Five observations from Penn State’s win over Wisconsin
The Nittany Lions did the simple things well against the Badgers, and it helped that quarterback Trace McSorley continued to play the role of the Bionic Man.
Penn State beat Wisconsin, 22-10, Saturday at Beaver Stadium.
What did we learn from the win?
Football really is a simple game
In this day and age of quick-strike offense and no defense and 80-plus combined points in a game and spending nearly four hours in front of a TV to watch an entire contest, football still comes down to blocking and tackling. After times of great success and curious lapses in both areas this season, Penn State found a way to do both Saturday.
The offensive line did a great job giving Miles Sanders enough openings to rush for 159 yards and surpass 1,000 yards for the season. The defense held its own against the highly touted offensive line of Wisconsin and held the Badgers to 10 points. The Lions also handled third downs well and did a better job of ball control. Maybe it's oversimplifying what it takes to win, but successfully doing the uncomplicated stuff goes a long way toward getting the "W."
Salute to McSorley (again)
Another game at Beaver Stadium, another gasp from more than 100,000 throats when Trace McSorley went down on a sack and grabbed his right knee, the same joint he injured two weeks earlier. Again, he was helped to the sideline. Again, people all figured he was done for the day. And again, when the second half began, there was No. 9, good as new.
McSorley didn't do anything fancy, but he got the Nittany Lions to the finish line and tied the program record with his 29th win as starting quarterback.
"I just love being on the field," he said. "If I can deal with it … as long as I can push through and keep playing, that's what I want to do."
The legend continues to grow.
Should linemen practice ball-security drills?
The fans got a charge out of watching a pair of linemen tote the football: defensive tackle C.J. Thorpe on the return of a short kickoff, and defensive end Shareef Miller after catching a fumble by quarterback Jack Coan in mid-air.
That is, they were excited until Thorpe and Miller got hit and coughed up the ball. Thorpe was bailed out by teammate Jonathan Thomas, who recovered his fumble. Miller wasn't so lucky when he was stripped inside the Wisconsin 20 and the Badgers fell on the ball.
"I probably haven't had a football in my hands for, like, seven years," Miller said with a sheepish grin.
The Badgers appeared to be overrated
The Lions finished 2-3 against the five teams rated the toughest on their schedule in the preseason, but the Wisconsin win was by far the easiest game of the bunch. The Badgers showed themselves to be a one-dimensional offense, although the running of Jonathan Taylor made that an extraordinary dimension. But Jack Coan passed for only 60 yards as a fill-in for starting quarterback Alex Hornibrook, the Malvern Prep graduate who stayed home because of a concussion.
The Badgers were most people's favorite long shot in preseason to maybe squeak into the College Football Playoff, but they were eliminated Saturday from the Big Ten West divisional race. It was a rather unconventional season in the West, with Northwestern, which went 0-3 in its nonconference schedule, capturing the title.
Where will Penn State go bowling?
Scouts from the Citrus, Outback, Holiday, and Peach Bowls were listed on the Beaver Stadium press-box seating chart for Saturday's game, and the Nittany Lions gave them a pretty good show. Figuring the Lions will finish the season with wins at Rutgers and at home versus Maryland – they'll be solid favorites in both – a 9-3 record should land them a nice bowl.
Depending on how the final two regular-season weeks and championship weekend pan out, they still have a slim chance at the Peach Bowl, which would give them a third straight New Year's Six bowl appearance. More likely, they'll end up in Florida, at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando or the Outback Bowl in Tampa. Penn State has the third-best record in the Big Ten, behind Michigan and Ohio State.