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Sunday, November 25, 2012
3 Up, 3 Down: PSU 24, Wisconsin 21 OT

By Josh Moyer

The good and the bad from Penn State's 24-21 overtime win against Wisconsin on Saturday:

THREE UP

1. Zach Zwinak controlled the offensive tempo. The redshirt sophomore set career bests in carries (36) and yards (179). He wasn't once tackled in the backfield and averaged five yards a carry. He wore down Wisconsin's defense and was a big reason Penn State trailed only by a touchdown at halftime. He showed Saturday he could be the bell-cow next season if that's what Bill O'Brien needs.

2. Sam Ficken was perfect. If he lost the Virginia game, he won this one. The kicker started off this season 4-of-11 but converted his last 10 field-goal attempts, including three against Wisconsin. He nailed a high-pressure 37-yard attempt in overtime, and he even made a touchdown-saving tackle earlier in the game. Ficken's come a long way, and it's been difficult to pinpoint a more-improved player on this team.

3. The defensive line controlled the trenches in the second half. Montee Ball rushed for just 27 yards in the second half and averaged less than two yards a carry. A big reason for that was defensive tackle Jordan Hill, who might have had the best game of his career. In just the fourth quarter and overtime, Hill made eight stops. Ted Roof really helped the defense adjust in the final two quarters, allowing Zwinak to outrush Ball.

THREE DOWN

1. Very slow start. You can attribute it to emotions or poor play; whatever it was, it wasn't good for PSU on both sides of the ball. Penn State didn't allow a touchdown in the first quarter all season before allowing two Saturday. Matt McGloin started off uncharacteristically slow and struggled in the first half by throwing for less than 50 yards. Overall, it was clearly the worst start of the season for the Nittany Lions. PSU was lucky to even be in position to mount a comeback.

2. Porous secondary. Curt Phillips didn't exactly tear the secondary apart, but he picked on the defensive backs at key times. In the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, he went 6-of-7 for 54 yards and a game-tying touchdown pass. Malcolm Willis' absence again hurt this secondary. Jake Fagnano came away with an interception, but  this unit still had several big lapses.

3. Mistakes by the wideouts. Allen Robinson dropped three passes, and Brandon Moseby-Felder bobbled a would-be touchdown pass. On another two plays, it seemed as if McGloin and Moseby-Felder weren't on the same page:  The redshirt junior stopped in his tracks when McGloin expected him to continue running. These first-half miscues looked like something fans might expect in the season's first game, not the last. PSU rebounded, and McGloin was still able to post respectable numbers, but he didn't get as much help as usual from two of his favorite targets.