Dec. 04, 2016
Penn State left no Trace of Wisconsin in their comeback
The Penn State Nittany Lions used a dominating second half to eradicate the Wisconsin Badgers, 38-31 on Saturday. For most of the first half, the Nittany Lions were outclassed, and they were on the verge of an epic defeat in the Big Ten Championship game.
Instead, the Nittany Lions outscored the Badgers 24-3 during the decisive second half run. For the first time all season, the Badgers' defense lost control of a game. They weren't able to contain the potent passing attack. The size and speed of the wide receivers were too much to handle.
After trailing 28-7 late in the first half, Trace McSorley and the Penn State offense went crazy. Some may say the coaching staff went crazy early in the second quarter, but the offensive explosion was something the Badgers had not see all season long. McSorley completed 22-of-31 passes for 393 yards and four touchdowns. It's a far cry from the battering ram he became early in the contest.
Nine minutes into the game, Corey Clement scored on a 67-yard touchdown run, giving the Badgers a 14-point lead. Coming off the heels of 15-play 86 yard touchdown drive, the Badgers were in complete control.
However, McSorley and the offense showed a semblance of life late in the quarter. The first-year starting quarterback hit Mike Gesicki for a 33-yard touchdown pass in the back of the endzone. First of all, the play kept the Nittany Lions in the game. The play also foreshadowed what was to come in the second half.
Let it fly, young man!— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 4, 2016
Trace McSorley torched the Wisconsin defense for 384 yards and 4 TDs in Penn State's big win pic.twitter.com/WbJWeBDnli
During the second quarter, a bad snap led to a Ryan Connelly 12-yard fumble return. In a moment's notice, the Badgers were up 21-7. That's when James Franklin and company decided to forego the punt team. First, McSorley was forced to throw the ball away on a fourth down. Moments later, Dare Ogunbowale skated into the endzone for a seven yard touchdown. With the Badgers leading 28-7, the Nittany Lions seemed to be in panic mode.
Therefore, it was no surprise to see them go for another fourth down. This time, T.J. Watt crushed McSorley for a sack and fumble recovery. However, the Nittany Lions defense held the Badgers scoreless on the drive. Little did fans know, the entire game changed on that possession.
With 2:25 left in the half, the Nittany Lions got the ball back. McSorley found Saaed Blacknall for a 40-yard touchdown pass. The captivating play turned the game around. Instead of trailing by 21 points at the half, the Nittany Lions were down 14 with a little bit of momentum. On the first offensive play of the second half, McSorley found Blacknall for a 70-yard touchdown pass. In a matter of minutes, Penn State scored 14 points on one of the best defenses in the country.
Furthermore, their defense was ready to hit their full stride. Even when the Badgers moved the ball in the second half, Penn State came up with big stops. A familiar name made the biggest stop of the year.
Grant Haley had the return vs. Ohio State and the tackle vs. Wisconsin— Big Ten Championship (@TRSB1GFootball) December 4, 2016
The Badgers needed one yard to continue their potential game-tying drive. After running for 241 yards, they decided to get one more yard in the final minute. Unfortunately for the Badgers, Penn State stuffed the run and Grant Haley made an incredible stop to seal the win.
The Nittany Lions finished the season with nine straight wins. No team has been able to stop Penn State since their loss to Michigan. Maybe, Penn State has done enough to earn a College Football Playoff berth. It's all up to the selection committee. If they were watching Trace McSorley, the selection committee may get the picture of the Penn State Football program.