McSorley matches wins mark, No. 21 Penn State tops Wisconsin
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Trace McSorley and Penn State went back to a familiar formula Saturday — a steady diet of elusive Miles Sanders.
The resurgent running game put the Nittany Lions offense back on track, and got McSorley a milestone victory, too.
Sanders ran for 159 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries, McSorley matched Todd Blackledge’s program record with his 29th win at quarterback and No. 21 Penn State beat Wisconsin 22-10.
If Sanders had been irritated that his rushing totals had fallen off along with the Nittany Lions’ offensive output lately, he hadn’t shown it. He considers himself a patient tailback, and he channeled some pent-up energy into running over the Badgers.
“People may say that at times (Sanders) had been frustrated, but you never saw that,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “Would we love to rush for more yards week in and week out? No doubt about it.”
Penn State (7-3, 4-3 Big Ten, No. 20 CFP) racked up 200-plus rushing yards in each of the first six games but had averaged just 120 over the last three. Meanwhile, McSorley — a key part of the team’s rushing attack — has been dealing with a sore right knee.
McSorley completed 19 of 25 passes for 160 yards and a TD. He appeared to hurt his left knee in the first half but got some relief watching Sanders juke through the Badgers with his shifty running style.
“Something that I don’t think he gets enough credit for is the balance he has,” McSorley said. “He’s able to take on a hit and shake it off, maintain his balance and keep going.”
The Badgers had no balance with starting quarterback Alex Hornibrook out with a concussion.
Jonathan Taylor ran 20 times for 185 yards and a touchdown for Wisconsin (6-4, 4-3), but backup quarterback Jack Coan completed just 9 of 20 passes for 60 yards with two interceptions and was sacked five times. The Badgers have lost three of their last five games.
“We’ve got to execute better,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. “We knew coming in, it’s a good defense.”
DeAndre Thompkins caught a touchdown pass for Penn State, and the Nittany Lions held the Badgers to 125 yards in the second half.
Jake Pinegar made three field goals for Penn State while Wisconsin kicker Rafael Gaglianone added the Badgers final points midway through the third quarter.
Wisconsin broke through first when Taylor ran 71 yards to the end zone on the Badgers’ first possession.
But McSorley led back-to-back scoring drives to give the Nittany Lions the lead for good. He hit Thompkins for a 14-yard touchdown pass to cap an eight-play drive, then led the offense just past midfield to set up Pinegar’s 49-yard field goal.
Sanders added a 1-yard touchdown run midway through the second.
Beaver Stadium was more difficult than usual for a quarterback to make his first career road start Saturday. Freezing temperatures were made worse by a constant wind powered by gusts up to 40 miles per hour.
At times, it looked like Penn State’s defensive line was playing that fast. Shareef Miller and Wisconsin native Robert Windsor each turned in two sacks, and Coan was hurried or hit a handful of times.
The Nittany Lions have been looking for more options in the passing game all season. Aside from KJ Hamler, who was targeted on six of Penn State’s first 12 plays, another consistent playmaker has yet to emerge.
But a handful of underclassmen saw their most extended playing time yet. Jahan Dotson, Cam Sullivan-Brown and Justin Shorter combined to play season-high snap counts and contributed a combined four catches for 51 yards.
Wisconsin: The Badgers were limited on offense without Hornibrook. Coan attempted just four passes in the first half and completed two for 10 yards. Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions were able to load up the box and keep Taylor from getting into the end zone following his first big run.
Penn State: Offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne stuck with the running game and fed Sanders the ball, going back to what worked for Penn State earlier in the season as McSorley deals with a sore knee. The offensive line was solid, and the strategy worked well. It was Sanders’ first 100-yard rushing game since Oct. 13.
Wisconsin travels to Purdue.
Penn State visits Rutgers.