Inside the box score: The one key stat where Penn State actually beat Wisconsin

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Penn State celebrated a hard-fought victory on the road against Wisconsin, coming out with a 16-10 victory against the Badgers. After the game, head coach James Franklin said in a postgame interview on the field he suspected this game might drive fans of analytics a little crazy because the box score sure tells a different story outside of the final score.

Wisconsin out-gained Penn State 359-297. The Badgers had just shy of 30 first downs (29) while Penn State managed just 11 for the entire game (and had just one at halftime). And Wisconsin kept Penn State’s defense on the field for 42 minutes and 51 seconds.

But Penn State won the turnover battle, 3-0, and made the plays it needed when they needed them the most. So go ahead and scoff at the box score, because the final score is ultimately the only stat that matters.

Here are some key box score stats from the game.

Penn State Offense

Sean Clifford – 18/33, 257 yards and a touchdown

Sean Clifford didn’t look great in the first half. Granted, neither did the rest of the Penn State offense. However, he really started get a rhythm in the second half in a new and revamped offense under Mike Yurcich.

Noah Cain – 8 carries for 48 yards and a touchdown

Cain started to get more comfortable in the second half and after watching this offense today, they need to feed him the ball more.

Jahan Dotson – 5 receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown

As mentioned, Penn State’s offense didn’t really find their groove until the second half and Dotson was a big part of that. He was one of the only playmakers for their offense today, starting with a 49-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter.

NEXT: A look at Penn State’s defensive stats

Penn State Defense

Tariq Castro-Fields – 5 tackles

Castro-Fields showed some nice flashes throughout this game. The Penn State secondary as a whole really looked impressive, especially late in the game with two interceptions in the final minutes.

Jaquan Brisker – 4 tackles

Brisker had himself a solid game. It’s important to note that he did go down twice in the first half with two minor injuries. However, Brown finished strong, intercepting Mertz in the final minutes of the game.

Brandon Smith – 6 tackles

Smith looked impressive throughout this game, finishing as the second leading tackler for the Nittany Lions.

Ji’Ayir Brown – 2 tackles and an interception

Brown was a key factor throughout this game, but his presence played a crucial role late in the game. One important point to note is that Brown did have a minor injury early in the game where he was on the sideline bike for a while. But he eventually entered back into the game.

PJ Mustipher – 6 tackles

As mentioned, Mustipher is one of the heart and souls of this Penn State defense, and even though he only had six tackles, he was still very productive throughout this game.

Ellis Brooks – 8 tackles and a sack

Brooks really showed out this game before his ejection for targeting Graham Mertz. Penn State lost a lot on their defense, but their linebacker core looked like they didn’t miss a beat.

That’s a look at how some of the key players for the Nittany Lions performed. But how did some of Wisconsin’s top players fare in the box score?

NEXT: Key stats from the Wisconsin box score

Wisconsin Badgers Offense

Graham Mertz – 22/37 185 yards and 0 touchdowns

Mertz struggled the entire game as Penn State’s defensive line grabbed momentum early. One key point to note is that we didn’t see too much of the deep ball from Mertz. He found a few connections with tight end Jake Ferguson and wide receiver Danny Davis III. Lots of analysts are high on Mertz, but this was not a good start from him.

Chez Mellusi – 31 carries for 121 yards and a touchdown

Mellusi had a very promising start as a Wisconsin Badger. He played with a lot of power and quickness and was tough to take down at times. No touches for Jalen Berger today, but Isaac Guerendo received a good number of touches and helped Wisconsin get the ball moving, finishing with 13 carries and 56 yards.

Jake Ferguson – 9 receptions for 52 yards and 0 touchdowns

Ferguson made a nice one-handed catch in the red zone during the third quarter. He was a player throughout this game that showed off his ball skills and played with a lot of aggression.

Danny Davis III – 8 receptions for 99 yards and 0 touchdowns

Davis showed some flashes throughout the game and even had a nice red zone catch in tight space. He can be dangerous after the catch, but he was more impressive with his hands today.

Wisconsin Badgers Defense

Jack Sanborn – 5 tackles and a sack

Sanborn really showed out in this one early and was a focal point on the Badgers defense. If he keeps it up, this could be a scary linebacker core to watch in college football.

Scott Nelson – 5 tackles

Nelson had a decent game, but there were times when he was beat pretty bad on a few plays. Eric Burrell and Rachad Wildgoose were pretty big losses for the Badgers secondary and it showed late in the game.