CHAMPAIGN — One of the main takeaways from Illinois players and coaches after Saturday’s 35-7 loss to Penn State was that the Nittany Lions simply played more physical than the Illini. Tim Beckman’s squad will get a second chance at proving it can match toughness this week against a Wisconsin team that plays a similar brand of football.
“That’s something that you try to stress in practice, and you work on it and continually urge,” Beckman said. “We’re going to work on tackling, we’re going to work on blocking more and getting better at the point of attack and doing those things that I thought Penn State did a good job of doing against us.”
At least one player, running back Donovonn Young, welcomes the bruising style that most Big Ten teams play.
“I like it. The guys from Penn State, after the game they let me know ‘Hey, man, you played hard,’ ” said Young, who rushed for 63 yards on six carries against the Nittany Lions. “I feel like every time I go out there, every time we go out there, we play hard.”
On Monday, quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase raved about Wisconsin’s linebacking corps, led by Chris Borland and Mike Taylor, who have combined to make 98 tackles this season. As good as Penn State’s duo of Mike Mauti and Gerald Hodges was, the Badgers’ linebackers might be better.
“I love the competition,” Young said. “I loved playing against Mauti, talking a little mess. ... I feel like when you play against good competition and you do well, you get respect.”