MADISON, Wisc. — Geno Lewis began his redshirt freshman season with a bang. He ended it with an offensive explosion.
Through all 12-games, he learned a few things along the way.
“The more time you play, the slower the game gets,” Lewis said after Penn State’s 31-24 win over Wisconsin on Saturday. “So it makes it a lot easier.”
Lewis started the season with a two-catch, 62-yard effort and hauled in a 54-yard touchdown. Against the Badgers, Lewis finished with three catches for 91 yards and two more scores. His performance capped an impressive final fourth portion of the season in which Lewis nabbed seven passes for 119 yards.
In between? Lewis struggled to get on the field. Between the Syracuse game and the Purdue game, Lewis caught just nine passes for 53 yards.
“For me it’s just like this, whenever the coaches ask me to go out there I’m going to take every opportunity like it’s my last,” Lewis said. “I’m not going to complain and cry about playing time. When it’s time for me to out there it’s going to be time and when I go out there I can make plays.”
And he showed off some of that ability when he beat two Wisconsin defensive backs and hauled in a 59-yard pass, fought off a tackle to get in the end zone and give Penn State a 31-14 lead early in the fourth quarter. It was trickier than his first touchdown of the day.
Late in the second quarter, Lewis lined up split out on the Wisconsin three-yard line. He was uncovered. So he dropped his right hand and signaled to Hackenberg to simply toss it his way.
Seconds later, Penn State tied the game as Lewis stepped into the end zone uncontested. It was also a signal of his improving ability to read situations. Against Purdue, Penn State’s offense was in the red zone and Lewis was uncovered in the slot. He failed to signal Hackenberg who handed off to Belton for a short gain. O’Brien gave Lewis an earful on the sideline after that play.
On Saturday, O’Brien had praise for Lewis.
“He’s made a ton of progress,” O’Brien said. “He works extremely hard. Again, he’s become a better route-runner. He can become an even better route runner. He’s a good deep-ball runner, a good post-runner, a good go-runner. And he’s worked on his running style, he’s become more of a receiver.”
Final captains named
Penn State players voted on final captains before departing for Madison.
All of them seniors, defensive tackle DaQuan Jones, linebacker Glenn Carson, center Ty Howle, guard John Urschel and fullback Pat Zerbe earned the honors as permanent captains for this season. Penn State elected game captains for each contest last season and continued that this year, naming final captains for the record books like last season, too.
Carson called it an honor he “will cherish for the rest of his life.”
“I’d say all those guys are very dedicated people,” freshman tight end Adam Breneman said. “Whatever they set their minds to, they’re very dedicated toward it. Those are the guys that are the heart and soul of this football team. Those are the guys that I’m really happy for. They’re Penn Staters and they went out on a winning note beating Wisconsin.”
All quiet on Robinson front
Junior wide receiver Allen Robinson was not available to the media following the game.
He finished with eight catches for 122 yards and ended his junior season with 97 catches for 1,432 yards — both single-season records for a Penn State receiver. Robinson is currently third on Penn State’s all-time receiving yardage list.
Robinson is on pace to graduate early and could declare himself eligible for the NFL Draft. He is being pegged as a possible first- or second-round pick by many NFL Draft experts.
Other personal highlights
Ryan Keiser’s interception to seal the game was the second game-clinching pick for the junior from Selinsgrove. He intercepted a pass in overtime against Illinois to secure that win.
Running back Zach Zwinak finished with 115 yards on the ground, the most given up to a single player all season by the Badgers. Zwinak finished with 989 yards rushing this season after notching 1,000 last year.
Quarterback Christian Hackenberg notched his fourth 300-plus yard passing game to tie Matt McGloin’s record. McGloin had four last season. McGloin leads Penn State with six career 300-plus yard games. Hackenberg, a true freshman, is already tied with Kerry Collins for second with four.
Streaker tackled short of the goal line
A male fan saw fit to run onto the playing surface while Wisconsin was on offense late in the second quarter.
He zigged and zagged through two security guards and took his shirt off before eluding another at the 20-yard line. As he cut toward the end zone, however, he was tackled by a police officer and handcuffed just at the goal line.
Follow Travis Johnson on Twitter @bytravisjohnson.