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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Football: McSorley, Lions gut Badgers in comeback win

After a 28-7 lead late in second quarter, Wisconsin defense was torn apart in demoralizing loss in Big Ten Championship
Jason Chan

INDIANAPOLIS- University of Wisconsin’s football team fell to an inspired second-half performance from Penn State University and 31-3 comeback, orchestrated by redshirt sophomore quarterback Trace McSorley. The Badgers’ loss was their second loss in the Big Ten Championship game in three years, falling 58-0 to Ohio State University in 2013.

Football: Wisconsin blows three-touchdown lead, falls to Penn State 38-31 in Big Ten title game

Offensive player of the game

Trace McSorley put on a show in the second half of the Big Ten Championship game against a Wisconsin defense that is widely considered to be one of the best in the country. His 384 yard, 22-31 performance was enough to sneak the Lions to their first conference title since 1994.


McSorley broke a Big Ten Championship record with four touchdowns in what has become a typical performance over his team’s nine game win streak. The redshirt sophomore put the Nittany Lions in the College Football Playoff picture for the first time this season, a mere 12 hours before the Committee comes out with its final rankings.

Defensive player of the game

There wasn’t much defense to be had on Saturday despite the expectation of a hard-nosed battle, but Wisconsin linebacker Ryan Connelly made what would’ve been the play of the game had the Badgers held on to win. Connelly recovered a bad snap and returned it 10 yards to put Wisconsin up 21-7 with 10 minutes to go in the half.

The redshirt sophomore also led Wisconsin alongside senior linebacker Vince Biegel with eight total tackles, posting six solo tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. There weren’t many bright spots for Wisconsin or either team’s defense, but Connelly burst through with one of his best performances of the year.

Wisconsin player of the game

Of all the stat lines to explain the defensive letdown and offensive shootout in Lucas Oil Stadium, running back Corey Clement’s breakout attack was not one of them. The senior back ran for 164 yards on 21 carries, averaging 7.8 yards per carry and posting a 68 yard touchdown run that sparked Wisconsin’s original scoring run in the first half.

Despite two fumble scares that normally scar Clement’s performances this season, he was able to find holes that have alluded him all year and post dominant numbers against a normally stout Penn State front. The senior shared in the mood of his fellow Badgers in the post game locker room, getting through questions as quickly as possible and finding it difficult to gather himself to say what he wanted to say.

Penn state player of the game

Trace McSorley came into the game Saturday night on a hot streak that only continued as he avoided a turnover and looked like the Big Ten’s best quarterback. Despite handing the ball off the Big Ten’s best running back all season, Saquon Barkley, McSorley took command of the Nittany Lion offense and was the undisputed headliner in the unexpected shootout.

Many people expected the quarterback to find a way to get some big plays through a powerful Badger front, but the unending domination from McSorley will be remembered in Big Ten history. McSorley and his team now hope the Committee takes notice of the win and finds a way to sneak them into the Playoff.

Momentum switch

Penn State has been a second-half team all year, and that was no more true than in the Big Ten Championship on Saturday. However, Wisconsin’s 14-point lead at half had a chance to move to 17 until senior kicker Andrew Endicott missed a 48-yard field goal on UW’s first drive of the half.

While the missed kick was certainly a spark to begin the Lion’s run in the second half, the Badger’s inability to turn the drive into a touchdown, or any points at all, was a true momentum swing that defined the half for Wisconsin. The drive and resulting miss was a notice of a turning tide that would consume Wisconsin as McSorley found his groove on the next play from scrimmage, a 70-yard bomb to bring the Lions within seven.

When you knew the game was over

While many would say the Badgers’ inability to convert on a 4th and one on their final drive was the clinching play for the Nittany Lions, the game came down to several UW defensive mishaps to give PSU the lead. On the final field goal for Penn State that gave it a seven point lead toward the end of the game, Wisconsin’s Leon Jacobs was penalized for roughing the passer on 3rd and 6 to keep what would’ve been a dead drive alive.

Without the penalty, the Lions would’ve been outside of field goal range for kicker Tyler Davis and would’ve given the Badgers the ball with plenty of time and sitting one touchdown away from a win. Despite the significance of the uncharacteristic play from Jacobs, the loss boiled down to a large collection of Wisconsin defensive shortcomings that the offense was unable to overcome.

The mood in the Wisconsin locker room was as one would expect, players talking in somber tones and reflecting on what could’ve been. The UW seniors have experienced this feeling before, but are eager to get over this loss and end the season on a high note with a bowl win.

The Badgers now await where they will fall in the Playoff rankings and what bowl they will play in this year, an announcement expected at noon.

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