Nittany Lions devour Badgers, betting line

Posted: December 03, 2013

STATE COLLEGE - Bill O'Brien made sure his players knew Penn State was a 24-point underdog against Wisconsin on Saturday.

That was enough inspiration.

The Nittany Lions went to Camp Randall Stadium and handed the previously 15th-ranked Badgers a 31-24 loss.

"I can tell you flat out that they took offense to the fact they were 24-point underdogs and that nobody, even in State College, thought they could win that game - except the kids in that locker room, and the coaches in that locker room," said O'Brien, who finished his second season in Happy Valley with a 7-5 record (4-4 in conference). "So, I think those kids took it personally. "

Wisconsin (9-3, 6-2 Big 10) suffered its first loss since September and its BCS bowl hopes disappeared. The Lions were 0-3 in true road games before Saturday, losing by an average of 27.7 points per game. Wisconsin also touted one of the nation's best rushing attacks and a defense that surrendered less than two touchdowns per contest.

O'Brien called the line "ridiculous."

"It doesn't matter what any of you think, with all due respect," O'Brien said. "It matters what the players think."

Penn State scored right away, as the true freshman duo of quarterback Christian Hackenberg and tight end Adam Breneman connected for a 68-yard touchdown on the first drive. Yesterday, the 18-year-old signal-caller was named the the Athlon National Freshman of the Week.

Hackenberg threw a career-best four touchdowns and finished with 2,955 yards and 20 passing scores in his first season in blue and white. He completed 21 of his 30 passes for 339 yards (one short of his collegiate high), no interceptions, and had three completions of 52 yards or more - the three longest passes Wisconsin's defense allowed all season.

"I thought he did a good job of delivering the football and being accurate with the football," O'Brien said. "He's a good player. He's a good, young player that I think, if he continues to work, I think he has the chance to be really good."

Wideouts Allen Robinson and Eugene Lewis were the two biggest beneficiaries of Hackenberg's strong afternoon, hauling in 122 and 91 yards, respectively. Zach Zwinak provided 115 yards on the ground, including a 61-yard gain on a third down that helped Penn State drain the clock in the third quarter.

Penn State kept Wisconsin tailbacks James White and Melvin Gordon, who both average better than 100 yards per game, under the century mark. The tandem combined for 147 yards on 26 carries.

The Lions are not bowl eligible due to NCAA sanctions, but O'Brien was pleased to send 17 seniors out with a victory.

"That's your bowl right there. That's what it is, and we came out on top against a very good team," O'Brien said. " . . . Our kids were resolute in the fact they would come here and play well, and they did. It means a lot going into the offseason for guys coming back and it certainly means a lot to our senior class."