Penn State Football

Penn State trails Wisconsin at halftime in Big Ten title game

The first two quarters are in the books, and Penn State could be in trouble.

The No. 7 Nittany Lions trail No. 6 Wisconsin 28-14 at halftime in the Big Ten Championship game Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Penn State had one or two highlights in the first two quarters, but for the most part it was all Wisconsin.

The Badgers won the coin flip and deferred to the second half, so Penn State received the opening kickoff. The Nittany Lions couldn't do anything with the game's first possession, as a three-and-out forced Penn State to punt.

On the Nittany Lions' very first offensive play, Saquon Barkley ran for seven yards and put after taking two hits came up limping. He hobbled off the field, but did return the next series after spending time on an exercise bike.

While Barkley worked out the issue, Wisconsin drove on Penn State with relative ease. The Badgers, in peak Wisconsin form, generated a 14-play, 81-yard touchdown drive that chewed up eight minutes.

Twelve of those plays were rushes, and five runs came on first down, producing gains of 5, 3, 5, 5, 5, and 2.

The Badgers polished off the drive, which was aided by a 15-yard late hit penalty by Penn State linebacker Manny Bowen, with a one-yard fullback dive score by Austin Ramesh with 5:27 left in the first quarter.

The Nittany Lions had a three-and-out the next drive, too, as Wisconsin's overload pressure overwhelmed the Penn State offensive line on third down.

Wisconsin followed that up with another score, only this one didn't take as long. Badger running back Corey Clement ripped off a 67-yard touchdown run, virtually untouched down the Wisconsin sideline.

Silencing a pro-Penn State crowd, the Badgers held a 14-0 lead with 3:06 remaining in the first quarter. The Nittany Lions were losing in the trenches on both fronts, and prospects were not looking good.

Until Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley, and his offensive line, found footing.

First, it was Barkley rattling off a 22-yard run, gaining a Penn State first down for the first time of the night. Two plays later, McSorley evades pressure, stepped up into the pocket, and connected with DaeSean Hamilton to move the sticks again, this time to the Wisconsin 33-yard line.

Seconds later came Penn State's biggest play of the half. McSorley dropped back to throw, had time, and stepped into one, heaving it into the Wisconsin end zone. His toss found Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki, who used his 6-foot-6 frame to body up a 6-foot Badger safety to come down with a 33-yard score.

Tyler Davis knocked the extra point through to cut Wisconsin's deficit to 14-7 with 1:10 to go in the first quarter.

After getting off the field on defense, Penn State appeared to be in business, picking up a couple first downs as it worked its way from its own 12-yard line.

But disaster struck, as a woeful snap by Brian Gaia flew past a helpless McSorley. Wisconsin's Ryan Connelly scooped and ran it in for a 12-yard score. Wisconsin regained momentum, extending its lead to 21-7 with 9:42 remaining in the second quarter.

Wisconsin added on after a questionable-at-best call by James Franklin and his staff. Facing a 4th-and-2 on their own 42-yard line, the Nittany Lions went for it instead of flipping the field and punting. It blew up in their faces, as McSorley was flushed from the pocket and threw incomplete.

The Badgers made Franklin pay, too, putting together a 5-play, 42-yard scoring drive. It was capped by a seven-yard Dare Ogunbowale run with 5:15 left until the break.

Penn State did cut the deficit before both teams went to their respective locker rooms.

McSorley ran the two-minute drill effectively, picking apart a Wisconsin defense that was playing on its heels. The redshirt sophomore quarterback worked it down the field — and then took a small risk, but it paid off.

McSorley tossed it out to his left. Wisconsin's Lubern Figaro jumped the pass, but overshot it. If he picked it, he would've been gone to the house, but Saeed Blacknall stepped in to snag it. Blacknall turned it upfield for a 40-yard touchdown.

After Davis' point-after, the Nittany Lions cut into Wisconsin's lead with 58 seconds remaining.