INDIANAPOLIS – The University of Wisconsin no longer has to worry about griping if it was left out of the four-team College Football Playoffs as Big Ten champions.
A program that has rode its defense all the way to the Big Ten championship game saw its defense whipped by Penn State and quarterback Trace McSorely. The sophomore picked a part Wisconsin’s secondary over the final three quarters and led the eighth-ranked Nittany Lions to a 38-31 upset victory over No.6 Wisconsin in front of 65,018 fans at Lucas Oil Stadium Saturday night.
It’s the first Big Ten title for Penn State (11-2) since 2008 and pushes its winning streak to nine. It’s a mark the Nittany Lions achieved by crushing the Badgers’ secondary.
UW’s defense came into the game giving up 292 total yards (third in the country) and 191.3 passing yards (23rd in the country). McSorely threw for 384 yards and four touchdown passes – a Big Ten title game record - of 33, 40, 70 and 18.
The 38 points were a season high allowed for Wisconsin (10-3), which once led the game 28-7 in the second quarter.
Wisconsin’s offense couldn’t have asked for a better first half. The Badgers scored touchdowns on three of their five drives, including going 80 yards in eight minutes on their opening possession and seeing tailback Corey Clement scamper 67 yards a couple minutes later to make it 14-0.
Clement finished with 164 yards on 21 carries and the touchdown.
The Badgers’ defense was hit and miss. Wisconsin delivered a 12-yard fumble recovery by Ryan Connelly off a muffed snap and made two fourth-down snaps near midfield, but the Badgers gave up six plays of at least 16 yards and touchdown passes of 33 and 40.
The 40-yard score came with 58 seconds left in the first half and started a momentum wave for Penn State after halftime. After senior kicker Andrew Endicott missed a 48-yard kick, McSorely connected with Saeed Blacknall again, only this touchdown went 70 yards instead of 40.
One drive later, Penn State registered three plays of at least 16 yards to march quickly down the field to erase Wisconsin’s 21-point lead.
UW had a glimmer of hope late after its defense manage to hold Penn State to a field goal, keeping the deficit at one possession with 5:14 remaining. A combination of runs and passes helped the Badgers advance as far as the Penn State 24-yard line, but UW’s fourth-and-1 attempt fell short when Clement was stopped for no gain.
Penn State ran out the clock from there, dropping the Badgers to 2-2 in conference title games.
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No.8 Penn State 38, No.6 Wisconsin 31
14 plays, 81 yards, 8:00 TOP, 5:27 left
Austin Ramesh 1-yard run (Andrew Endicott kick)
Key Play: Quintez Cephus' jet sweep went nowhere and a three-yard loss was going to set up a third-and-long. However, a 15-yard penalty on linebacker Manny Bowen for a late hit out of bounds saved Wisconsin and gave the Badgers a first down at the Penn State 42.
2 plays, 72 yards, :45 TOP, 3:06 left
Corey Clement 67-yard run (Andrew Endicott kick)
Key Play: Corey Clement broke what appeared to be an inside run to the outside and had nothing but green field in front of him. Safety Malik Golden had an angle on the senior, but Quintez Cephus' down-field block cleared an alley all the way to the end zone.
5 plays, 75 yards, 1:56 TOP, 1:10 left
Mike Gesicki 33-yard pass from Trace McSorley (Tyler Davis kick)
Key Play: Wisconsin gave up chunk plays of 22 and 33 yards on Penn State's third possession, the first of which could have been avoided. D'Cota Dixon got into the backfield on the read option but let Saquon Barkley run by him for a 22-yard gain to the Penn State 47.
Ryan Connelly 12-yard rumble recovery (Andrew Endicott kick)
Key Play: Penn State's decision to go in a shotgun on third-and-1 backfired, as a high snap over McSorley was compounded when the Penn State quarterback tried to fall on the ball. A bouncing ball was eventually picked up by Connelly and taken in for the score.
5 plays, 42 yards, 2:31 TOP, 5:15 left
Dare Ogunbowale 7-yard run (Andrew Endicott kick)
Key Play: After Penn State's gamble to go for it on fourth-and-2 from its own 42 failed, Wisconsin faked the inside handoff, had Bart Houston roll to his right and hit tight end Eric Steffes for a 14-yard gain to the Penn State 27.
8 plays, 90 yards, 1:27 TOP, :58 left
Saeed Blacknall 40-yard pass from McSorley (Davis kick)
Key Play: Lubern Figaro's ill-timed gamble in one-on-one coverage backfield, as the junior corner missed the tackle on Blacknall, and with no help over the top, the junior receiver jogged down the field into the end zone.
1 play, 70 yards, :11 TOP, 10:58 left
Saeed Blacknall 70-yard pass from McSorley (Davis kick)
Key Play: Wisconsin's nickel corners not getting the job done. Blacknall burned Natrell Jamerson off the line of scrimmage and adjusted to McSorley's pass going across the middle, also beating Dixon in the process to make it a one score game.
8 plays, 63 yards, 3:17 TOP, 4:22 left
Saquon Barkley 1-yard run (Davis kick)
Key Play: Three players of at least 14 yards helped Penn State march right down the field, with tight end Mike Gesicki's 17-yard catch along the sideline the biggest one to the Wisconsin 15.
9 plays, 70 yards, 4:06 TOP, :16 left
FG Andrew Endicott 23
Key Play: UW's offensive line opened up some huge running lanes on this critical drive, the biggest coming when Jon Dietzen helped deliver an 20-yard run by Shaw to the PSU 12. UW could have had a touchdown, but a QB hurry caused Bart Houston to throw wide of Troy Fumagalli, who could have walked into the end zone from the PSU 3.
35-31 Penn State
4 plays, 81 yards, 1:30 TOP, 13:41 left
Saquon Barkley 18-yard pass from McSorely (Davis kick)
Key Play: Even when Wisconsin commits a pass interference penalty the Badgers' cornerbacks can't stop the deep ball. Derrick Tindal got beat when receiver DaeSean Hamilton stopped his route to come back to the ball, causing Tindal to grab him but not enough to prevent him from making the catch at the Wisconsin 18.
38-31 Penn State
9 plays, 58 yards, 4:38 TOP, 5:14 left
FG Tyler Davis 24
Key Play: Wisconsin had a chance to get off the field on third down when McSorely threw the ball away at the Penn State 40, but Leon Jacobs delivered a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty to breath life into a Penn State offense that has been humming right along.
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