Wisconsin eager to ruin Maryland's homecoming under Locksley
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) In its first trip to the University of Maryland, the Wisconsin football team might need a little time to adjust the nuances of venerable Byrd Stadium.
The place might also feel a bit unfamiliar to the Terrapins, who haven't played a home game in more than a month.
Maryland (2-6, 0-4 Big Ten) will attempt to break a five-game losing streak Saturday against the Badgers (7-2, 4-1). The last time the Terps hosted an opponent in College Park, Randy Edsall was their coach and the team was sporting a .500 record.
After a loss at home against Michigan and a defeat at Ohio State, Edsall was fired. Offensive coordinator Mike Locksley took over, and as interim coach he has watched the Terrapins fall to Penn State in Baltimore and at Iowa.
Now, finally, Maryland gets to play at home again.
''The players are getting excited about the opportunity to come back,'' Locksley said.
Some schools pick a lightweight to face on homecoming. Maryland will be going up against a team that's won four straight and ripped the Terrapins 52-7 last year in the first meeting between the schools.
Wisconsin ranks No. 1 in the Football Bowl Subdivision in scoring defense, allowing a mere 11 points per game.
''Defensively, I think we're playing at a really good level right now,'' Badgers coach Paul Chryst said. ''There is nothing magic. I think it's basics.''
Offensively, Wisconsin running back Corey Clements is looking to improve upon a 115-yard, three-touchdown performance against Rutgers last Saturday in his return from a seven-week absence with a groin injury.
Locksley won't guarantee anything except that his players will do their best to earn their first win since Sept. 19.
''It's important that we show our alums - the guys that have worn this uniform before them - that we do take pride in the name on the front of the jersey and that we will go out and lay it on the line for 60 minutes,'' he said. ''As I've said before, the scoreboard won't define them, but it's the effort, the preparation, and how you go about playing the game.''
Some things to know about the Wisconsin- Maryland matchup:
GIVE ME A BREAK: This will be the Badgers' 10th straight game before their bye next week. It's been a tough stretch, but a successful one.
''You deal with it and go and try to have a plan for it,'' Chryst said. ''I think our kids have handled it well. We knew that the bye was coming at this point when the schedule came out, and there's a lot of players that don't know any different.''
The Badgers appear to be getting stronger every week. Their four-game winning streak includes victories at Nebraska and Illinois, along with routs at home against Purdue and Rutgers.
WATCH OUT FOR LIKELY: Maryland's Will Likely earned Big Ten special teams player of the week honors after amassing 220 yards in kick returns at Iowa last week, including a 100-yard kickoff return for a score.
With the possible exception of quarterback Perry Hills, he's the Terrapins' most potent threat to take the ball into the end zone.
''Arguably the best in the country, statistically,'' Chryst said of Likely, who set a Big Ten record with 233 yards in punt returns against Richmond on Sept. 5.
SACK SPECIALISTS: Maryland's Yannick Ngakoue and Wisconsin's Joe Schobert are among the nation leaders in sacks.
Ngakoue ranks second with 10 1/2, but he's also contributed against the run, too.
''A guy who does everything right on first, second, and third down,'' Terps defensive coordinator Keith Dudzinski said of the 6-foot-2 junior.
Schobert has 9 1/2 sacks - including three in a loss to Iowa.
PASSING FANCY: Wisconsin is known as a running team, but this season the Badgers have also been effective through the air.
Alex Erickson has 58 receptions, most in school history through the first nine games of the season. Joel Stave needs only 26 yards passing to become the fifth QB in school history with multiple 2,000(equals)yard seasons.
Wisconsin has averaged 35 passes per game, most in the history of the program.