Penn State ends season with 24-21 win against Wisconsin in OT


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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- It ended with snow flurries in the air and plenty of emotion on the field. Penn State beat Wisconsin 24-21 on senior day, in overtime, on the last game of this tumultuous, memorable season.

Sam Ficken made a field goal on Penn State's first overtime possession, and Kyle French missed.

To get this victory, Penn State scored 14 straight points after falling behind 14-7. In the second half, kicker Ficken made two field goals, and then, trailing 14-13, quarterback Matt McGloin connected with tight end Jesse James for a 41-yard touchdown pass on a fourth-and-six play.

The ending was triumphant, the start disastrous. On Wisconsin's first drive, Melvin Gordon scored on a 57-yard swing pass on the third play of the game.

Penn State answered with a touchdown by Zach Zwinak, but Wisconsin again scored, this time with Montee Ball running 17 yards for a score on a sweep to the right side. A familiar script was being written.

Emotion had been Penn State's enemy this season. The Nittany Lions had two home games filled with it: the season-opener against Ohio and the sell-out against Ohio State. Both times they played well in the first half and then got blown out in the second half.

Here was a game engineered for emotion on its own and then sent over the top by surprise gestures. Earlier this week, the Penn State seniors had requested for the number of linebacker Michael Mauti, whose season was cut short with a knee injury, to be on the team's helmets, and they didn't know the answer until Saturday. After unloading off the team buses into the locker room, they found the No. 42 printed onto their helmets.

A loss wouldn't happen this time. On those first two drives, Wisconsin's offense gained 127 yards. By the start of the fourth quarter, the Badgers had gained less than 100 more.

Their only successful drive in the second half came at the very end. Wisconsin scored on a four-yard pass to Jeff Duckworth, tying the game.

The overtime started, and Penn State converted. All this week, the Nittany Lions spoke of needing to finish strongly against Wisconsin. They did.

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Mark Dent: mdent@post-gazette.com, Twitter @mdent05. First Published November 25, 2012 12:30 AM


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