Penn State’s game against Wisconsin this Saturday was a great microcosm of the Nittany Lions' season: The Lions got down early but were able to overcome obstacles to come out with a win.
After losing Mike Mauti last week, Bill O’Brien’s tumultuous season was looking to take a turn for the worse.
But O’Brien’s team once again overcame adversity.
With the No. 42 on every helmet to pay respect to Mauti, their fallen leader, Penn State was able to outlast the Badgers in a game full of ups and downs.
Saturday was an old-school Big Ten football kind of day—cold weather, snow and little explosion from both offenses.
Although the Nittany Lions get a check in the win column, let’s see who else came out of this game on top.
Montee Ball finished his final regular-season game in the B1G with a strong performance.
With his 111 yards and a touchdown, Ball took hold of the NCAA career touchdowns record with his 79th trip to paydirt.
Ball also tied Travis Prentice’s NCAA record for career rushing touchdowns with his 73rd rushing touchdown of his career.
Saturday was Ball’s 24th career 100-yard rushing performance and his eighth of this season.
The numbers speak for themselves; Ball had a great day against Penn State’s defense.
For being Penn State’s leading receiver, Allen Robinson’s performance Saturday lacked that dominant presence he usually possesses.
Robinson did pull in four catches for 35 yards, but he also dropped a few passes thrown by Matt McGloin.
Against the sixth-best pass defense in the B1G, Robinson just wasn’t as explosive as Penn State fans were used to seeing.
The sophomore did have a great year by pulling 1,013 yards and 11 touchdowns, but Saturday just wasn’t his best performance.
Saturday was a career day for Zach Zwinak with career highs in yards (179) and touches (36).
The bruiser also rumbled in for a touchdown in the first quarter to answer Wisconsin’s first score.
Zwinak took care of the ball and effectively wore down the second-best rush defense in the B1G.
His 179-yard performance was Zwinak’s fifth 100-yard game this season, and it pushed him to 1,000 yards rushing for the season.
After coming out of the bottom of the depth chart, Saturday was an exclamation point on the fullback’s season.
It was a tough, gritty performance by Zwinak Saturday.
In the 2012 B1G Championship Game, Nebraska will be taking on Wisconsin.
With an undefeated team in Ohio State and Penn State beating Wisconsin on Saturday, something doesn’t quite look right.
Realistically, the best teams in the B1G aren’t playing in the conference championship game.
Regardless of the reasons of suspension, this just doesn’t look good for the B1G.
Wisconsin finished the season with a 4-4 B1G record, with back-to-back losses against Ohio State and Penn State.
Whether it’s division realignment or something else, something needs to be changed in the B1G to prevent a team with four conference losses from going to the championship game.
Leading up to their game with Penn State, Wisconsin had the second-best rush defense in the B1G.
The Badger defensive line combined for only 20 tackles on Saturday and were being moved all over the field by the Penn State offensive line.
There were multiple times during the broadcast that ESPN’s announcers replayed Wisconsin’s defensive line getting pushed back at least five yards.
With Zwinak rushing for close to 200 yards, and the Wisconsin linebackers all gathering more than 10 tackles each, a lot of blame falls of the defensive line.
Although McGloin was sacked twice, that was their only highlight of the game.
It was a poor performance by Wisconsin’s usually strong defensive line.
In one of the most emotional games of the year and without their leader, Penn State’s defense was still able to slow Montee Ball.
Jordan Hill’s career-high 12 tackles and his two sacks had a lot to do with it.
At defensive tackle, Hill took over the game on defense, recording eight tackles, a sack and two tackles for a loss in the fourth quarter and overtime.
If there could be a biggest winner from Saturday, it would be Hill.
Fighting through a heavily braced and injured knee, Hill was able to be a game changer when Mauti was on the sidelines.
It wasn’t a secret that Hill was good, but what he did against Wisconsin’s big line was amazing.
After the worst time in the history of Penn State, 30 seniors led the football program through its first season after Joe Paterno.
It wasn’t easy or pretty at times, but O’Brien’s team got through the season with eight wins.
But the biggest of those eight wins came on Saturday—Penn State’s senior day and the last time those 30 seniors would be walking in Beaver Stadium to play football.
What these seniors did to help lead the football team back to the right path is something that can’t be shown in one football game.
The rewards for what they did, though, were reaped on Saturday, with the 2012 season being etched in Beaver Stadium alongside teams that won conference championships, went undefeated or won the national championship.
As the Lions were led into the season behind seniors, those same seniors carried them out.
Along with Hill taking over at the end of the game, senior safety Jacob Fagnano’s first career interception in the fourth quarter helped hold off the Badgers.
Penn State’s program was on the verge of collapse less than a year ago, and those 30 seniors were able to hold it together and finish strong in their final game.