Penn State's defense forced Russell Wilson, Montee Ball and Wisconsin's high-powered offense to punt on the game's opening drive. Matt McGloin connected on a 44-yard pass with Curtis Drake on Penn State's first possession of the game. The scoring play came moments after Wisconsin had given the Nittany Lions a second chance with a running in to the kicker penalty. For a brief moment, Penn State had life with a lead in Madison, one of the toughest places to win a game for visiting teams. With a trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten championship game on the line, Penn State had given their defense a 7-0 lead.
But this would not be Penn State's day. Wisconsin scored the next 45 points in a rout to clinch the Big Ten Leaders Division and the berth in the conference championship game. Wisconsin roughed up the feeble Nittany Lions, 45-7, in the regular season finale for both schools.
It started simply with Matt McGloin throwing an interception on the first play from scrimmage, after Wisconsin kicked the football out of bounds after tying the game at seven. Montee Ball gave Wisconsin the lead on the first of his four touchdown runs in the game, and it was all down hill from there for Penn State.
Wisconsin racked up 450 yards of total offense, including 264 rushing yards, while holding Penn State's offense to 233 yards and just 12 first downs. Wisconsin's Montee Ball rushed for 156 yards and four touchdowns, making one final push for Heisman consideration in the process. Ball was named a Doak Walker Award finalist earlier in the week but has lacked a ton of national Heisman hype. His performance against Penn State should change that.
It was one of the worst performance by a Penn State team in a while. The offense turned the ball over three times, special teams added another, and the defense was gashed by a strong offensive team. With so much at stake, it was a total dismal team performance that doomed them in on a day Wisconsin showed exactly what is needed to take care of business.
What does it mean?
Wisconsin is the best team in the Big Ten, and Penn State showed that they are a few steps away from contending in the Big Ten. It was a total meltdown in the first half, in which Penn State allowed more points than in any other full game this season. The offense, defense and special teams all came up small in the first half.
Wisconsin advances to next week's Big Ten championship game, where they will face Michigan State for a second time this season. The Spartans clinched the Legends Division and defeated the Badgers earlier this season on a Hail Mary play at the end of regulation in East Lansing. Michigan State pulled away in a regular season finale against Northwestern on the road on Saturday.
Penn State will await their bowl invitation from whatever bowl may be able to take them. With Michigan winning against Ohio State on Saturday, the Big Ten may be sending two teams to the BCS, which would help Penn State's potential bowl position. There has been plenty of talk to suggest that Penn State's off-field scrutiny could affect the decisions made by bowl suitors, but they will just have to wait and see now.