MADISON, Wis. -- In the week leading up to Penn State's season-ending road trip to No. 14 Wisconsin, Penn State coach Bill O'Brien claimed he didn't care about the huge betting line in the game.
In most places, the Badgers were favored by 24.5 points. Nobody who follows the Nittany Lions could recall them ever being a bigger underdog.
And yet they went into Camp Randall Stadium and pulled off a 31-24 upset that left the 78,064 fans on hand stunned. And it left the PSU coaches and players whooping it up on the field and later in the locker room.
Afterward, O'Brien admitted that he did in fact use the line as a motivating factor.
I thought it was ridiculous, he said.
Turns out he was right.
In winning, Penn State closed out its sanctioned-shortened season at 7-5 overall and 4-4 in the Big Ten. Wisconsin, which had been hoping to sneak into a BCS bowl, saw those hopes dashed while falling to 9-3 and 6-2.
Here is how things played out.
MAN OF THE HOUR: Penn State rookie QB Christian Hackenberg was sensational. He completed 21 of 30 passes for 339 yards and four scores.
CLOSE SECOND: DE C.J. Olaniyan was only credited with three tackles. But he had what the stat crew called an interception (it looked an awful lot like a fumble recovery) that he returned 33 yards and was in Badger QB Joel Stave's face all game.
CLOSE THIRD: Redshirt freshman WR Geno Lewis had three catches for 91 yards and two touchdowns. He had not reached the end zone since the season-opening win over Syracuse.
TURNING POINT: Penn State led 21-14 in the third quarter when Stave was hit while trying to throw. Olaniyan plucked it from midair and rambled to the UW 19. It only led to a Sam Ficken field goal. But the Badgers were dazed and never fully recovered.
ANOTHER KEY MOMENT: Leading 31-24 late in the fourth quarter, PSU faced third and 9 from its own 18. RB Zach Zwinak took a draw 61 yards to help run out the clock and give the Lions some breathing room.
SERVING NOTICE: Penn State showed it was here to play early when Hackenberg hit freshman tight end Adam Breneman on a 68-yard catch and run for a score. Breneman broke a tackle and ran away from the other defenders.
SOLID STRATEGY: O'Brien put the game on Hackenberg's young shoulders and the rookie was up to the task.
NUMBERS GAME: Wisconsin ran 85 offensive plays and averaged 5.4 yards per attempt. Penn State ran 58 offensive plays and averaged 8.0 yards per attempt.
BUSINESS AS USUAL: WR Allen Robinson had eight catches for 122 yards. The offensive line did not allow a sack.
SPECIAL DELIVERY: Lewis had a nice 36-yard kickoff return in the second quarter.
WHAT'S UP WITH?
• Wisconsin leaving Lewis uncovered late in the second quarter. Hackenberg called an audible and threw the easiest TD pass (it covered three yards) he'll ever throw.
• The continued poor play of Penn State's special teams. Ficken finished the season on a low note (he missed two of three in this game -- one of which was blocked). And P Alex Butterworth's slow-motion style resulted in another block.
• All of those false starts by the offensive line.
HIT SQUAD: Stephen Obeng-Agyapong leveled Badger PR man James Abbrederis in the second quarter.
HIDDEN HERO: TE Jesse James had three catches for 24 yards, including an amazing seven-yard TD.
LOST IN THE SHUFFLE: S Ryan Keiser effectively ended another game with an interception in the end zone. That's two this season.
DID YOU NOTICE?
o Freshman LB Brandon Bell made his first career start and delivered with six tackles.
• RB Bill Belton was back in action after missing the Nebraska game with strep throat. He carried three times for seven yards and caught a pass for five yards
• Starting CB Adrian Amos aggravated a foot injury in the first quarter and did not return. He was replaced by sophomore Trevor Williams, who had an interception and three tackles.
• Redshirt freshman Malik Golden replaced senior Malcolm Willis (injured shoulder) at safety late in the second quarter. He had three tackles and a pass breakup.
• Redshirt freshman Brian Gaia, who was listed as a second-team DT on the depth chart, warmed up with the offensive linemen. But he played in the game as a backup DT.
• Only 62 healthy players made the trip for Penn State. Injured players on the trip included TE Matt Lehman, LB Ben Kline and DL Tyrone Smith.
UNANSWERED QUESTION: Could PSU have ended a roller-coaster season on a better note?