INDIANAPOLIS – It was a classic Jekyll and Hyde scenario for the Wisconsin Badgers of the first half and the Wisconsin Badgers of the second in the Big Ten Championship against Penn State. After a two-touchdown lead at halftime for Wisconsin, Penn State came back to win 38-31.
After what safety Leo Musso called the “worst half of football” against Minnesota, Wisconsin came into Saturday’s game with high energy on all sides of the ball. The defense’s first drive led to a Penn State three-and-out with outside linebackers Vince Biegel and T.J. Watt bringing pressure off the edge. PSU would get no first downs in the first quarter.
Senior Bart Houston started Saturday and brought with him a pounding Wisconsin offense. The Badgers first drive of the game took the ball 81 yards down the field and in for an Austin Ramesh touchdown. Another three-and-out by Penn State, and senior running back Corey Clement, who finished with 207 all-purpose yards, ran in for a 67-yard touchdown.
After a 33-yard touchdown pass from Penn State’s Trace McSorley to Mike Gesicki, the Wisconsin defense would get their first defensive touchdown of the game. Linebacker Ryan Connelly recovered a fumble and returned it 12 yards to the end zone, putting Wisconsin up by two touchdowns in the second quarter.
Penn State shifted the momentum in the third quarter. McSorley and company would come away with two touchdowns in the third. McSorley ended 22 of 31 for 384 yards and four touchdowns. The dual-threat quarterback’s passer rating was an unbelievable 217.6.
“Give credit to Penn State for coming out at half and making those adjustments,” Biegel said of Penn State’s second half performance.
This season has been a true season of ups and downs for Houston, who entered the season with the starting job, lost it in late September to redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook, and returned to start against Penn State. Houston would go 16 of 21 for 174 yards and no touchdowns. He would play the whole game.
Though Wisconsin’s run game with dominating on offense today with 241 total rushing yards, Penn State came away with more total yards with 454. Penn State running back Saquon Barkley would finish with 16 carries for 84 yards and a touchdown.
On defense, junior outside linebacker T.J. Watt had an outstanding first half of the game. Watt finished the game with four total tackles, one forced fumble and fumble recovery, one sack and 1.5 tackles for a loss. In the second half, however, the defense struggled to stop Penn State’s offense with several missed tackles and poor coverage.
Houston and company would attempt a fourth quarter comeback, but ultimately, they came up short with a Penn State stop on fourth down. The loss is especially tough for the seniors who gave it their all against an explosive second half Penn State team.
“The seniors, they leave a legacy; not just in what they do on the field, but how to go about everyday,” head coach Paul Chryst said.
“These are the games as a senior you dream about. I’m really proud of this team,” Biegel added.
While the loss will sting for awhile, Badgers players are proud of their season and thankful for each other and an opportunity to play in a bowl game.
“This team is going to stick with me forever,” Clement said. “These are brothers I made a new bond with.”