On Senior Day at Camp Randall Stadium, Wisconsin was supposed to roll to its seventh straight win and be place itself right in contention for an at-large berth in a BCS Bowl game.
Penn State had other ideas.
The Nittany Lions and true freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg came into Camp Randall as a 24-point underdog to the No. 15 Badgers but came out swinging. On the fourth play of the Lions’ first drive, Hackenberg rolled right off a play-action fake and found tight end Adam Breneman, another true freshman, and hit him in stride for a 68-yard catch and run to go up 7-0.
The Badgers stormed back in the second quarter, scoring on consecutive drives to go up 14-7. The young Lions punched back and tied the game before half, before reeling off 17 consecutive points in the second half to open up a 31-14 lead. The Lions defense held off a late rally from the Badgers to seal the 31-24 upset.
A possible trip to the Orange Bowl was on the line for the Badgers, but uncharacteristic mistakes and shaky pass protection doomed UW. Joel Stave, who overthrew several open receivers throughout the ballgame, was sacked three times and was under heavy pressure from the Penn State defensive line for much of the day. The vaunted Badgers rushing attack was limited to just 120 yards as coach Gary Andersen curiously called for a season-high 53 passes and only 30 runs. Stave threw three second half interceptions.
For Bill O'Brien and Penn State, being a 24-point underdog added extra motivation for a team that has just 61 scholarship players. Hackenberg played like a veteran in his best game of the season, throwing for 339 yards and four touchdowns. The Wisconsin defense hadn’t allowed a play longer than 51 yards all season. Penn State picked up four.
The Nittany Lions, who can’t play in a bowl game due to the NCAA sanctions, finish the season at 7-5.
The Badgers’ season comes to a disappointing end at 9-3. The Outback Bowl (third-best Big Ten team) seems like a likely bowl destination for the Badgers.
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