Wisconsin falls 24-21 in OT to Penn State
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP)
This isn't the way the NCAA's new career touchdown leader wanted to roll into next week's Big Ten title game.
Sam Ficken hit a 37-yard field goal in overtime, and the Badgers' Kyle French attempt from 44 yards went wide left to seal Penn State's 24-21 win Saturday in an emotional season finale in Happy Valley.
''It's not the way you want it to happen,'' Ball said about setting the record on a 17-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
''I guess, for your own personal goals, I look on the bright side, I'm glad I have them. I'm blessed,'' Ball added. ''It could obviously be a lot better.''
The Nittany Lions (8-4, 6-2 Big Ten) could have ended the game for good a play before French's miss, but linebacker Glenn Carson dropped a potential interception.
Still, the Beaver Stadium faithful celebrated anyway after French's miss on Senior Day capped a challenging year that began with landmark sanctions from the NCAA for the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal.
French said he thought he hit the ball well on his overtime field-goal attempt.
''I saw it slowly sailing back and I thought it actually had a pretty legit shot of going in,'' French said. ''I think last second it almost stopped moving and kept going straight.''
Straight left of the left upright, anyway.
Just minutes earlier, quarterback Curt Phillips had found Jeff Duckworth for a 4-yard touchdown pass with 18 seconds left for Wisconsin (7-5, 4-4) to make it 21-all and send the game into overtime.
It was the first score since Ball's TD run with 6:27 left in the first quarter made it 14-7 Wisconsin.
The senior tailback clutched the ball tightly in his right arm while getting pats on the helmet from teammates following his 79th career touchdown, breaking a tie for the major college mark previously set by Travis Prentice of Miami (Ohio) in 1999.
But in between, a Penn State defense led by the stout play of senior defensive tackle Jordan Hill (career-best 12 tackles, two sacks) badgered the Badgers. Hill had seven tackles - three for losses - in the fourth quarter alone.
''We kept running outside ... and then they widened their (defensive) ends and forced us inside, obviously, to their best player, Jordan Hill,'' Ball said. ''It obviously worked.''
His record-setting day was overshadowed by bruising Penn State running back Zach Zwinak (career-high 179 yards and one score) and the late-game heroics of Ficken, who made all three field-goal attempts on the afternoon.
The last one made it just inside the left upright through light flurries - but it was good enough for the decisive score.
The players rushed in jubilation after French's missed kick. Injured star linebacker Michael Mauti raised his hands in victory as he hobbled with his teammates to the sing alma mater in front of the student section.
Wisconsin lost its second straight - not the kind of momentum coach Bret Bielema was hoping for entering next week's Big Ten title game.
The Badgers finished the regular season in third place in the Leaders Division behind unbeaten Ohio State and Penn State, but still claimed the title game berth because the two teams ahead of them are ineligible due to sanctions.
Bielema said he doesn't think he'll have a problem getting his team ready for next week.
''I know that will be a concern, but with this group, yesterday when we left from Camp Randall and Nebraska had beaten Iowa, we knew getting on the bus there was a sparkle in our guys' eyes,'' he said. They knew they were going to get the chance to play in the game.''
Wisconsin played without its own star linebacker in Chris Borland, who sat out his second straight game with a right hamstring injury.