There were more than a few ‘Senior’ moments at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The good senior moments were the touchdown receptions by Badgers in their last games as collegiate players.
The bad senior moment was the collective memory loss by the Wisconsin defense.
The team that hadn’t yielded an offensive touchdown in the last eight quarters, was simply shredded by their opponent this day.
The Wisconsin Badgers had a tiger by the tail in Penn State.
Make that the Nittany Lions by their tails.
The now 7-5 denizens of Happy Valley gave the Badgers all they could handle and pulled off the major upset.
The disappearance of the ‘D’ allowed State to prevail in the end, winning this final regular season contest, 31-24.
A Hail Mary by Wisconsin was picked off in the end zone with a second to play, but the issue was pretty much decided much earlier.
With the defeat, the Badgers’ chances of making a fourth straight Rose Bowl appearance disappeared into thin air along with their chance of a relevant bowl game.
Wisconsin quite simply had no answer to freshman QB Christian Hackenberg.
He lit up the secondary hitting 21 of 30 passes for 339 yards and four touchdowns.
The Badger rushing attack met eight in the box for most of the hour and managed only 121 yards on 30 carries.
Neither James White nor Melvin Gordon III broke that 100-yard mark which they had routinely accomplished all season.
The first quarter was all Penn State with freshman Hackenberg hooking up with Adam Breneman for 68 yards and a touchdown just 1:55 into the game.
The Badgers gave up a 54-yard pass on State’s next possession, but managed only a field goal attempt that failed.
UW QB Joel Stave got his act together in the second quarter, hitting Jared Abbrederis for a long gainer and then Brian Wozniak from four yards out for a 7-7 tie with 11:50 ’til halftime.
On UW’s next possession, there was an appearance by the vaunted running game.
The Badgers moved downfield with an even mix of passes and runs and Senior Jeff Duckworth was on the receiving end of a 20-yard Stave missive for a 14-7 lead at the 5:05 mark.
The Lions roared their way back to even with more long Hackenberg missiles.
A questionable pass interference call on Sojourn Shelton gave State new life and they ended up with a first and goal on the three.
With Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen feverishly trying to call timeout, Hackenberg threw sideways to an uncovered Geno Lewis to tie it at 14-14 with 1:16 left until intermission.
Clearly, Penn State was not going to go away quietly.
The underdog took the lead with their next possession with Hackenberg’s third TD pass covering seven yards to Jesse James with 8:29 in the third.
The Badgers were moving toward the equalizer when the ball was swiped out of Stave’s hand as he was not yet moving forward for a pass.
Defensive end C.J. Olaniyan gathered in the bobble and took it the other way.
The UW ‘D’ closed ranks and State had to settle for a 28-yard Sam Ficken FG and a 24-14 lead at the 4:56 mark.
A fourth Hackenberg RPG to Lewis covering 59 yards made it 31-14 with 12:58 to play.
With Melvin Gordon III on the sidelines with an injury and the sense of urgency in high gear, Stave took to the air to try to get back in this.
He had some success, but on a fourth and 23 deep in Penn State territory, Stave was sacked and the Lions, thereby snuffing out any chance of an epic comeback.
Wozniak pulled in a five yard pass from Stave with 5:38 left to narrow the gap to 10, 31-21.
The onside kick attempt failed and State chewed up sufficient chunks of the clock to hang on to the win.
Jack Russell nailed a 48-yard field goal with 4:13 left to play made it interesting.
The bowl-eligible Badgers (9-3) now will drop out of contention for a January 1 game.
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