It wasn’t the worst lopsided loss by a major program on Saturday — UCLA having lost to NCAA purgatory dwelling USC 50-0 — but it was a thorough and convincing beat down. Number 16 Wisconsin (10-2, 6-2 Big Ten) defeated #19 Penn State (9-3, 6-2) 45-7 at Camp Randall. Wisconsin will play in the inaugural Big 10 championship game in Indianapolis on December 3, while the Nittany Lions grab a piece of the Leaders Division championship (the part that doesn’t mean anything).
A road start at 3:30 should have given our guys a good basis for for pulling out a maximum effort. At Jackstand’s Garage, Zbeard opined before the game, having read my column here, that he disagreed with my prediction. He said, “Penn State can win this game.” I thought, hmmm, what haven’t I thought of? What did I miss? It looked to me like the Badgers were vastly superior and would run all over the Lions. So, I asked, “Why do you say that?”
“Because they haven’t played it yet,” responded zbeard.
“We’ve been facing quarterbacks like that all year.But he’s obviously phenomenal at what he does. When we didn’t have good coverage, he’d complete a pass.” —Drew Astorino, Penn State safety
The early glimmer of hope evident in Jackstand’s Man Pit, a decidedly 1970s sectional seating arrangement, arose out of an early touchdown on a 44 yard, pass from Matt McGloin to Curtis Drake, which probably saved a shutout. The Nittany Lions set up this touchdown with a little help from the Badgers when James White ran into punter Anthony Fera on third and four. Jubilation overcame Jackstand’s Man Pit, but alas, it was the last time any cheering was to be heard as the four of us (Jackstand, zbeard, Artificially Sweetened, and the Nittany Turkey) would have nothing at all to cheer for the remainder of the game, at least until about the time the halftime food was unveiled.
Subsequent to Penn State’s lone touchdown, their only scoring of the day, Wisconsin dominated the Lions in every way they could.
By halftime, the Badgers led 28-7. What halftime adjustments could Bradley make with his team having made four first downs as opposed to Wisconsin’s 12? The only adjustment that made sense would be to adjust their protective cups for increased comfort while they sleepwalked through the rest of the game. This was akin to picking a scrawny looking guy in a barroom brawl, landing a lucky first punch, and then getting pummeled by what turns out to be an ex-Marine with a 7th degree black belt in Who Flung Poo, then getting up in a daze and coming back for more. Masochism, to be sure, but better than curling up in the fetal position and absorbing the blows.
Wisconsin picked up where they had left off. Brett Bielema is not the type of gentleman coach who would relent in the name of good sportsmanship like some former Penn State coaches might, and he most assuredly didn’t, piling on another 17 points after the intermission.
This turkey had seen quite enough by halftime — enough to know that no comeback was possible, so I proceeded to get sodden on boxed wine.
Time of possession? Wisconsin 38:17, Penn State 21:43. That stat tells you how long the PSU defense was on the field fighting the two-headed dragon, sucking wind most of the game. Badger quarterback Russell Wilson was 19-29 for 186 yards aerially with two touchdowns and no interceptions, plus he gained 36 yards on seven carries on the ground. He eluded tackles in the backfield. He has now thrown a touchdown pass in 36 straight games. Stud running back Montee Ball ran roughshod all over the PSU defense, as the Badgers’ offensive line double teamed Devon Still all day to neutralize him. Ball finished with 156 yards on 25 carries and four touchdowns. James White added 73 rushing yards. The Badgers were able to amass 450 total yards against Penn State’s vaunted defense. Faced with Wilson’s talented, pinpoint passing and Ball’s ball-shattering runs, the lads did not know which way to turn.
Penn State’s offense was ineffectual, due to its own suckage plus a dominating defensive performance by Wisconsin. The Nittany Lions could scrape together a mere 233 total yards, and had 12 first downs to Wisconsin’s 27. Individually, this was not one of Matt McGloin’s better days, as he threw 17 times for 97 yards and a touchdown. He was intercepted once. Rob Bolden entered the game in the fourth quarter; he was no better. Bolden was 2-7 for 22 yards. Our running dudes were just a-ight. Silas Redd led the pack with 66 yards on 12 carries and Curtis Dukes added 25 yards on six carries. Sloppy ball handling made the suckage all the worse — the aforementioned inopportune interception started the ball rolling (so to speak), exacerbated by three fumbles lost the rest of the way.
No excuses. Wisconsin was tough. We knew that at the beginning of the season when we predicted three losses in November for the Lions. However, we can be proud of playing Nebraska close, and coming up with a rare victory in Columbus. The guys had to be pretty wrung out given the big scandal at Penn State plus the two big games preceding this one. Still, they admittedly came out flat emotionally and probably did not give their all. Moving the ballforward seemed a veritable impossibility for Penn State, which converted only four of thirteen third downs. Turning the ball over to Wisconsin’s “non-suspect” offense was the coup de grace, and the Nittany Lions’ seven penalties for 58 yards added fuel to the Badger bonfire. I’m not saying that the outcome of the game would have been different absent some of the particularly egregious penalties and turnovers, but I can say with certainty that the score would have been much less embarrassing.
To add injury to insult, Penn State running back Brandon Beachum broke a fibula in the fourth quarter. This will undoubtedly mean that he won’t be playing in the bowl game.
Wisconsin next plays Michigan State for the Big Ten’s inaugural championship game on December 3 at Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis. The winner will surely get a Rose Bowl bid.
Interim coach Tom Bradley is giving the boys a week off to lick their wounds before resuming practice for their ever controversial bowl game. Bowl selections will be decided after all the conference championships have taken place on December 10. Some bowl officials have remarked negatively about Penn State. Some think that even with lesser records, mid-level New Year’s Day bowls might prefer to evade the notoriety of hosting the scandalous Penn State in favor of the lesser scandalous Ohio State or the squeaky clean (for now) Iowa Hawkeyes, in spite of both of those intitutions’ inferior records. If their prognostication is correct, say goodbye to the Capital One, Outback, and Gator bowls. Our local rag here, the Orlando Sentinel, predicts that Penn State will land in the Insight Bowl in Tempe, Arizona on December 30 — just about as far away from Florida as possible. That’s probably wishful thinking in view of the hit piece written by Mike Bianchi. Other pundits have suggested that it will be the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte. This should be interesting. We’ll discover which bowl committees have balls, and which have none.
In the meanwhile, we need a break, too.