It was a season that did not want to end for Penn State, the Nittany Lions needed overtime to edge Wisconsin in the final game of the 2012 season. On a day full of emotion and reasons to be proud, Penn State battled back after it seemed the momentum was lost when Wisconsin’s overtime field goal attempt sailed wide left for a 24-21.
Matt McGloin passed for 200 yards and a touchdown, Allen Robinson went over 1,000 receiving yards and Zach Zwinak eclipsed the 1,000 yard rushing mark in the victory.
Before the game Penn State paid tribute to their seniors, as they do at very final home game of the regular season, but there were some special twists to this year's senior day festivities. The players each wore the number 42 on the side of their helmets, a tribute to senior linebacker Michael Mauti. The team captain and respected leader of the program was unable to play in the final game of the season after suffering a knee injury the previous week against Indiana. Penn State was not through honoring their players though, as they added the year 2012 to the Beaver Stadium wall on the east side of the stadium to recognize the entire team for their commitment to the program this season, remembering this year's team along side past Big Ten and national champions and undefeated teams.
It was a historic day for both schools, with Wisconsin running back Montee Ball running his way in to the record books.
Ball ran in to history midway through the first quarter, scoring his 79th career touchdown to break a tie with Miami Ohio's Travis Prentice for the NCAA record. His 17-yard run down the right side of the field for a touchdown showed how Penn State was missing Mauti at linebacker and feeling shallow in the secondary without Malcolm Willis.
Tensions heated up on Penn State's opening possession of the second half when what appeared to be a great touchdown catch by Brandon Moseby-Felder in the back of the end zone was over-turned and ruled incomplete following a video replay. The video replay showed the ball was bobbled by the receiver as he was falling backward and possession was ruled not to have been regained in time before a foot landed out of bounds. The decision did not sit well with McGloin or head coach Bill O'Brien, who was sure to get an earful in during the television timeout to Big Ten referee. Instead Penn State had to settle for a Sam Ficken field goal to pull to within 14-10. Regardless of the outcome, Penn State's fans and defense fed off of the heat of the moment.
Penn State held Wisconsin to a three-and-out, but the Nittany Lions failed to do anything with the football on their next drive. But Penn State chipped away, using a Sam Ficken field goal that barely snuck by the upright to pull within one point late in the third quarter and the defense continued to force Wisconsin to punt away again and again.
Facing a third and long McGloin threw an incomplete pass intended for tight end Jesse James early in the fourth quarter. The Nittany Lions were flagged for a 15-yard penalty on the play, and Wisconsin head coach Brett Bielema opted to give Penn State a second crack on third down with 21 yards to go. After picking up 15 yards on a pass to Allen Robinson, pushing the sophomore wide receiver over 1,000 yards for the season, McGloin dropped back and connected with a wide open James on the left side of the field and the tight end was able to run down the left sideline for a 41-yard touchdown to give Penn State the lead. A video replay was used to quickly confirm James stayed inside the field of play, and a two-point conversion run by Zwinak up the middle pushed Penn State to a 21-14 lead.
Wisconsin had a chance to tie the game in the fourth quarter, driving down toward the red zone but Jacob Fagnano intercepted a fourth down pass attempt by Curt Phillips to end the Wisconsin threat. But Phillips would come back in the final seconds of the fourth quarter, connecting with Jeff Duckworth with a game-tying touchdown on a fourth down pass from inside the five-yard line. With the air seemingly let out of the Penn State crowd, overtime would be required to determine a winner in the final game of the regular season.