Nittany Lions comeback stuns Badgers, claim Big 10 Title

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INDIANAPOLIS – No. 7 Penn State stayed true to form with a sensational second half, as quarterback Trace McSorley led a thrilling 21-point comeback to defeat No. 6 Wisconsin, 38-31, to win the 2016 Big Ten Championship Saturday night in Lucas Oil Stadium.

McSorley threw for a Big Ten Championship game-record 384 yards and a record four touchdown passes, including three in the final 31 minutes, to lead Penn State to its fourth Big Ten Championship and first since 2008. Accordingly, McSorley was named the Grange-Griffin Most Valuable Player.

Penn State (11-1, 8-1 Big Ten) fell behind 28-7 with 5:15 remaining in the second quarter but rallied for its fourth double-digit comeback of the season – a program first – and its largest since rallying from 21 points down against Northwestern in 2010. The Lions continued their second-half success, outscoring Wisconsin (9-3, 7-2 Big Ten), 24-3 in the second half. The win also extended the Nittany Lions’ winning streak to nine games, its longest since 2008, and gave Penn State its sixth 11-win season in the Big Ten era.

Penn State's Trace McSorley (9) during first quarter action of the Nittany Lions game with Wisconsin. Photo courtesy of Penn State Sports
Penn State’s Trace McSorley (9) during first quarter action of the Nittany Lions game with Wisconsin. Photo courtesy of Penn State Sports

DaeSean Hamilton and Saeed Blacknall were McSorley’s top targets, as Hamilton caught eight passes for 118 yards and Blacknall caught six passes for a Big Ten Championship game record 155 yards and two touchdowns. Blacknall had a 40-yard touchdown reception with 58 seconds remaining in the first half to bring the Lions within two touchdowns, 28-14, and then he caught a 70-yard touchdown on Penn State’s first play of the second half to bring the Lions within one score, 28-21.

Saquon Barkley, who finished with 83 yards on 19 carries, scored the game-clinching touchdowns, rushing for a yard to the goal line with 4:22 remaining in the third quarter to tie the game at 28-28, and then hauling in the go-ahead score on an over-the-shoulder 18-yard touchdown pass with 13:41 to go to put the Lions ahead for good, 35-31.

Tyler Davis added a field goal with 5:14 remaining for a 38-31 lead, and the Nittany Lions withstood the Badgers’ last offensive push, as Grant Haley stopped Wisconsin’s Corey Clement on fourth-and-1 at the Penn State 24 with 1:01 remaining.

Turning Point

The Nittany Lions turned the momentum in their favor late in the first half, driving 90 yards on eight plays in just 1:27. McSorley found Blacknall for a 40-yard touchdown to cap the drive and pull Penn State within two scores before the halftime break. Penn State had to kickoff to start the second half, but stopped Wisconsin at the Penn State 30 and Andrew Endicott missed wide right on a 48-yard field goal attempt. McSorley then found Blacknall for a 70-yard touchdown on Penn State’s first play from scrimmage, and the comeback was on.

Difference Makers

Penn State
• QB Trace McSorley – Trace McSorley completed 22-of-31 passes for a Big Ten Championship game-record 384 yards and a record four touchdowns. It ranks as the fourth-most prolific single-game passing yardage effort in Penn State history. Despite losing 20 yards rushing on the night, including 18 on the game’s final play as he ran out the clock, his 364 yards of total offense were a Big Ten Championship game record. It marked the second week in a row throwing for at least 376 yards and two touchdowns for McSorley. McSorley also set the Penn State season passing yards record, reaching 3,360 to pass the record of 3,266 set by Matt McGloin in 2012 and the season passing touchdowns record, reaching 25 to pass the record of 24 set by Daryll Clark (2009) and McGloin (2012).
• WR Saeed Blacknall – Touchdowns of 40 and 70 yards highlighted a six-catch, Big Ten Championship game-record 155 yards receiving.
• WR DaeSean Hamilton – Hamilton kept the chains moving all night, catching eight passes for 118 yards.
• RB Saquon Barkley – Barkley rushed for 83 yards on 19 carries, bringing his season total to a Penn State sophomore record 1,302 yards, and scored the game’s last two touchdowns with one on the ground and one through the air.
• TE Mike Gesicki – Gesicki caught Penn State’s first score on a 33-yard play and finished with three catches for 58 yards.
• CB Grant Haley – Haley sealed Penn State’s win with a fourth-down tackle with 1:01 remaining and made five tackles on the night.
• LB Brandon Bell – Bell made a game-high 13 tackles (10 solo), forced a fumble and recorded one sack. The 13 tackles and 10 solo tackles tie the Big Ten Championship game record.
Wisconsin
• RB Corey Clement – Clement led a strong Badger rushing attack that totaled 271 yards. Clement accounted for 164 yards on 21 carries, including a 67-yard touchdown run. Clement also caught three passes for 43 yards for a game-high 207 all-purpose yards.

Scoring Drives

1st Qtr
WIS – 5:27 – TD – Austin Ramesh 1 yd Rush, 14 plays, 81 yards, 8:00 – 0-7
WIS – 3:06 – TD – Corey Clement 67 yd Rush, 2 plays, 72 yards, 0:45 – 0-14
PSU – 1:10 – TD – Mike Gesicki 33 yd Pass from Trace McSorley, 5 plays, 75 yards, 1:56 – 7-14

2nd Qtr
WIS – 9:42 – TD – Ryan Connelly 12 yd Fumble Return – 7-21
WIS – 5:15 – TD – Dare Ogunbowale 7 yd Rush, 5 plays, 42 yards, 2:31 – 7-28
PSU – 0:58 – TD – Saeed Blacknall 40 yd Pass from Trace McSorley – 8 plays, 90 yards, 1:27 – 14-28

3rd Qtr
PSU – 10:58 – TD – Saeed Blacknall 70 yd Pass from Trace McSorley – 1 play, 70 yards, 0:11 – 21-28
PSU – 4:22 – TD – Saquon Barkley 1 yd Rush, 8 plays, 63 yards, 3:17 – 28-28
WIS – 0:16 – FG – Andrew Endicott 23 yd Kick, 9 plays, 70 yards, 4:06 – 28-31

4th Qtr
PSU – 13:41 – TD – Saquon Barkley 18 yd Pass from Trace McSorley, 4 plays, 81 yards, 1:30 – 35-31
PSU – 5:14 – FG – Tyler Davis 24 yd Kick, 9 plays, 58 yards, 4:38 – 38-31

Key Drives

First Quarter
WISCONSIN 13:27-5:27 (8:00, 14 plays, 81 yards) – TOUCHDOWN
After a three-and-out on Penn State’s opening drive, Wisconsin took over at its own 19, and methodically moved down the field, gaining 50 yards on the ground and converting a pair of key third downs through the air, highlighted by a 24-yard completion from Bart Houston to Jazz Peavy at the Penn State 3. After Corey Clement moved the ball two yards, Austin Ramesh rushed it in from 1-yard out.
Wisconsin 7, Penn State 0

WISCONSIN 3:51-3:06 (0:45, 2 plays, 72 yards) – TOUCHDOWN
Wisconsin forced another three-and-out, and Corey Clement rushed for five yards and then took off around the left edge down the sideline for a 67-yard touchdown run.
Wisconsin 14, Penn State 0

PENN STATE 3:06-1:10 (2:02, 5 plays, 75 yards) – TOUCHDOWN
Saquon Barkley opened the drive with a 22-yard rush to the Penn State 47. The Lions gained four yards on two plays on the ground, and then Trace McSorley connected with DaeSean Hamilton for 16 yards before finding Mike Gesicki for a 33-yard touchdown pass.
Wisconsin 14, Penn State 7

Second Quarter
PENN STATE 11:45-9:42 (2:03, 5 plays, 0 yards) – FUMBLE RETURN FOR TOUCHDOWN
The Nittany Lions got their first stop on defense and appeared to be on the move again, but a snap went over McSorley’s head and Wisconsin’s Ryan Connelly scooped it up at the 12 and returned it for a touchdown.
Wisconsin 21, Penn State 7

WISCONSIN 7:46-5:15 (2:31, 5 plays, 42 yards) – TOUCHDOWN
The Badgers forced a turnover on downs at the Penn State 42 and took advantage of the short field. Dare Ogunbowale rushed it in from seven yards out for the score.
Wisconsin 28, Penn State 7
PENN STATE 2:25-1:27 (1:27, 8 plays, 90 yards) – TOUCHDOWN
Trace McSorley went 5-for-7 passing for 89 yards to march Penn State down the field in 1:27. He connected with Saeed Blacknall three times, including a 40-yard touchdown reception.
Wisconsin 28, Penn State 14

Third Quarter
PENN STATE 11:09-10:58 (0:11, 1 play, 70 yards) – TOUCHDOWN
Wisconsin missed on a 48-yard field, giving Penn State the ball on its own 30. McSorley needed just one play, finding Blacknall deep for a career-long 70-yard touchdown.
Wisconsin 28, Penn State 21

PENN STATE 7:39-4:22 (3:17, 8 plays, 63 yards) – TOUCHDOWN
Penn State took over at the Wisconsin 37 after a punt and Barkley got the drive rolling with a 16-yard run. Completions of 14 yards to Godwin and 17 yards to Gesicki moved the ball downfield, and Barkley capped it with a 1-yard touchdown run.
Penn State 28, Wisconsin 28

WISCONSIN 4:22-0:16 (4:06, 9 plays, 70 yards) – FIELD GOAL
The Badgers regained the lead with a 23-yard field goal by Andrew Endicott. A 26-yard pass to Clement and a 20-yard rush by Bradrick Shaw keyed the drive.
Wisconsin 31, Penn State 28

Fourth Quarter
PENN STATE 0:11 (3rd Qtr)-13:41 (1:38, 4 plays, 81 yards) – TOUCHDOWN
McSorley opened the drive with a 38-yard completion to Hamilton on the final play of the third quarter and a 25-yard completion to Hamilton again to start the fourth quarter to move Penn State to the Wisconsin 18. Barkley was stopped at the line on a rush, but then McSorley hit him in stride with an 18-yard touchdown pass for the go-ahead score.
Penn State 35, Wisconsin 31

The Rest
Tyler Davis kicked a 24-yard field goal with 5:14 remaining and Grant Haley brought down Corey Clement on fourth-and-1 at the Penn State 24 with 1:01 remaining.

Up Next
Penn State will learn its bowl destination this afternoon. A move to No. 4 in the final standings would put the team in the 4-team national playoffs. A move to No. 5 or 6 likely would put the Nittany Lions in the Rose Bowl against Southern Cal.