As of September 21st, the Badgers had matched their win total from last year. Such a statistic as this only inflates expectations. This undefeated Wisconsin squad trekked along a rocky path to get to this point – more like boulders falling from above. Slim margins of victory over feeble opponents caused hearts to palpitate in irregular fashions. However, impressive triumphs also accompanied their win streak providing the confidence they needed versus their Big Ten opening opponent, Penn State.
The Lions endured a heartbreaker to Iowa the week prior, but still clung to the top twenty. Coach Joe Paterno appeared less agitated compared to his outburst last week when after the game, he chased down and scolded referees who were attempting to peacefully exit the stadium. This week, he was laughing, waving, and chatting with Lion fans who ventured across the Midwest to see if Penn State could capture their first Big Ten victory.
The weather cooperated perfectly and despite a 10-0 lead posted by the Nittany Lions early on, Wisconsin answered with two quick scores – one being a B.J. Tucker interception return that sent Camp Randall into a flailing frenzy. Thanks to this slice of drama, the Badgers went ahead 14-13, but they would find themselves playing follow the leader for the remainder of the match. Penn State answered the Badgers and jolted ahead 21-14 at half. Tailback Larry Johnson’s terrorization of the Badger defense was the primary cause for their lead.
Valiance describes Wisconsin’s attempt to maintain a level playing field with Joe Pa’s squad in the second half. They nipped and tucked all they could at PSU’s lead, but there was a sense that the facelift would never quite be fully complete. A late touchdown by the Badgers would cut the lead to three, but a failed onside kick would drain any chances the home team held. The elastic on Wisconsin’s perfect stretch finally snapped, but minimal heads sulked while exiting Camp Randall. The competitive nature, the fortitude, and the scrappy will to fight gave the red and white something to hang their helmets on. For Penn State, the blip on the radar last week clearly did not zap their focus. They may have a lot to look forward to.