Late comeback not enough as Wisconsin drops season-finals to Penn State
Originally published at UWBadgers.com on Nov. 30, 2013
MADISON, Wis. – Wisconsin showed no signs of quitting while trailing late in the fourth quarter, but their will to fight couldn’t overcome a breakout performance from Penn State freshman QB Chrisitan Hackenberg, who stole the show on Senior Day at Camp Randall, leading the Nittany Lions to a 31-24 upset win over the 14th-ranked Badgers.
Hackenberg, a true freshman, played well beyond his years, throwing for 339 yards and a career-high four touchdowns — including scoring strikes of 59 and 68 yards — on 21-for-30 passing.
After Wisconsin took a 14-7 lead in the second quarter, Hackenberg led the Nittany Lions to 24 unanswered points that built a 31-14 Penn State lead that, in the end, proved too much for the Badgers to overcome.
“He’s a special kid,” UW head coach Gary Andersen said of Hackenberg. “He’s a very talented young man.
Down 17 points with just over eight minutes to play, Wisconsin went on a 13-play drive for a touchdown and followed that with a six-play drive that produced a career-long 48-yard field goal from Jack Russell to pull within a touchdown. UW got the ball back with 31 seconds left with a chance to tie, but wasn’t able to capitalize.
For the 26 Wisconsin seniors, Saturday’s loss certainly stings, but they have the opportunity to rebound and go out on a strong note by winning the Badgers’ bowl game — something this class has yet to accomplish.
“It’s not the way we wanted to finish, but the good thing is at least we have one more,” senior WR Jared Abbrederis said. “I am glad I get to play one more game with these guys. This team means everything to me and I think all the seniors would say the same.”
Andersen added that the loss to Penn State takes nothing away from what this senior class has accomplished in their spectacular careers. The Class of 2013 will finish as one of the best ever at Wisconsin, having won 39 total games and 23 Big Ten games, marks that are second and tied for first, respectively, in UW history.
“They have a legacy and it’s a special legacy,” Andersen said of the seniors. “I love this group of kids and I am unbelievable proud of them.
“This will not define this football team for me.”
A pair of unsung Badgers seniors — TE Brian Wozniak and WR Jeff Duckworth – stepped up in their final game at Camp Randall, scoring all three of Wisconsin’s touchdowns against the Nittany Lions.
The pair of Ohio natives haven’t spent too much time in the end zone in their careers, having combined for four touchdown catches coming into Saturday, but they made their presences felt against Penn State.
Wozniak had scoring grabs of 4 yards in the first quarter and 5 yards in the fourth quarter, the latter of which pulled the Badgers within seven points late in the game.
Wozniak has five receptions on the season, four of which have gone for touchdowns.
For Duckworth, his career-long 20-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter was his first touchdown grab since he made a late game-tying catch last year against Penn State.
While he was held out of the end zone, Abbrederis also had a big day receiving for the Badgers, hauling in a career-high 12 passes for 135 yards, his 10th career game surpassing the century mark.
With his performance, Abbrederis has 1,051 yards receiving on the season, making him the first 1,000-yard receiver at Wisconsin since Brandon Williams tallied 1,095 yards in 2005. He also moved to ninth in Big Ten history with 3,110 yards for his career.
STAVE SHAKES OFF SLOW START
After Penn State’s defense proved to be stout against the run, Andersen put the ball in QB Joel Stave’s hands and he responded with career-best numbers.
Stave passed for a career-high 339 yards, only the 21st 300-yard passing day in Wisconsin history, and tied a career high with three touchdown passes on a 29-for-52 passing performance, setting career bests in both completions and attempts.
This after starting the game just 2-for-6 for 8 yards.
Stave’s outing against the Nittany Lions puts his 2013 season among the best ever for a quarterback at Wisconsin. With three against Penn State, Stave now has 20 touchdown passes this season, the third-highest season mark in school history trailing only Russell Wilson (33 in 2011) and John Stocco (21 in 2005).
The Greenfield, Wis., native has 26 career touchdown passes, which ranks eighth all-time at UW, and 3,518 career passing yards, which is now 10th-best in the Wisconsin career annals.
Wisconsin and Minnesota face off at Mariucci Arena this weekend for the first time as Big Ten foes, adding a new wrinkle to their decades-old rivalry
Originally published in Varsity Magazine on Nov. 28, 2013
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