MADISON, WIS. (AP) - As far as Wisconsin’s players are concerned, a Pac-12 opponent is automatically dangerous _ even if the team in question, Oregon State, is coming off a head-scratching loss, unsettled at quarterback and might be missing its new star running back.
When the No. 8 Badgers host the Beavers on Saturday, they’ll be facing a team coming off an unlikely 29-28 overtime loss to Sacramento State. Oregon State did go 5-7 last season yet managed to beat USC in convincing fashion.
“I was kind of shocked,” Wisconsin safety Aaron Henry said. “But looking at their schedule last year, they lost to some teams that a lot of people wouldn’t consider really good, but they beat some teams like USC, which is a really good opponent. There were some weeks they didn’t play well, and some weeks they did.”
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Beavers now might be without true freshman Malcolm Agnew, who rushed for 223 yards and three touchdowns but hurt his hamstring in practice this week, according to local media reports. They’ll also be rotating quarterbacks, between junior Ryan Katz and redshirt freshman Sean Mannion.
For a Wisconsin team coming off a 51-17 rout of UNLV, it seems like the formula for another walkover. But to get to where they want to be at the end of the season _ contending for a Big Ten title and a BCS bowl berth _ the Badgers know they can’t take anything for granted.
“I don’t want to fall into any traps; I don’t want to be the guy looking foolish after the game just because I thought they weren’t going to be as good as they can be,” center Peter Konz said. “Every team gets better after the first game.”
Oregon State coach Mike Riley hopes his team can rally on the road after the loss.
“We have obviously a big challenge and a big week ahead of us,” Riley said. “A lot of this will be a mental factor for our team because as we all know in sports, confidence is a big deal. I think if we can, in some fashion, take that last game and learn a lot from it, and then focus on this week, then we’ll play a better football game.”
“Right now, Ryan is our starting quarterback,” Riley said. “Just like you do with tight ends, wide receivers or running backs, sometimes there are different packages for different guys. So we’re putting some things together for both quarterbacks. We intend to play them both. … They can both help our team.”
No matter who is under center, Riley knows they’ll be playing in a tough environment.
“We love to embrace these venues that we get to play in,” Riley said. “It’s part of what Oregon State does and it’s a part of college football. Frankly, as a young guy, you have to learn to handle it because we want to go in anywhere and compete and not be distracted by noise or environment.”
Despite the big victory over UNLV last week, the Badgers aren’t entirely satisfied with the way they played on defense.
“It was disappointing,” defensive lineman Patrick Butrym said. “I think we were pretty stout for a while, but they ran a lot of outside runs on us. We all didn’t fit very well. But also, we need to tackle better. As you’ve probably heard 100 times, those are things we need to work on. We all missed tackles.”
And while the Badgers are seen as a team filled with the potential to do big things this season, Butrym said the team is trying to shrug off national recognition.
“I don’t think we really go into places thinking ‘We’re whatever number team we are in the country,’ and think teams are going to roll over for us,” Butrym said. “That’s not going to happen. We need to prepare like a top-ranked team and I think we’re starting to. And we’re starting to figure out our identity. We just need to continue to work hard.”
By Douglas Holtz-Eakin
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