STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — According to State College legends, the name Happy Valley was given because students are happy to be at PSU, and opponents are happy to leave the stadium. When the Badgers left on Saturday afternoon they were more than pleased to depart from Beaver Stadium, but not for the reasons the Pennsylvania locals like to believe.
Wisconsin gladly walked away from Penn State with an 18-6 win in its Big Ten opener after dominating over the Lions’ offense.
“You always feel good if you can walk into Happy Valley and walk out of here with a win,” UW head coach Barry Alvarez said. “This is not an easy place to play.”
But Alvarez and his team made it look easy Saturday.
In Wisconsin’s first series of the game, quarterback Brooks Bollinger, in his first start since the season opener against Virginia, connected with tight end Mark Anelli for three yards and a touchdown. The score was set up by the rushing efforts of Anthony Davis (200 yards), who opened the drive with a 19-yard run. Bollinger (112 yards rushing, 61 yards passing)also used his legs in the opening scoring drive, rushing for 13 yards en route to the early six-point lead.
“[Brooks] ran the option well and pulled it down and made some big plays,” Alvarez said. “That’s the nice thing about Brooks — he brings his legs to the table and gives you another weapon on offense.”
Wisconsin kept the offensive momentum from the first drive going throughout the rest of the game. They connected on a 30-yard field goal attempt from Mike Allen to open up the second quarter, and Allen tallied another three yards in the very next series on a 21-yard field goal.
After three consecutive scoring drives, the Badgers streak was ended in the next possession, when Allen’s field 43-yard goal attempt was blocked by the Lions’ Sam Crenshaw. Allen missed his second field-goal attempt in the third quarter when he failed to connect on a 37-yard attempt.
“I felt that the problem with my first [missed field goal] was [that] it was pretty low and then my second one, I don’t even know what that was all about,” UW placekicker Mike Allen said.
Alvarez contributes Allen’s struggles to his lack of experience.
“We have a young guy,” Alvarez said about Allen. “We lost seven points in two field goals and an extra point. In the Big Ten, that’s hard to walk off the field losing a touchdown and taking away points.”
In the end, Allen’s missed points didn’t matter. UW’s offense was able to score points in other ways, and the defense was able to shut down the Lions’ offense.
Penn State’s offense struggled for the duration of the game, accumulating only 131 total offensive yards. The rushing duo of Omar Easy and Eric McCoo was contained, as PSU combined for only 23 rushing yards, and the quarterback combination of Matt Senneca and Zack Mills tallied six completions, which was less than the number of times (eight) they were sacked by UW’s defensive line.
The one area Penn State did succeed in was keeping UW flanker Lee Evans, who leads the nation in receiving yards, out of the game. Evans recorded only one catch for zero yards. Evans lack of production was a combination of UW’s game plan and Penn State’s defense.
“That’s the way it goes sometimes,” Alvarez said of Evans’ quiet performance. “[Penn State] probably gave him a lot of attention… We were just in a game where his number didn’t come up much, or when it did, [the Lions] did a good job [of defending him].”
Patriotic tribute: Before the beginning of Saturday’s game, Penn State prepared a tribute to the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. During the pre-game ceremony, a moment of silence was observed and the newly-added Jumbo Tron in Beaver Stadium showed a film clip that recapped the tragedy and people trying to cope with the incident. Following the film the stadium of 107,253 fans in attendance sang “God Bless America.”
The players took the field prior to the National Anthem, and directly following it the two teams joined together in a pre-game handshake.
“I thought Penn State did a tremendous job and a very classy job, and one that was sensitive to what we wanted to do prior to the game in showing our feelings,” Alvarez said. “Our players wanted to be involved [with the ceremony], so what we tried to do was tell them exactly what we were going to do, how we were going to do it, and then when that’s over, pay your respects, and when that’s over let’s focus on football. Our guys were able to do that.”