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Bucky’s 5th Quarter’s Fifth Quarter: Thoughts on Wisconsin’s loss to Penn State

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Early-morning musings after a disappointing collapse in Indianapolis.

Big Ten Championship - Penn State v Wisconsin Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images

Play of the Game

Wisconsin was up 28-7 in the second quarter when Penn State started to drive down the field. With 58 seconds left in the first half, sophomore quarterback Trace McSorley threw a pass to junior wide receiver Saeed Blacknall. Junior cornerback Lubern Figaro misplayed his angle and allowed the junior wide receiver to run 40 yards for a touchdown and gave the Nittany Lions some momentum heading into halftime.

That would lead to a string of five consecutive scoring drives, and Wisconsin—albeit for one field-goal drive in the second half—could not answer. Even if there’s a stop there for a first down, there could have been opportunities for Wisconsin’s defense to regroup and make a stop against what would become a surging Penn State offense.

This play did not lose the game for Wisconsin, but rather, started the pendulum swinging permanently toward Penn State in an uncharacteristically sloppy game on the defensive side of the ball.

Honorable mention: Bart Houston’s incompletion to Troy Fumagalli late in the third quarter due to Penn State’s pressure.

Game balls

  1. Trace McSorley. Not much else really needs to be said here. The sophomore quarterback went 22-of-31 for 384 yards and four touchdowns with zero interceptions. He allowed his receivers to make plays throughout the game, and Wisconsin’s secondary did not have any answers for an explosive Penn State offense in the second half. McSorley and the Nittany Lions’ passing attack, which survived pressure and failed fourth-down attempts in the second quarter, decimated the Badgers.
  2. Corey Clement. The senior running back had two fumbles on the evening that could have spelled disaster for Wisconsin’s offensive momentum, but he also had his best game of the season, rushing for 164 yards on 21 carries (7.8 yards per carry) and his 67-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Behind an offensive line and multiple-tight end sets, Clement looked truer to his 2014 form than any other game this season. If injuries to Clement and the offensive line didn’t happen earlier in the year, it would have been intriguing to see what else he could have accomplished in the stats column (guessing higher yards per carry).

What to watch for

  1. The bowl matchup. A lot of chatter about facing Western Michigan in the Cotton Bowl. If that’s the case, that’s a New Year’s Six Bowl. It could be against P.J. Fleck and his Broncos, and the Badgers will have to row their own boat against a raging current of kinetic energy who may (or may not) be with his MAC program next year. It’s also essentially a trap game where it could be a lose-lose proposition. If they do make it there, and with the projections many had for this UW squad heading into the 2016 season, it’d be a worthy destination. Where they go will be worth watching on Sunday. Stay tuned to B5Q for all breaking news.
  2. Other bowls. Pretty sure the top four are set with Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson and Washington for the College Football Playoff, but where Penn State and Michigan end up will worth noting (will the Nittany Lions upend the Buckeyes or Huskies somehow?), along with the other bowl matchups.
  3. Perspective. Wisconsin (both players and fans) should feel disappointed they were 15 minutes from a Big Ten championship and a potential College Football Playoff or Rose Bowl berth (entering the fourth quarter with a 31-28 lead). The Wisconsin State Journal’s Tom Oates admitted the collapse was the “biggest surprise in a surprising season.” Hearing post-game audio from players, this loss will sting and it will last with them for a bit, but as cornerback Sojourn Shelton noted, they’ll lick their wounds and bounce back for the next game. This team exceeded almost everyone’s expectations for 2016 with talk of an 8-4 or 9-3 season being the most optimistic of predictions with their “daunting” schedule. Now UW has a chance for its fourth 11-win season since 2010. There will be the talk of “what might have been” for sure, and it absolutely should be discussed after losing three games to top-seven teams Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State by a combined total of 21 points. Yet Paul Chryst has a solid coaching staff and only 13 seniors departing for a team full of experienced players returning next year. Fans should excited for next year, and also a possible Jan. 2 bowl that no one thought Wisconsin would get to.
  4. More possible Walk-On This Way book signings. They won’t end (in a good way, promise!). Coming up in the next week or two before Christmas, hoping to have one with some more former walk-ons joining us (*wide-eyed eyes emoji*). We had a great turnout last Thursday at Mayfair Mall in Milwaukee with former punter Drew Meyer. Thank you to those who came out.