Ball breaks out as Wisconsin, not PSU, lands in Big Ten title game
Wisconsin's Montee Ball runs into the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown Saturday against Penn State in Madison, Wis. Wisconsin won 45-7 to advance to the Big Ten championship game.
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MADISON, Wis. -- Penn State's usually reliable defense did not have an answer for Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson or tailback Montee Ball.
Ball rushed for 156 yards and tied his career-high with four touchdowns and Wilson passed for 186 yards and two scores as the Badgers pounded the Nittany Lions, 45-7, before 79,708 Saturday in Camp Randall Stadium.
No. 15 Wisconsin (10-2, 6-2) not only clinched the Leaders Division title, it earned a rematch next Saturday with Michigan State (10-2, 7-1) in the Big Ten Conference's first championship game.
Penn State (9-3, 6-2) dropped to 1-2 since interim coach Tom Bradley replaced Joe Paterno.
"They just did everything right," said strong safety Drew Astorino, a fifth-year senior co-captain.
"We couldn't tackle. We weren't running to the ball. It's disappointing."
Ball, who averaged 6.2 yards per rush on 25 carries, scored on runs of 1, 2, 9 and 18 yards. Wilson, who completed 19 of 29 passes, tossed touchdown passes of 21 yards to wide receiver Jared Abbrederis and 4 yards to Nick Toon.
Ball's 34 touchdowns this season are the second most in NCAA history. And Wilson has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 36 consecutive games, tying the NCAA record.
Ball's 156 yards were the most allowed by Penn State's defense this season. Wilson added 36 yards on seven carries.
"They are a great tandem," Astorino said. "Both of them played phenomenal. They have been playing phenomenal all year. They're tough to stop."
Wisconsin, which finished the regular season with four consecutive wins, converted four Penn State turnovers -- three fumbles and an interception -- into 24 points.
It all added up to Penn State's worst loss since a 45-6 setback at Ohio State in 2000.
"It was just one of those days," said quarterback Matt McGloin, who completed 9 of 17 passes for 97 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
"Unfortunately, against a team like Wisconsin, you make mistakes like that, you're going to lose."
McGloin's 44-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Curtis Drake on the opening series gave Penn State a brief, 7-0 lead, but Wilson answered with his touchdown pass to Abbrederis to tie the score.
McGloin's interception on the first play of the second drive set up Ball's first touchdown, a 2-yard run, on the first play of the second quarter. That touchdown gave the Badgers the lead for good at 14-7.
Ball added two more touchdowns in the final six minutes of the first half as Wisconsin grabbed a 28-7 halftime advantage. His second score was set up by Michael Zordich's fumble after a 6-yard kickoff return.
Tailback Silas Redd's fumble on the first series of the third quarter led to Ball's final touchdown. Phillip Welch booted a 44-yard field goal in the fourth quarter after Astorino fumbled a punt.
Wisconsin's huge offensive line dominated up front.
The Badgers outgained Penn State, 450-233, and held a 264-114 edge in rushing.
They also racked up a big advantage in first downs (27-12), plays (78-52), rushing attempts (49-27) and time of possession (38:17-21.43).
Redd, battling a shoulder injury, was held to 66 yards on 12 carries. Backup tailback Stephfon Green had an 89-yard run called back in the third quarter because of an illegal chop block by tight end Kevin Haplea.
"A couple times, we didn't have leverage or numbers," Bradley said. "That makes for an uneven field over there. They did an excellent job of scheming us."
Following the loss, Penn State's players and coaches talked about the uncertain future of the football program.
Neither Bradley nor his staff has been informed if they will be released in the next days or retained for a potential bowl game. Bradley plans to hit the road recruiting this week, along with quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno, but some of the assistants may opt not to leave campus.
A source also told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Bradley has not been given a pay raise since replacing Paterno Nov. 9 after he was fired because of a child sex abuse scandal involving former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.
When asked about his future, Jay Paterno replied: "No idea. We have a bunch of [recruits] who have committed. We have to go talk to them, whether we're here or whether someone else is here.
"We have to do that because we owe that to Penn State."
NOTES -- Astorino led Penn State with 12 tackles, including 10 solos. ... Middle linebacker Glenn Carson forced a fumble that safety Malcolm Willis recovered. ... Defensive end Jack Crawford had one sack and defensive end Sean Stanley and defensive tackle Devon Still shared another.
First Published November 27, 2011 12:00 am