Penn State 24, Wisconsin 21 (OT)
Sam Ficken hit a 37-yard field goal in overtime, and Wisconsin’s Kyle French’s attempt from 44 yards went wide left to seal Penn State’s home win in an emotional season finale in Happy Valley.
The Nittany Lions (8-4, 6-2 Big Ten) could have ended it for good a play earlier, but linebacker Glenn Carson dropped a potential interception.
Still, the Beaver Stadium faithful celebrated anyway after French’s miss on Senior Day. It capped a challenging year that began with landmark sanctions from the NCAA for the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal.
Quarterback Curt Phillips found Jeff Duckworth for a 4-yard touchdown pass with 18 seconds left for Wisconsin (7-5, 4-4) to make it 21-all and send the game into overtime.
Badgers star running back Montee Ball ran for 111 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries, and set the NCAA record with his 97th career score.
But his record-setting day was overshadowed by bruising Penn State running back Zach Zwinak (career-high 179 yards and one score) and the late-game heroics of Ficken, who made all three field-goal attempts on the afternoon.
The last one made it just inside the left upright through light flurries — but it was good enough for the decisive score.
The players rushed in jubilation after French’s missed kick. Injured star linebacker Michael Mauti raised his hands in victory as he hobbled with his teammates to the sing alma mater in front of the student section.
Mauti and the seniors were instrumental in helping to keep most of the team together after the NCAA levied its landmark sanctions in July. Most preseason prognosticators thought the Nittany Lions wouldn’t even finish with a winning record this year.
Instead, they rallied to win eight out of 10 after an 0-2 start.
“This is a very special team because of the players and because of these seniors,” first-year coach Bill O’Brien said.
Michigan State 26, Minnesota 10
Le’Veon Bell rumbled for a career-high 266 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown to put the game away, leading Michigan State to a road victory over Minnesota to secure a spot in a bowl game.
Bell carried 35 times on a cold afternoon and Dan Conroy made four of his five field-goal attempts, three from 43 yards or longer, to help the Spartans (6-6, 3-5 Big Ten) wear down the Gophers (6-6, 2-6).
Minnesota played the second half without coach Jerry Kill on the sideline. Kill suffered a seizure at halftime, was not hospitalized and is resting at home, according to the university.
Aaron Hill’s 33-yard interception return for a touchdown gave Minnesota a lead it kept for more than 18 minutes in the first half, but Jordan Wettstein’s season-long 48-yard field goal was the only offensive score for the Gophers, who had a season-low 96 total yards — and just 4 yards rushing. Philip Nelson threw three interceptions, two by Johnny Adams, and was replaced in the fourth quarter by Max Shortell, who was picked off, too.
Despite the single-digit margin that lasted until 7:25 was left, when Bell patiently waited for an opening around left end and jogged across the goal line, this was downright domination for the Spartans considering how close all their games were this season. They lost five times in conference play by a total of 13 points, and their other two Big Ten wins were by seven points combined.
Northwestern 50, Illinois 14
Venric Mark rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown as Northwestern improved its chances for a berth in a New Year’s Day bowl game, beating Illinois at home.
Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter threw for a career-high three touchdowns and the Wildcats (9-3, 5-3 Big Ten) reached nine victories for the first time since 2008.
Penalties and turnovers hurt Illinois (2-10, 0-8), which has lost nine consecutive games and 14 in a row in Big Ten play. The Illini committed four turnovers — including three interceptions — and eight penalties in their season finale.
Northwestern captured the Land of Lincoln Trophy after losing to the Illini in the rivalry game the last two seasons.
Donovonn Young rushed for 74 yards and a touchdown for Illinois, which ranks last in the Big Ten in scoring offense in coach Tim Beckman’s first season. Nathan Scheelhaase went 9-for-14 for 91 yards and two interceptions.
Purdue 56, Indiana 35
Akeem Shavers’ big fourth quarter helped Purdue hold on to the Old Oaken Bucket. The senior running back scored three times in 4½ minutes, twice on long pass plays, to break open a close game, giving the Boilermakers a home victory over archrival Indiana.
The win made Purdue (6-6, 3-5 Big Ten) bowl eligible for the second consecutive year, the first time that has happened since 2006-07, and helped Purdue hold onto the Bucket — the trophy in the annual in-state series.
Sixth-year senior and oft-injured quarterback Robert Marve threw for a career-high 348 yards and four touchdowns.
Indiana (4-8, 2-6) was led by Cameron Coffman, who was 31-of-53 for 348 yards, one score and three interceptions. He also ran for a touchdown. Stephen Houston had 28 carries for 158 yards and three TDs and 12 catches for 95 yards. It still wasn’t enough on a day Shavers ran for 126 yards and caught two scoring passes for 99 yards.