Penn State Loses Shot to Play in First Big Ten Title Game: 45-7
Penn State ran out onto the field at Camp Randall Stadium Saturday knowing that a tough Wisconsin team stood between them and the end of what had become an emotional year for the Nittany Lions.
With a win, however, Penn State would be crowned champion of the Big Ten Leaders Division and play Michigan State in the inaugural Big Ten Title Game scheduled for December 3. The Nittany Lions came up short, turning the ball over four times as Wisconsin coasted to a 45-7 victory.
With the loss, Penn State ended their regular season with a 9-3 record overall and a 6-2 mark in the Big Ten Conference.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin advanced to 10-2 with a 6-2 conference record. Despite having the same record in conference play, Wisconsin’s victory ensured them the tie-breaker and they clinched first place in the Leaders Division.
Things looked to be in Penn State’s favor early on. After forcing Wisconsin’s high-powered offense to punt after just two first downs, the Nittany Lions advanced the ball to their own 40-yard line. Stopped on third down, sophomore kicker Anthony Fera came in to punt.
However, a Wisconsin player was flagged for running into the kicker and Penn State’s drive continued. On first-and-10 from the Wisconsin 44, junior quarterback Matt McGloin took advantage of a lapse in judgment by the Badger defense and found sophomore receiver Curtis Drake wide open for an easy touchdown to put Penn State up 7-0.
On their next drive, Wisconsin worked out whatever kinks they had on their first drive, as senior quarterback Russell Wilson led a ten play, 76-yard drive capped off with a 21-yard strike to sophomore receiver Jared Abbrederis in stride. After McGloin was intercepted on the first play of the following Nittany Lion drive, Wisconsin again marched down the field. In the first play of the second quarter, junior running back Montee Ball punched it in from one yard out to give Wisconsin a 14-7 lead.
After Penn State failed to get into a rhythm on their next two drives, Wisconsin pulled even farther away when Ball finished off an 83-yard drive with a 2-yard run, giving the Badgers a 21-7 advantage. It was at this point the game really began to spiral out of control for Penn State, as fullback Michael Zordich fumbled the ensuing kickoff.
Wisconsin recovered and scored once again, as Wilson found senior receiver Nick Toon on a quick 4-yard slant. In a tough environment on the road, Penn State went into the locker room trailing 28-7 at the half.
The second half turned out to be just as chaotic as the first for the Nittany Lions. After picking up a first down on the previous play, sophomore running back Silas Redd fumbled the ball, which bounced into the arms of a Wisconsin defensive lineman. Three plays later, Ball took the handoff nine yards up the gut for his third touchdown of the day and his 33rd of the season, moving him into sole possession of second place on the all-time list for most all-purpose touchdowns in a single season in college football history (behind only Barry Sanders).
Penn State’s woes continued as they failed to convert on fourth down twice to end their next two drives. With 1:19 left in the third quarter, Ball scored his fourth touchdown of the game on an 18-yard scamper. With the score, Wisconsin held a comfortable 42-7 lead.
On their first drive in the fourth quarter, the Badgers added three points on a 44-yard field goal by senior kicker Phillip Welch. The Nittany Lions failed to find the end zone for the remainder of the game, cementing their 45-7 defeat.
Penn State now waits to find out who their bowl game opponent will be this year while Wisconsin gears up for their Big Ten Title Game.
photo taken from Penn State