Led by a career-high 179 rushing yards from tailback Zach Zwinak, Penn State got a 37-yard field goal from Sam Frickin in overtime and Kyle French couldn't answer with a 44-yard try of his own, as Penn State beat Wisconsin, 24-21, in both team's regular season finale at Beaver Stadium.
The victory means Wisconsin (7-5, 4-4 Big Ten) will head to the conference championship game as the division's third-place team, as Penn State (8-4, 6-2) clinched second place in the Leaders Division and will spend the first of four postseasons at home as a result of its NCAA sanctions.
Penn State had allowed only six points and no touchdowns in the first quarter through the team's first 11 games, so it seemed like a good sign of things to come when the Badgers scored on their first two drives and racked up 127 yards on just eight plays. On Wisconsin's next seven drives (32 plays), UW only managed 84 yards.
Yet somehow, Curt Phillips managed to put the Badgers in position to win. After getting picked off on a fourth-down attempt inside the Penn State red zone on the second-to-last drive, Phillips drove Wisconsin 66 yards in 14 plays, throwing a touchdown pass to Jeff Duckworth with 18 seconds remaining.
Once again, overtime was a different story. After UW's defense held Penn State to a 37-yard field goal, Wisconsin lost two yards in four plays and watched Kyle French's 44-yard field goal attempt sail way to the left, ending the misery.
Scoring on a 17-yard toss with 6:27 left in the first quarter to give Wisconsin a 13-7 lead, Montee Ball's 18th touchdown of the season broke the career mark previously held by Travis Prentice of Miami (Ohio). Prentice scored 78 touchdowns from 1996-1999. His day was virtually nonexistent after that, as Ball finished with 111 yards.
Even though he was plagued by drops by his receivers, Phillips finished 12-for-25 with 191 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
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4 plays, 74 yards, 1:49 TOP, 13:11 left
Melvin Gordon 57-yard catch from Curt Phillips (Kyle French kick)
Key Play: Going in motion from the high slot, Gordon was the beneficiary of his spotter slipping between the hashes. Despite pressure in his face, Phillips delivered the pass on the move and Gordon used his speed to go untouched along the sideline.
15 plays, 78 yards, 4:54 TOP, 8:17 left
Zach Zwinak 3-yard run (Sam Ficken kick)
Key Play: While Wisconsin wasted little time in scoring first, Penn State was methodical on its drive, converting three third downs. The biggest blow was a 12-yard completion by Matt McGloin on third-and-5 to UW's 17 with David Gilbert charging in.
4 plays, 53 yards, 1:50 TOP, 6:27 left
Montee Ball 17-yard run (Kyle French kick)
Key Play: On a run around the right side, Ball got a great block by Derek Watt to wipe out the safety and trip up the middle linebacker, allowing Ball to run right into the record books.
10 plays, 77 yards, 4:00 TOP, 10:55 left
FG Sam Ficken 23
Key Play: After stagnate five drives to end the first half, McGloin got Penn State back on the board by completing a 37-yard pass to Jesse James, getting the Nittany Lions down to the 10-yard line.
11 plays, 72 yards, 4:10 TOP, 2:58 left
FG Sam Ficken 32
Key Play: Zach Zwinak rushed for 22 yards on the first play of the drive, but was a millisecond away from coughing up the football, as Mike Taylor caught him from behind. The play was reviewed, and replays showed just how close the play was to going toward to UW's direction.
21-14 Penn State
6 plays, 67 yards, 2:10 TOP, 13:32 left
Jesse James 41-yard pass from McGloin (Zwinak run)
Key Play: Choosing to gamble on fourth-and-six, McGloin extended the play and Wisconsin's zone coverage broke down, allowing James to be wide open at the 20-yard line and run for the go-ahead score.
14 plays, 66 yards, 3:33 TOP, :18 left
Jeff Duckworth four-yard pass from Phillips (French run)
Key Play: Duckworth hadn't caught a touchdown since last year's conference championship game and been held without a catch for 12 of the past 13 games, but made a great play from his knees to tie the game.
24-21 Penn State
FG Sam Ficken 37
Key Play: After a tough season, Ficken finally ended on a high note, sneaking in a 37-yard try just inside the left upright.
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