No. 20 Penn State upends No. 15 Wisconsin 16-10 in Big Ten clash

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Sean Clifford threw 246 yards as Penn State used several big plays in the second half and overcame a sloppy first-half performance to outlast Wisconsin 16-10 at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday.

Clifford completed 18 of 33 passes for 247 yards and hit plays of 52, 42, and 49 yards in the final 30 minutes, repeatedly beating Wisconsin's defensive backs down the field.

Noah Cain's 2-yard touchdown plunge with 9:17 left broke a 10-10 tie and gave the No. 20 Nittany Lions their fifth straight victory over No. 15 Wisconsin.

Mellusi, a Clemson transfer, carried it 31 times for 121 yards for Wisconsin, who had their 25-game win streak in home openers snapped.

Graham Mertz threw for only 185 yards and was picked off by Jaquan Basker on fourth-and-6 from the 8-yard line with 2:16 remaining and was intercepted again with 20 seconds left to seal the victory for Penn State.

The first game for most teams is used to work out issues and establish a rhythm that can’t be established during fall practices.

No such luck for Wisconsin and Penn State, who opened their season with a game that could have major ramifications in the Big Ten race down the line.

Wisconsin had chances in the first half, but wasted drives of 14 and 12 plays when Collin Larsh’s 25-yard FG attempt was blocked and on the next possession Graham Mertz fumbled a handoff deep in Penn State territory that snuffed out another opportunity.

Penn State was even worse in the first 30 minutes: Its possessions read like a handbook on how not to move the ball: punt, turnover on down, punt, punt, punt, punt translating into one first down, two rushing yards and 43 total yards.

Wisconsin Badgers running back Chez Mellusi (6) is tackled with the football during the first quarter against the Penn State Nittany Lions.
Wisconsin Badgers running back Chez Mellusi (6) is tackled with the football during the first quarter against the Penn State Nittany Lions.

It was the Big Ten’s first scoreless first half since the infamous MOON game between Michigan and Northwestern in 2014. For Penn State it was even longer. It was their first scoreless half with an opponent since Oct. 29, 2011. That happened to be the last game Joe Paterno coached before he was fired as a result of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

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The Nittany Lions opened the scoring on their first possession of the second half when Clifford found a wide-open Jahan Dotson for a 49-yard touchdown strike.

The Badgers struck back quickly, cashing in on a Mellusi 3-yard touchdown run to cap off a 10-play, 75-yard drive and took their first lead at 10-7 on a 43-yard Collin Larsh field goal.

Jordan Stout tied the score at 10 after hitting a field goal from 24 yards.

The Badgers returned eight starters from a defense that was fifth nationally in total defense and allowed 17 points per game last season, gave up only 297 yards and 11 first downs.

The offense also dominated the time of possession battle, keeping the ball for 42 minutes and running 94 total plays. Those plays could only muster 359 yards.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Penn State beats Wisconsin after sloppy first half in Big Ten clash