Recap: Wisconsin vs. Penn State
Madison, WI (SportsNetwork.com) - Christian Hackenberg capped his freshman campaign with a career-high four touchdown passes, as Penn State upended No. 14 Wisconsin, 31-24, on Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium.
Hackenberg completed 21-of-30 passes for 339 yards with a pair of touchdown tosses to Eugene Lewis, who finished with 91 yards on three catches.
"He really stepped up in a big way, and words can't describe how thankful I am to that guy," senior offensive lineman John Urschel said of Hackenberg.
Adam Breneman and Jesse James added a receiving score apiece, while Allen Robinson racked up a team-high 122 yards on eight grabs for the Nittany Lions (7-5, 4-4 Big Ten), who have the requisite number of wins to go to the postseason, but are ineligible due to NCAA sanctions stemming from the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
The Badgers, meanwhile, were looking to keep their hopes of an at-large BCS bid alive with a seventh-straight win, but saw signal-caller Joe Stave struggle to find his rhythm for much of the tilt.
Stave finished 29-of-53 passing for 339 yards and three touchdowns with three interceptions, while Melvin Gordon rushed 13 times for 91 yards for the Badgers (9-3, 6-2), who dropped their first home game of the season.
"I mean, that's kind of how it was. Just a herky-jerky day," Stave said of the Badgers' inconsistency. "Sometimes we were moving the ball, we were moving it smooth, getting it up and down the field. Other times, we're putting ourselves in tough positions, third-and whatever."
Wisconsin led 14-7 with 5:05 left in the first half following Stave's 20-yard TD strike to Jeff Duckworth, but the Nittany Lions ripped off the next 24 points to build a 17-point advantage.
The Penn State surge started with Hackenberg's 3-yard touchdown pass to Lewis that tied the game 1:16 prior to halftime.
On the play, Lewis lined up out wide to the left and was left uncovered by the Wisconsin defense. Head coach Gary Andersen raced down the sideline to call a timeout, but no timeout was granted and the play stood to send the teams into the break locked at 14-14.
After the Badgers opened the second half with a three-and-out, Hackenberg completed five-of-six passes on a 10-play trek that he capped with a perfect pass to the back right corner of the end zone for James, who wrestled the ball away from a defender for a 7-yard TD and a 21-14 lead with 8:29 left in the third.
C.J. Olaniyan picked off Stave four plays into Wisconsin's ensuing touch and returned the interception 35 yards to the Wisconsin 19, setting up Sam Ficken's 28-yard field goal that made it 24-14 with 4:56 to play in the third.
Following an exchange of punts, Trevor Williams intercepted Stave on the second play of the fourth quarter and three plays later, Hackenberg found Lewis deep down the field for a 59-yard score that pushed the lead to 31-14.
The Badgers turned the ball over on downs on their next touch, but forced a quick three-and-out from the Nittany Lions before Stave guided his squad on a 13-play march that brought the home team within 10.
Stave dropped back to pass on all but one of the 13 plays, culminating in a 5- yard scoring strike to Brian Wozniak that made it 31-21 with 5:38 to play.
Following a failed onside kick by the Badgers, Wisconsin forced a quick three- and-out before Leo Musso blocked the Penn State punt to give Wisconsin possession at its own 42 with 5:09 remaining.
The Badgers settled for a 48-yard field goal from Jack Russell to make it a one-score game and quickly forced PSU into a 3rd-and-9 on the ensuing touch.
However, Zach Zwinak took a draw up the middle and scampered 61 yards to the Wisconsin 21 to give PSU a fresh set of downs.
Facing 4th-and-3 shortly after, Ficken stepped up to try a 31-yard field goal, but missed the attempt to leave the door open for Wisconsin.
Stave completed back-to-back passes to Jared Abbrederis to get the team to the PSU 41, but his last-second heave to the end zone was picked off by Ryan Keiser to end Wisconsin's comeback bid.
Early on, Penn State found the end zone on its fourth play from scrimmage, as Hackenberg froze the defense with a play-fake and found Breneman for a 68-yard score that made it 7-0 less than two minutes into the game.
Wisconsin answered early in the second when Stave capped an 11-play series with a 4-yard TD toss to Wozniak.Game Notes
Wisconsin owns a 9-8 lead in the all-time series with Penn State ... Zwinak
finished with 115 yards on 22 carries for PSU ... Abbrederis racked up a game-
high 135 yards on 12 grabs for Wisconsin ... Wisconsin compiled 27 first
downs, compared to 13 for Penn State.