As the Wisconsin Badgers (4-3 Big Ten, 6-4 overall) traveled to face the No. 20 Penn State Nittany Lions (4-3, 7-3), they heard devastating news that senior defensive tackle Olive Sagapolu was out for the season.
Combine Sagapolu’s injury with junior quarterback Alex Hornibrook being ruled out with a concussion, Wisconsin was missing key leaders heading to a must-win game to keep hope alive.
Despite a strong start, the Nittany Lions responded and held sophomore quarterback Jack Coan and the Badgers in check as they coasted to a 22-10 win.
Wisconsin got off to a great start sophomore running back Jonathan Taylor hit a seam and ran 71 yards to the house to put the Badgers up 7-0 after two drives.
Penn State, led by beat-up senior quarterback Trace McSorley, would only need eight plays on the ensuing drive to respond back with a 14-yard McSorley touchdown pass to DeAndre Thompkins.
The Wisconsin offense then sputtered for the remainder of the first half as the Badgers turned the ball over twice and punted three times.
After getting manhandled on their second drive out, one of the few bright spots was the Badgers defense as they held the Nittany Lions to only nine more first-half points.
Taylor was also huge for the Badgers, finishing the first half with 143 yards and that early score. Meanwhile, sophomore quarterback Jack Coan went 2-for-4 for 10 yards and an interception, but UW had some hope since they were only down by 9 at the half.
It looked like Wisconsin would get back in the game when it came out and went on a 10-play, 65-yard drive that resulted in a Rafael Gaglianone field goal, cutting the deficit to six.
Penn State added a field goal to make it 19-10 and Wisconsin could’ve gotten back in the game with a score. But the Badgers’ offense failed to score another point and while the defense played well, holding Penn State to only 6 points in the second half, it wasn’t enough to get back in the game.
On one drive, the Badgers started out the drive with three false starts in the first four plays, killing possible positive momentum.
With the Badgers needing to respond with a scoring drive as the clock ticked down, Coan dropped back to pass and was hit from behind right when he was about to throw it. The ball was caught by PSU linebacker Shareef Miller, but on the return, sophomore center Tyler Biadasz forced a fumble trying to keep any hope alive.
But even with that gift, UW turned the ball over on downs. On the ensuing drive, Penn State sent out junior Tommy Stevens in garbage time, and a fumble gave the Badgers one last lifeline.
With the third gift given to the Wisconsin offense, and needing two scores in a minute and forty seconds, Coan threw a pick, putting the final nail in the coffin for the Badgers’ Big Ten West division title hopes.