MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Montee Ball scored four more touchdowns in his pursuit of an NCAA record, powering No. 15 Wisconsin to a 45-7 rout of No. 20 Penn State and a spot in next week’s Big Ten championship game.
Ball has scored 34 touchdowns this season for the Badgers (10-2, 6-2 Big Ten), the second-most in a single season in NCAA history. Barry Sanders holds the record, scoring 39 for Oklahoma State in 11 games in the 1988 season.
With the win, Wisconsin will play Big Ten Legends division winner Michigan State in Indianapolis next Saturday.
The Nittany Lions (9-3, 6-2) came into the game hoping to salvage something from a season dwarfed by scandal. They took an early 7-0 lead but quickly unraveled, falling behind 28-7 by halftime.
The Nittany Lions came into Saturday’s game still reeling in the wake of child sex abuse charges against former Nittany Lions assistant Jerry Sandusky, which led to turmoil on campus and the end of coach Joe Paterno’s reign at the school.
Although anything that happens on a football field pales in comparison to the allegations against Sandusky, Nittany Lions players caught in the middle of it all still hoped to rally the team for a shot at the Rose Bowl. They won at Ohio State last week, giving them a chance going into Saturday’s game.
But after taking an early lead, the Nittany Lions just gave too many chances to the Badgers’ high-octane offense led by Ball and quarterback Russell Wilson.
Wisconsin was again without starting center Peter Konz, but it didn’t seem to matter. Wilson threw for 186 yards and two touchdowns, flustering the Nittany Lions’ defense by slipping away from tackling attempts all afternoon.
Wilson has thrown a touchdown pass in 36 straight games, tying the NCAA record held by former Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell — who is now a backup for the Green Bay Packers.
The Nittany Lions started strong, though, taking an early 7-0 lead on a pair of big mistakes by the Badgers.
Wisconsin had Penn State stopped, but a Wisconsin player ran into Nittany Lions punter Anthony Fera to give up a first down on a penalty. Four plays later, Matt McGloin found Curtis Drake wide open — no Badgers defensive back was within 10 yards — near the end zone for a 44-yard touchdown.
The Badgers answered with a heavy dose of Ball on a 10-play, 76-yard drive that ended with a 21-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to Jared Abbrederis.
McGloin then threw an interception to Wisconsin safety Shelton Johnson, giving the ball back to the Badgers near midfield. Wilson marched Wisconsin into the red zone, Ball scored a 1-yard touchdown and Wisconsin took a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter.
Wilson then left Nittany Lions defenders grasping at air on a drive late in the second quarter. With the Badgers facing third-and-7, Wilson slipped away from pressure and ran for a first down. Later in the drive, Wilson broke at least three tackles on a 19-yard scramble to give Wisconsin first-and-goal at the 5. Ball scored a 2-yard touchdown two plays later, and Wisconsin took a 21-7 lead.
Penn State then fumbled a kickoff and Wilson drove the Badgers again, finishing with a 4-yard touchdown to Nick Toon.
Toon was wearing jersey No. 87 in tribute to his father, former Badgers and New York Jets wide receiver Al Toon.
Penn State running back Silas Redd fumbled early in the third quarter and the Badgers recovered near midfield. Wilson marched the Badgers into the red zone, Ball scored his third touchdown of the day from 9 yards out and Wisconsin led 35-7.
Ball added an 18-yard touchdown late in the third quarter and ended the day with 156 yards on 25 carries.
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