quarterback Bart Houston (13) is sacked by Penn
State linebacker Brandon Bell (11) as Corey Clement
watches during the second half of the Big Ten
championship NCAA college football game Saturday in
- As Penn State's band played and Lucas Oil Stadium rocked,
thousands of fans clad in their traditional white shirts
chanted "We Are Penn State."
have been more fitting if had it been "We are Penn
State — and we are back."
after a child sex abuse scandal tainted the reputation of
the school and its football program along with the legacy of
late coach Joe Paterno, quarterback Trace McSorley put the
Nittany Lions squarely back in the national spotlight
Saturday night with an epic 38-31 come-from-behind victory
over No. 6 Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game. It
was the largest comeback in the six-year history of the
coach James Franklin left the field, he was already lobbying
the playoff committee to put No. 8 Penn State in the final
I do know is that we just won the toughest conference in
college football," he said. "We've won nine
straight. They say you're allowed to overcome minor
setbacks. We've done that. It's up to you, committee."
Lions' resume is impressive.
rebounding from a 39-point thumping against Michigan on
Sept. 24, Penn State (11-2, No. 7 CFP) has won every game,
handed No. 2 Ohio State its only loss of the season and on
Saturday rallied from a 21-point first-half deficit to end
the Badgers' six-game winning streak. Penn State also
finished as co-champs of the Big Ten East, a division many
considered the toughest in the nation, and now has its first
conference crown in eight years.
including die-hard Penn State fans, wonder whether that will
be enough to jump up three spots in the committee's
rankings. Some fans even held signs that read "we smell
McSorley, who was named the game's MVP after a
record-breaking performance, has even higher hopes, he's
content to let his coach lobby for a playoff spot.
said what he needed to say, I'm going to enjoy this moment
with my teammates," McSorley said before leaving the
stage on the field.
certainly a moment worth savoring.
finished 22 of 31 for 384 yards with four TD passes,
breaking the title game records for yards and TD passes. He
also broke the school's single-season records for yards
passing and touchdown passes.
McSorley wasn't the only one putting on a show. Saeed
Blacknall caught six passes, two for touchdowns, and
finished with a championship-game record 155 yards. DaeSean
Hamilton caught eight passes for 118 yards, most in the
second half when the Nittany Lions repeatedly burned the
nation's No. 3 defense with deep throws.
most impressive was how they won it.
trailed 28-7 with 5:15 left in the first half. That's when
McSorley and the Nittany Lions' offense finally got in sync
by scoring touchdowns on each of their next four possessions
— the last an 18-yard TD pass to Saquon Barkley with 13:41
left in the game. The
Nittany Lions never trailed again.
made some plays down the field and we didn't make enough to
make McSorley feel uncomfortable," Wisconsin coach Paul
(10-3, No. 6 CFP) played without starting quarterback Alex
Hornibrook but jumped to the big lead behind Corey
Clement, who ran 21 times for 164 yards including a 67-yard
TD run in the first quarter.
Badgers' usually stout defense allowed a season-high point
final chance ended when Clement was stopped short of a first
down on fourth-and-1 from the Penn State 24-yard line with
1:01 to go.
Consider the turnaround is complete. Five years after the
Jerry Sandusky scandal tainted the program and the late Joe
Paterno's legacy, and the ensuing NCAA sanctions seemed to
put the Nittany Lions on the fast track to nowhere, they are
Big Ten champs and look like a real national championship
After winning their first two title game appearances, the
Badgers have now lost their two — in shocking fashion.
Coach Paul Chryst never could have expected this from a
defense that hadn't allowed more than 30 points all season
and had only allowed No. 2 Ohio State to gain more than 400
yards in a game this year.
Coach James Franklin insisted all week that his team was
focused more on winning a Big Ten title. Now, the lobbying
can begin — if Franklin wants to. The argument goes like
this: Co-champs of the toughest division in college
football, championship game winners of the best conference
in football and the only team to beat No.
2 Ohio State. Will it be enough?
In the first half, the Badgers looked like they would be
making their case to the committee. Instead, the Badgers
have no idea what will happen next.
Will eagerly wait to see who is next on the schedule.
Will wait to see who the Badgers will get in the postseason,
one that could have been much more interesting had they
protected their lead.