WISC: Game Breakdown

The Penn State linebackers were good, the Nittany Lion offense was bad and a pair of third-quarter plays proved pivotal Saturday, as PSU dropped a 13-3 decision at Wisconsin and Joe Paterno had to leave the game due to an injury.

MADISON, Wis. - Wisconsin evidently took its toughen-up pills this week. The Badgers left Penn State battered and bruised, pressing their size advantage on the line of scrimmage in a 13-3 victory over the Lions. Here are a few odds and ends from a newsworthy afternoon at Camp Randall Stadium.

MAN OF THE HOUR: Running back P.J. Hill epitomized the Badgers' straightforward attack, rushing for 148 yards on 31 carries. Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema had caught some flak in Madison for questioning Hill's toughness after the 242-pound freshman left last week's game against Illinois with a nerve injury in his neck. Apparently he's got a lot more than thick skin going for him.

TURNING POINT: Two consecutive plays in the third quarter sealed the Lions' fate. First, Donnie Johnson dropped an interception on which he might have scored. Moments later, Wisconsin recovered a punt that bounced off PSU's Lydell Sargeant to set up a field goal that made the score 13-3. Penn State never recovered.

SOUND STRATEGY: The Lions blitzed like crazy, forcing two John Stocco fumbles and amassing four sacks. Penn State's defense kept things interesting, and might have spearheaded an upset had Johnson been able to hang on.

SOUND STRATEGY, PART 2: What looked to be an instance of questionable conservatism on Bielema's part - a swing pass on third-and-16 in the first quarter - turned out to be a canny move. The play netted 10 yards and left the Badgers in Taylor Mehlhaff's field-goal range on a day when field goals were all they would need.

NUMBERS GAME: Penn State was 5 of 16 on third- and fourth-down conversions, a statistic that goes a long way toward explaining its inability to sustain drives.

NOT-SO-SPECIAL DELIVERY: Paterno was irate when the Badgers intentionally jumped offside on consecutive kickoff attempts in the final seconds of the first half. The botched kickoffs ran 19 seconds off the clock.

HIT SQUAD: Dan Connor blindsided Stocco, causing a fumble that Sean Lee recovered in the second quarter. Honorable mention: Safety Roderick Rogers drove Tony Hunt backward for a 7-yard loss on a swing pass in the first quarter.

GIVE HIM A HAND: Except for the fact that it left Paterno in a leg brace, Andrew Quarless' acrobatic third-quarter catch was a thing of beauty. It was the freshman tight end's second dazzling sideline reception of the afternoon. Honorable mention: Derrick Williams made a nice leaping grab at midfield and held onto the ball after being driven into the turf by Joe Stellmacher. Result: a 29-yard gain.

YELLOW FEVER: Penn State committed six penalties, the most harmful of which was Levi Brown's hold, which negated a Hunt run deep into Wisconsin territory in the fourth quarter.

EXTRA EFFORT: Hunt weaved 9 yards on a third-and-8 shovel pass, ducking a couple of Wisconsin tacklers.

HIDDEN HERO: Facing a tricky wind, Mehlhaff made 2 of 3 field goals, with his only miss coming from 47 yards. In addition, three of his four kickoffs resulted in touchbacks.


• That Paterno, long the bane of ESPN sideline reporters, gave an angry brush-off to a cameraman, yelling something presumably not very nice as he trudged off the field at halftime?

• That linebackers Lee and Connor both played hurt? Lee had a stinger and Connor played with a broken left hand after being injured Tuesday in practice.

• That the grandstand under the scoreboard at Camp Randall didn't fill up until late in the second quarter? For some reason, Wisconsin students don't seem to like 11 a.m. kickoffs. Go figure.

UNANSWERED QUESTION: How's the nightlife in Ybor City these days? The Nittany Lions' most likely postseason scenario now appears to involve a trip the Outback Bowl in Tampa.


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