That hope was lost, and lost early, as the Nittany Lions handed the Badgers a 48-7 whopping, which is their worst home loss since 1989 when Wisconsin fell to Miami (Fla.) 51-3 in the season opener.
"Obviously when you get into the coaching profession, there will be good days and bad days," Bielema said. "Today, our team did some good things at times, but overall, did not do very many positive things, especially in the first half."
Wisconsin was lucky to keep things close in the first half, closing out the first quarter down only by a field goal. But Penn State – with quarterback Darryll Clark, who finished with two rushing touchdowns and one passing touchdown, orchestrating the Spread HD offense – quickly opened things up in the second quarter.
After Evan Royster scored on a two-yard run to put the Nittany Lions up 10-0 on the first possession of the second quarter, Wisconsin's Allan Evridge threw three incompletions, forcing the Badgers to punt. Derrick Williams returned that punt for 63 yards and a touchdown, opening the game to an unrecoverable amount for Evridge and the struggling Badgers' offense.
"We really saw the momentum swing at that point and it was never really going to come back," Bielema said.
Wisconsin was unable to gain it back because it was unable to get anything going on offense. The Badgers stuck to a ground-oriented attack early, having thrown only one pass in the first quarter and just eight in the first half.
Of the passes that were thrown, not many were completed – Evridge finished 2-for-10 with an interception, leading to him being pulled in favor of Dustin Sherer in the third quarter.
"It wasn't the way I wanted to play and the run game was getting shut down because we weren't able to find the holes," Evridge said. "After going down in the game, we weren't able to bounce back."
Sherer seemed like he was going to start a spark of some sort when he entered, having completed his first two attempts, but that quickly ended as he threw two interceptions.
Penn State did its part in the second half, too, but not giving Wisconsin much of an opportunity to come back. To open the third quarter, the Lions went on a six-play, 76-yard drive before Clark slipped in for a four-yard touchdown. About five minutes later, the Lions went on a seven-play, 82-yard drive before Clark heaved a 44-yard pass to Deon Butler to give Penn State a 38-7 lead and put the game completely out of reach for Wisconsin.
The loss puts Wisconsin in an unrecoverable position. The hopes of a BCS bowl game bid, a Big Ten title or even a January 1 bowl game are out the window. Much of Wisconsin's goals are now unachievable, leaving the biggest question on Badger Nation's mind a tough one: where to go from here?
"I think we still have everything to play for," Mike Newkirk said. "Winning is a lot to it, but there's more to the game. There's how you play and what you play for. If you ever have to questions what you play for, then maybe you have to question maybe being out there at all.
"It how you finish out a season," he added. "You can't just throw in the towel now that we got off to a bad start, you got to finish."