The conditions were cold and windy but the Penn State football team and its fans persevered. It took a little extra time for some fans to arrive at the stadium, with traffic backed up due to messy conditions from a wintry mix of weather that fell earlier in the morning.
Once the fans got settled, so too did the team. After allowing a touchdown on the third play it faced, Brent Pry’s defense played a near-perfect game, allowing just three more points the rest of the way.
Trace McSorley led the team though hampered with a lingering leg injury. Tommy Stevens played a larger-than-normal role in the game, rushing 7 times for 25 yards while filling in at times for McSorley.
In all it was a great team effort, including the fans inside Beaver Stadium. The atmosphere was lively even though the tailgating lots were mostly closed and travel conditions were uphill all the way into Happy Valley.
With its 7th win, James Franklin’s team still has a shot at finishing with a ten-win season. Even in a year where the ball hasn’t always bounced in favor of the Lions, the program remains on a positive trajectory.
How It Happened
Penn State got the ball first. After making a first down and then facing 2nd and 1 on the next series, a loss of two yards on a completion to DeAndre Thompkins and then a sack on third down ended the drive.
Three plays later Jonathan Taylor took the ball up the middle 71 yards for a touchdown, giving the Badgers a 7-0 lead before many of the cold and weary fans could get to their seats within Beaver Stadium.
Penn State went down the field, gaining 4 first downs and 75 yards during an 8-play drive. Trace McSorley hit DeAndre Thompkins for a 14-yard touchdown to put a stamp on the drive and tie the game.
The crowd had arrived by the second defensive series, and on a critical 3rd and 2, it was loud inside the stadium. A fumble by Jack Coan was picked up by Yetur Gross-Matos, giving the Lions the ball at midfield.
Miles Sanders made a great run on 3rd and short, leaping over a Wisconsin defender, to keep the drive moving. A holding call pushed the Lions back outside of field goal range but McSorley was able to get a few yards back. Jake Pinegar made a 49-yard field goal to give the Lions an early 10-7 lead.
The Penn State defense stiffened. Yetur Gross-Matos came up with a tackle on 3rd and 2 to force a punt. Wisconsin did the same, after allowing a first down catch by KJ Hamler, the Badgers forced a Blake Gillikin punt.
Shareef Miller had a sack on third down to get the ball back to the Lions three plays later. Miles Sanders took the first play around the right side for a 17-yard run to get into Badger territory. A few plays later he ripped off another long run, this one for 23 down to the 16 on 3rd and 7. Sanders leaped over the line from the 1-yard line for a touchdown a few plays later. Jake Pinegar missed the extra point, and it was 16-7 with 8:09 to go before halftime.
Shareef Miller came up with another drive-ending sack on third down and Penn State had a chance to add a score before the half.
Cam Sullivan-Brown made a catch for a first down to take the ball to midfield. Tommy Stevens entered at quarterback, running on first down and then taking a sack of 10 yards on 2nd down. McSorley came back in and fired a bullet across the middle to Jahan Dotson, a 30-yard catch to keep the drive going. McSorley took a blind-side sack on the next play and suffered a hit on his injured right leg. The drive stalled and a punt resulted.
With 12 seconds to play before the half, Amani Oruwariye intercepted the ball at the Wisconsin 46. Stevens scrambled 20 yards and went out of bounds to get Jake Pinegar a shot to extend the lead from 44 yards with 3 seconds to play. Wisconsin took two timeouts to try to ice the young kicker, and after the wait the kick was blocked.
The Badgers got the ball after the half, taking it into Penn State territory quickly. The drive sputtered inside the ten yard-line and a field goal was all it produced. Wisconsin had the ball for 5:15, covering 65 yards in 10 plays.
Penn State faced 4th and 1 on its own 34 and lined up to punt. Instead, Jonathan Thomas ran the ball during a fake punt for two yards, continuing the drive. Jake Pinegar hit from 42 yards to extend the lead to 9 points with 4:07 to play in the third quarter. The Lions matched Wisconsin’s opening drive with the points, and also by holding on to the ball for over five minutes to give its defense a chance to rest.
Brent Pry’s defense responded with a three and out, with Robert Windsor getting a sack on third down. Shareef Miller forced the quarterback to step up with a fast outside rush, and Windsor was there to finish him off.
On the next play Miles Sanders took the ball 29 yards to the Wisconsin 33. Trace McSorley picked up 6 yards on 3rd and long to get Jake Pinegar a field goal attempt from the 27. The kick came up just a few feet short.
The defense held steady, getting the ball back three plays later. Penn State held the ball for another 6:40, going 49 yards in 13 plays. Jake Pinegar made good on his next attempt, from 23 yards out, to extend the lead to 12 with under 8 minutes to play.
Shareef Miller picked up a fumble after a Gross-Matos sack and ran with it a few yards before fumbling the ball back to Wisconsin, who continued to drive down the field. 11 plays and nearly four minutes later, Brent Pry’s defense came up with another hold to ice the game.
Wisconsin got one last shot after recovering a fumble with 1:44 to play, but Nick Scott ended the drive with an interception.
- Will Fries and Ryan Bates switched spots on the line, with Fries moving to left tackle and Bates to right. While the offensive line play wasn’t flawless, it was solid. Trace McSorley was 19-25 passing and Miles Sanders rushed for 159 yards on 23 carries. Fries seemed a little more confident on the left side, playing much faster and more deliberate.
- Robert Windsor had an incredibly productive game from the defensive tackle position. Windsor had two sacks and two tackles for loss, to go along with his team-leading five solo tackles. With Gross-Matos and Miller playing inspired ball on the outside, Windsor and Kevin Givens have provided nice support on the interior of the defense.
- Wisconsin’s two inside linebackers, T.J Edwards (12 solo tackles) and Ryan Connelly (8 solos) played a whale of a game in a losing effort.
- With Juwan Johnson out of the lineup some of the young receivers got extra playing time. Jahan Dotson, Cam Sullivan-Brown, and Justin Shorter combined for 4 catches and 51 yards, getting much-needed playing experience in a tough, competitive game.