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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Badgers earn right to contend for Big Ten title

Wisconsin running back Montee Ball (28) lunges for one of his four touchdowns Saturday against visiting Penn State. Ball now has 34 touchdowns on the year, second-highest in NCAA history, and has scored a touchdown in 12 consecutive games, an NCAA record.[/media-credit]

At the end of October, the Wisconsin football team’s hopes and dreams of playing for a conference title in Indianapolis seemed dim, at best.

One month later, the Badgers find themselves making reservations for a date with Michigan State in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game.

No. 16 Wisconsin (10-2, 6-2) defeated No. 19 Penn State (9-3, 6-2) 45-7 under a steady stream of rain Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium, clinching the top spot in the Big Ten Leaders Division and a spot in Saturday’s title game.


“After those losses, everyone brought it up and we believed we still had an opportunity,” quarterback Russell Wilson said, referring to losses against Michigan State and Ohio State. “We have great leadership on this team. Guys practiced great from those two losses on, and now we have a great opportunity in front of us playing Michigan State.

“It’s truly a blessing to be playing in the inaugural Big Ten championship game. It’s two great teams going after it.”

Running back Montee Ball scored four touchdowns and ran for 156 yards on 25 carries. Those touchdowns upped Ball’s season total to 34, the second-highest season total in NCAA history, behind only Barry Sanders’ 39, set in 1988.

That performance was complimented well by the man handing Ball his namesake, Wilson, who completed 19 of 29 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns. Wilson wowed the audience at Camp Randall all evening long with his feet, too, in eluding sacks and downfield defenders for another 36 yards on the ground.

The two offensive standouts, who have both garnered Heisman Trophy considerations this season, have impressed their head coach like nobody else.

“These two really are, in my opinion, probably – of course I’m biased, and I understand it and I should be – two of the most complete players at their respective positions that I’ve ever seen play the game,” head coach Bret Bielema said. “They both feed off one another.”

Penn State managed to hang around with Wisconsin until late in the second quarter when the Badgers rambled off two touchdowns in the half’s final two minutes to take a 21-point lead at the break.

Up 14-7, Ball plunged into endzone – already his second score of the day – from two yards out with 2:09 remaining in the first half. Linebacker Conor O’Neill then forced and recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, setting up the Wisconsin offense with another chance at Penn State’s 31-yard line.

The Badgers took full advantage, scoring six plays later on a four-yard pass from Wilson to wide receiver Nick Toon to establish a 28-7 lead at the break.

Toon caught a total of five passes for 42 yards and wore No. 87 in honor of his father and team honorary captain, Al, a former wide receiver for the Badgers.

Closing out the half in such a fashion was a lift for the Badgers, who stumbled in the beginning. UW’s offense punted on its first drive and later forced PSU to do the same until running back James White was flagged for roughing the kicker as the Nittany Lions punted the ball away.

The penalty gave the Penn State a first down near midfield, and four plays later, quarterback Matt McGloin found wide receiver Curtis Drake alone downfield for a 44-yard touchdown pass.

“It was strictly a miscommunication, it was totally my fault,” Henry, who allowed Drake to run free downfield, said. “Antonio [Fenelus] and me, we thought it was one thing, but it was something else. I totally take blame for that.”

Henry and the rest of the secondary – as well as the rest of the defense – didn’t allow the Nittany Lions any breaks after that, though. Penn State, who also would have clinched a trip to Indianapolis with a win, was held to just 114 yards rushing and 119 passing for a total of 233, while Wisconsin gained 450 yards.

The Badgers responded with Wilson finding wide receiver Jared Abbrederis on a 21-yard strike with three-and-a-half minutes to go in the first and later claimed the lead when Ball scored from one yard out to begin the second quarter.

Abbrederis finished the day leading the team with seven catches for 91 yards.

Penn State never struck back in the second half, turning the ball over two more times – totaling four on the day – while Ball scored twice more, from nine and 18 yards away.

Kicker Philip Welch capped off the evening with a 44-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.

Coming into the game, Penn State ranked third nationally in scoring defense by allowing just 13 points a game. Entering Saturday, the Nittany Lions hadn’t allowed an opponent to score more than 27 points, but the Badgers put up 28 in the first half alone.

“Forty-five points is a lot of points against a good defense,” Bielema said. “That part is what I wish people would hone in on. [Ball and Wilson] aren’t getting these numbers against teams that aren’t particularly good on defense.”

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