WIS: Game Breakdown

The good, the bad and the ugly from Penn State's nasty loss to Wisconsin in Madison.

MADISON, Wis. -- It may have happened two weeks later than many anticipated, but No. 19 Penn State finally collapsed. The Nittany Lions were overwhelmed by No. 12 Wisconsin and gifted quarterback Russell Wilson here Saturday, ending what can only be described as the most bizarre regular season in school history.

The Sandusky scandal. Joe Paterno and the school president being shown the door. The pressure of a division race. And, of course, an outstanding opponent.

It all added up to the ugliest loss Penn State has suffered since falling 45-6 at Ohio State in 2000.

PSU led 7-0 Saturday and then saw Wisconsin rattle off 45 straight points for a 45-7 victory.

“Obviously, we didn't play a very good football game today,” PSU interim coach Tom Bradley said, in what may have been the understatement of the year.

The Nittany Lions fell to 9-3 overall and 6-2 in the Big Ten, and now must wait to see which bowl will have them. The Badgers improved to 10-2 and 6-2. Though the teams tied for the new conference Leaders Division title, Wisconsin advanced to the championship game by virtue of its head-to-head victory.

Here is what went down on a rainy day and night in Madison.

MAN O' THE HOUR: Punter Anthony Fera had a great game for the Lions. He kicked five times for a 46.2-yard average and had three punts downed inside of the 20. One was downed at the 2.

CLOSE SECOND: Safety Drew Astorino had a dozen tackles. Ten of them were solo stops, which is impressive against the sort of skill players Wisconsin fields.

HONORABLE MENTION: Backup safety Malcolm Willis continued to impress when given a chance. Playing mostly when the game was out of hand, he had five tackles and recovered a fumble.

OPPOSING MVP: Who else but Wilson? And how fortunate are the Badgers that he opted to transfer to Madison from N.C. State? Penn State has faced some outstanding quarterbacks in the Big Ten but it is hard to remember anyone playing at this level as a passer and runner. Wilson was 19 of 29 for 186 yards and a score and carried seven times for 36 yards. He set the tone for the entire game. Of course, a great supporting cast only makes him that much more dangerous.

TURNING POINT: Penn State's only chance in this game was for the offense to make no mistakes -- especially QB Matt McGloin. But with the game tied 7-7 early, McGloin tried a pass in the deep flat to Derek Moye. Safety Shelton Johnson dropped back for the interception to give the Badgers the ball at midfield. They made short work of the short field, scoring on the first play of the second quarter to go up 14-7. The Lions never recovered.

STRONG STRATEGY: Once he got some breathing room, Wisconsin coach Brett Bielema kept feeding talented running back Montee Ball. Ball finished with 156 yards and four touchdowns.

BY THE NUMBERS: At the time Wisconsin led 28-7 in the second quarter, Penn State had run 16 offensive plays. The Badgers held a time-of-possession advantage of 38:17-21:43 in the game.

ASSISTANT ASSESSMENT: This one is easy. They all had bad games Saturday.

GREAT PLAY: Penn State opened the scoring in the game on a play where McGloin used play action to freeze the Badger defense. Wideout Curtis Drake broke free behind the secondary and had to wait for McGloin's bomb to arrive. But he was so open he caught the ball, spun and jogged into the end zone for a 44-yard score.

NOT-SO-GREAT PLAY: Late in the first half, fullback Michael Zordich fielded Wisconsin's pop-up kickoff. He was clocked by Badger Connor O'Neill and fumbled. O'Neill recovered, giving Wilson yet another short field. Six plays later Wilson hit Nick Toon for a 4-yard score and a 28-7 lead.

SPECIAL DELIVERY: Justin Brown, who has struggled most of the year, popped a 33-yard punt return in the second quarter.

BUSINESS AS USUAL: Wisconsin entered this game outscoring opponents by an average margin of 52-11 at home.

HIT SQUAD: How bad were things for Penn State on this day? Early in the third quarter, running back Silas Redd absorbed a big hit and fumbled. The hit -- which was unintentional -- came from Nittany Lion guard Johnnie Troutman.

HIDDEN HERO(S): Wisconsin's offensive line dominated.


• Penn State, which had done a good job protecting the ball most of the year, had four turnovers in this one. And the Lions did not force a turnover until late in the fourth quarter (Willis' fumble recovery).

• The Lions had seven penalties for 58 yards on the game. Again, out of character for them.

• McGloin was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for firing the ball into the turf after PSU tight end Andrew Szczerba jumped offside. You can argue whether the call was an overreaction by the ref. But a veteran QB has to show more composure than that.

• We're not positive on this. But it sure seems like Szczerba is the most penalized tight end in school history.

• Penn State backup QB Rob Bolden is obviously a wreck. The staff gave him a chance on the final quarter and his first pass was drilled into the turf. A wise-cracker in the press box said McGloin was flagged for the same throw earlier in the game. Bolden trip over his own feet while scrambling on the next play. He finished 2 of 7 for 22 yards.

• Wisconsin clearly waived the “no-cheering-in-the-press-box” rule for this game, as red-clad fans sitting near the PSU beat writers were rooting on their Badgers throughout.

• For a BCS-bound team, Wisconsin has a lousy kickoff man. Philip Welch kicked two out of bounds. He was so bad the Badgers frequently went with the pop kicks.


• Injured defenders Mike Mauti and Pete Massarro both made the trip (and counted against the 70-man travel roster). They served as student assistants. Mauti helped signal in the defensive calls.

• Receiver Brandon Moseby-Felder missed his second straight game with a back injury.

• Senior Evan Lewis, who began the season as PSU's starting place-kicker, was not on the travel rosters.

UNANSWERED QUESTION: Was this the end of Penn State's 2011 season? All indications are some bowl will grab the Lions but nothing is guaranteed.



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