MADISON, Wis. - Linebacker Brandon Bell kept improving throughout his freshman season at Penn State, and the coaches decided to reward him with his first career start against Wisconsin.

He justified their confidence in him with a big play in Saturday's 31-24 upset.

Bell, a former star at Oakcrest High in South Jersey, got to Badgers quarterback Joel Stave on a blitz in the third quarter and knocked the ball out of his hand and into the air. Teammate C.J. Olaniyan caught the ball for an interception and returned it deep into Wisconsin territory to set up a field goal.

Defensive coordinator John Butler "made a great call, called my number," Bell said. "I came off the edge, and I hit the ball out of his hand before he threw it."

Bell said the start "meant a lot," and said linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden did a great job helping him improve.

"Coach Vandy is a great coach," he said. "He kept with me, being persistent with everything I had to do, coaching me up the same way he coached the senior guys up, no slacking or anything like that. I kept practicing well, I guess, and I got my shot."

No word on Robinson

Junior Allen Robinson caught eight passes for 122 yards to conclude his season with school records of 97 receptions and 1,432 yards. But he was not made available to reporters to discuss whether he would consider leaving the team to become eligible for the NFL draft.

On the Penn State career charts, Robinson ends the season with 177 catches, second to Deon Butler's 179, and 2,474 yards, third behind Bobby Engram (3,026) and Butler (2,771).

The captains

The Nittany Lions voted for permanent 2013 captains during the week and elected five - linebacker Glenn Carson, center Ty Howle, defensive tackle DaQuan Jones, guard John Urschel, and fullback and special-teams star Pat Zerbe.

"I thought those guys were a great representation of our football team and of that senior class," coach Bill O'Brien said.