If one small piece isn't there (a play) will hit for 20, 30 yards. If one piece isn't there big things can happen. We've just got to find the missing piece right now."

-- Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune

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