Wisconsin used a powerful running game and their usual stellar defense to jump out to a 28-7 lead. Penn State scored a touchdown just before halftime and added 24 additional points in the second half to pull out a come-from-behind 38-31 win over the Badgers in the Big Ten Championship game on Saturday night.
Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley completed 22 of 31 passes for 384 yards and four touchdowns, taking advantage of a Badger secondary that played not only their worst game of the season, but possibly of their career.
The big play Nittany Lions got to the Badgers with six big plays totaling 228 yards, five through the air and one on the ground. It was characteristic of Penn State, but uncharacteristic of the Badgers, who were one of the better big play defenses in college football.
But even with a 14-point halftime lead, Badger fans went into halftime wondering what would come in the second half. Penn State, which outscored the Badgers 24-3 in the second half, outscored their opponents in the second half on the season 280-105.
Of the 28 first half points by the Badgers, seven came directly from the defense when linebacker Ryan Connelly picked up a fumble and ran 12 yards for a touchdown.
The Badgers also scored a touchdown on a short field in the first half when Penn State coach James Franklin had his team go for it on fourth down inside their own territory. The Badgers pressured McSorley, who threw incomplete. The Badgers would go up 28-7 on a Dare Ogunbowale touchdown run.
The Badgers were looking at a 28-7 lead at halftime, but McSorley hit Saeed Blacknall for a 40-yard touchdown with 58 seconds left in the first half.
That was the momentum changer. Penn State had come back so many times this season that they believed they could do it again, despite playing one of their worst opening halves of the season.
The Badgers had one last chance to try to forge a tie and send the game to overtime. They drove to the Penn State 24 but Corey Clement was stopped on a fourth and one play with 1:05 left to play. That would be it for the Badgers.
It was a monumental collapse for the Badgers, who were looking at the very least, at a trip to the Rose Bowl. Now it appears they’re headed for a January 2 matchup against unbeaten and 17th ranked Western Michigan in the Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
The Badgers fell to 10-3 with the loss and it’ll take them a little while to put this one in the rearview mirror. They did more than most expected they would, but in the end, they couldn’t win the big game.
The Badgers had one of their toughest schedules in recent memory and opened with a victory over L.S.U. at Lambeau Field to get the ball rolling. But they couldn’t beat the Big three in the East, suffering losses to Michigan, Ohio State and now Penn State.
Paul Chryst will find a way to get his team to regroup, he always does. But watching this team play in a potential Cotton Bowl game just won’t be the same.