Christian Hackenberg, Penn State ruin Wisconsin's BCS hopes
Story By Associated Press
MADISON - A bright future for Penn State emerged on a cool, crisp day in the Midwest.
Strong-armed freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg figures to only improve for the Nittany Lions.
Hackenberg played with the poise and touch of a seasoned veteran, throwing for 339 yards and four touchdowns, and Penn State pounced on a slew of Badgers blunders before holding off a late rally to upset No. 15 Wisconsin 31-24 on Saturday.
"He really stepped up in a big way, and words can't describe how thankful I am to that guy," said offensive lineman and senior leader John Urschel.
An up-and-down season -- from the 20-point loss at Indiana to the overtime win over Michigan -- ended on a high note in the most unlikely of places, at Camp Randall Stadium on Senior Day against a Wisconsin team on the cusp of eligibility for an at-large berth in a Bowl Championship Series game.
Say goodbye to the BCS, Badgers.
"That's not going to happen and so we'll move forward. Such is life," coach Gary Andersen said. "The way we played today and the way I coached them, obviously, we don't deserve to have that opportunity. It's gone now."
Two more freshmen had big days for Penn State (7-5, 4-4 Big Ten). Eugene Lewis finished with 91 yards and two touchdowns on three catches, including a 59-yarder with 13 minutes to go to give the Nittany Lions a 31-14 lead. Adam Breneman had 78 yards on three receptions, including a 68-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown that set the tone for the day on the game's opening drive.
The Nittany Lions secured a statement win against a team that had been dominant all year at home. They were listed as 24-point underdogs among Las odds-makers, and prognosticators consistently predicted a Badgers blowout.
Coach Bill O'Brien made sure his players knew about their underdog status all week. A sizable chip was planted on the Nittany Lions' collective shoulders.
"I'm not allowed to talk about that even though it seems like a lot of you guys thought it was the right line," O'Brien told reporters after the game. "You're wrong."
Joel Stave was 29 of 53 for 339 yards and three touchdowns for Wisconsin (9-3, 6-2), though Penn State capitalized on three second-half interceptions, turning one into Lewis' long TD.
The Badgers scored 10 points in a span of 1:25 of the fourth quarter, capped by a 48-yard field goal by Jack Russell with 4:13 left to get within a score. Sam Ficken's 31-yard field-goal try went wide right with 31 seconds left to give the Badgers one more chance.
But a Hail Mary attempt by Stave was intercepted by Ryan Keiser in the end zone with 1 second left.
"Both elation and relief," linebacker Mike Hull said in describing the moment. "We made it closer than we had to, but we got the win and that's all that matters."
Penn State clinched a winning season and did it on the road, where they had struggled all year in Big Ten play. That's quite an accomplishment for a program that's typically dressed about 60 recruited scholarship players as a result of NCAA sanctions resulting from the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
O'Brien's team can't go to a bowl game because of the sanctions. But Penn State will nevertheless ride into the offseason on a high note for a second straight year after a win over the Badgers. Penn State beat Wisconsin 24-21 in an overtime thriller to end the 2012 season.
The Badgers only have themselves to blame. They were uncharacteristically prone to mental errors and mistakes.
"I can't sit back and say we had a bad week of practice, can't sit back and say I didn't feel like we were prepared," Andersen said. "I'm going to say it again, I give a lot of credit to Penn State."
A high pass from Stave off the fingertips of Jared Abbrederis was picked off by Trevor Williams, who returned it 33 yards to the Penn State 38. Three plays later, Hackenberg let go a deep pass after absorbing a hit from Brendan Kelly that landed in the arms of a streaking Lewis over double coverage for a touchdown and 31-14 lead in the fourth.
A Wisconsin defense that hadn't allowed a play longer than 51 yards entering Saturday allowed an astounding four for at least 52 against Penn State.
Hackenberg was 13 of 16 for 221 yards and two touchdowns alone in the first half, the second coming to a wide-open Lewis from 3 yards.
WAUSAU - Enrollment for health coverage will end soon. That's why healthcare providers participated in "Super Saturday".
Bridge Clinic in Wausau welcomed people to sign up for health insurance options Saturday.
The Open Enrollment deadline is February 15th. If you don't sign up before then, it could cost you $325 or more depending on your income.
"We recommend just make an informed choice. Don't just let it lapse and get the penalty, be surprised with a penalty later on. Come in, make an informed choice. There are health care options," said Bridge Community Health Clinic Executive Director Laura Scudiere.
NEW YORK - More than 2 million Toyota, Chrysler and Honda vehicles are being recalled for a second fix for faulty air bags that may inadvertently inflate while the car is running.
The recall includes some Acura MDX, Dodge Viper, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Honda Odyssey, Pontiac Vibe, Toyota Corolla and Toyota Avalon models made from 2002 to 2004.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says all the vehicles covered in Saturday's announcement had already been under a recall for the faulty air bags, but the carmakers' original attempts to fix the defects only worked about 85 percent of the time.
NORTHWOODS - The U.S. Forest Service will hire thousands of temporary workers this spring. Leaders at the Chequamegon Nicolet Forest Service want to hire more than 50 temporary employees to work during summer. They're looking for people with diverse backgrounds and plenty of experience.
MADISON - A team of students from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, is conducting research on foxes and coyotes in hopes of learning how the animals and humans can peacefully coexist.
Forest and wildlife associate professor David Drake and his students are humanely trapping the animals, running tests, then fitting them with tracking devices. The goal is to learn about traveling patterns, diseases the animals might have, and how they interact with other animals and humans.
Drake says foxes and coyotes are moving into areas where people are living. And if that continues, and the animals lose their fear of humans, they could become aggressive in extreme cases.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources says residents should stay a safe distance from foxes or coyotes, and shouldn't feed them.
MILWAUKEE - A winter storm warning will go into effect in the Milwaukee area and far southern Wisconsin on Saturday night â€" and the National Weather Service says as much as 10 inches of snow could fall in Kenosha County by early Monday.
Snow is forecast to begin falling late Saturday and continue all day Sunday. Lake-effect snow is expected to combine with a low pressure system from the south to drive up snowfall totals in far southeast Wisconsin. Milwaukee could see up to 9 inches.
Blowing and drifting snow is expected and winds could gust to over 30 mph, making travel dangerous.
Other parts of the state, including Sheboygan, Dodge, and Waukesha counties, will be under a winter weather advisory starting Saturday night. Snow accumulations could reach 4 to 7 inches.
PINE RIVER - Firefighters in Pine River had a tough day Saturday. They battled a house fire Friday night.
Crews didn't finish cleaning up the scene until 3:30 Saturday morning. Then they got called to a second fire in the afternoon.
The first fire happened at 9:12 p.m. The Lincoln County Dispatch Center got a call about a possible structure fire on County Highway WW in the Town of Pine River. That's east of Merrill, but when the Pine River Department got there, the house was in flames.
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