Saturday, November 30, 2013

Penn State vs Wisconsin Game Recap: Nittany Lions End 2013 Season On a Strong Note By Beating #15th Ranked Badgers

                                                                               (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images) 

     Penn State entered its final game of the 2013 season as 24 point underdogs against 9-2 #15 ranked Wisconsin Badgers. But these Nittany Lions, much like last year, were playing with a lot of heart and emotions after being dealt with unjustified sanctions. Penn State received the ball first and on the fourth play Quarterback Christian Hackenberg connected with Freshman Tight End Adam Breneman for a 68 yard score (something we will probably see more of between these two in the near future) to give the Nittany Lions an early 7-0 lead over the Badgers. Penn State's defense started off strong as well, forcing Wisconsin to a three and out on it's first possession, as the Nittany Lion offense continued to build on its early lead.

     On Penn State's 2nd possession the Nittany Lions would drive the ball 74 yards all the down to the Wisconsin Badger 12 yard line. A false start moved Penn State backed to the 17 but gave the Nittany Lions a great opportunity to expand on its lead. But just like all season long, another Special Teams miscue cost Penn State points as Sam Ficken's 34 yard Field Goal (FG) attempt was blocked as Wisconsin dodged a bullet and prevented itself from going down two scores. Wisconsin would not score on its ensuing possession but stopped the Nittany Lions early momentum as they forced Penn State to go three and out on its following possession. But Wisconsin would finally settle things and get their offense going!

     On Wisconsin's 3rd possession, the Badgers took the ball 71 yards on 11 plays and capped it off when Joel Stave hit a wide open Brian Wozniak for a 4 yd. TD pass to tie the game up at 7-7. Wisconsin's defense would force a 2nd consecutive three and out. Wisconsin would convert on a key 3rd & 16 for a first down when Stave found Wide Receiver (WR) Jacob Pedersen for a 23 yard pick up, and just two plays later, Stave would find WR Jeff Duckworth for a 20 yd TD pass. Wisconsin would go up 14-7 as all the momentum seemingly began to shift in the Badgers favor.

     The momentum swing did not last long however, as Penn State used a hurry up approach going 71 yards in just 7 plays that ended with an easy lateral pass from Hackenberg to WR Eugene Lewis that allowed him to walk in the endzone and the game started becoming a see-saw battle as it headed into halftime with a 14-14 tie.

                                                                              (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

     Other than Wisconsin starting out with the ball first, the second half began much like the 1st half did! After forcing the Badgers to go three and out. Hackenberg hooked up with Allen Robinson twice for 31 yards on the Nittany Lions opening drive of the 2nd half and Penn State would complete it when Hackenberg found Jesse "The Outlaw" James in the corner of the endzone, giving Penn State an early advantage in the 2nd half just like they did at the beginning of the game. The TD put the Nittany Lions back on top 21-14. Penn State would this time around look to go for the kill as they forced Wisconsin QB Stave into an interception (INT) as Defensive End C.J. Olaniyan picked it off and took it all the way back to the Wisconsin 19. Penn State could not convert the turnover into a TD, but they did manage three points from a 28 yd. Sam Ficken FG to extend the Nittany Lions lead to 24-14. After a three and out by both teams, Wisconsin would get the ball back and have it heading into the 4th Quarter.

                                                                             (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)


     On the very first play of the 4th Quarter, Wisconsin looked to respond as they were threatening to score when an 18 yard pass from Stave to Pedersen on 3rd down set the Badgers up at the Nittany Lions 33. However, on the very next play Stave would be picked off by Penn State's Trevor Williams bringing it back 33 yards to their own 38. On 3rd & 7, Christian Hackenberg stepped up in the pocket and faced pressure, and was able to get the ball off in time before getting hit and found Eugene Lewis for the 2nd time of the game for a 59 yard TD Pass. Penn State now seemed to be in complete control as they were up 31-14 after the long TD. Penn State forced a turnover on downs on Wisconsin's ensuing possession but were not able to put the dagger in the Badgers heart's with any points and were forced to punt. Wisconsin got the ball back with a little over eight minutes left and were hanging on by a thread.

     The Badgers scored quickly, taking not even two and a half minutes to go 76 yards for a TD to bring Wisconsin back within 10. Penn State started to approach itself with a more conservative game play. Penn State recovered an onside kick that had them beginning at the Wisconsin 45. Hackenberg rushed for 4 yards and had a short pass to Breneman go for 3 yards. A false start moved Penn State back five yards and Hackenberg threw an incomplete pass intended for Lewis. Butterworth's punt would be partially blocked, giving the Badgers decent field position and new life!

     While they were not able to convert for another TD, the Badgers drove the ball near PSU 30. That set up a 48 yd FG attempt by placekicker Jack Russell and managed to split the uprights and suddenly what seemed to be what was going to be a runaway by Penn State had suddenly become a game again! On the Nittany Lions next possession, they faced a 3rd and 9 and just as Wisconsin was expecting pass, Penn State ran a draw play that setup a 61 yard run by Zach Zwinak to give Penn State a brand new set of downs deep in Wisconsin's territory. Penn State would run the clock down to 31 seconds and gave Sam Ficken a chance to ice the game with a 31 yd FG attempt. Ficken's attempt though went off to the right, and Wisconsin's hopes of obtaining a spot in a BCS Bowl Game were still alive. Wisconsin completed two passing plays for a total of 39 yards, setting them up at the PSU 41. After an incomplete pass, Wisconsin faced 2nd down and Stave would put up a desperation heave but Penn State Safety, Ryan Keiser (who won the game for Penn State against Illinois on Nov. 2 after an Interception) came down with the ball and secured the win and upset over #15 ranked Wisconsin, most likely denying them any chance of appearing in a BCS Bowl Game. As for Penn State, they end the season on a strong note that saw some incredible highs and lows along the way en route to a 7-5 record. And now with some of the sanctions already rectified, (with more possibly to be done so along the way) Penn State's darkest days appear to be behind them as they look to build on for the future!  WE ARE............PENN STATE!!!!!!!!!!


     - Zach Zwinak finishes with 994 yards.1st time since 04' Penn State doesn't have a 1,000-yard rusher.

     -  Penn State was just the 4th team to score 18+ points on Wisconsin this year. (Badgers No. 5 in FBS in scoring defense 13.4 ppg)

     -  Wisconsin entered the game having allowed just three TDs at Camp Randall this year. Penn State Finished with four.