Penn State celebrates after defeating Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Wisconsin’s players and coaches struggled to explain what went wrong Saturday night.
Simple words couldn’t do it justice.
All the sixth-ranked Badgers could do was cope with the reality that their vaunted defense broke down in the second half of the Big Ten championship game and their national championship hopes evaporated as quickly as their seemingly safe 21-point first-half lead.
“This one’s going to sting for a while,” linebacker Vince Biegel said after No. 8 Penn State rallied for a 38-31 victory. “It’s going to take a while to get the taste out of your mouth.”
For the Badgers (10-3, No. 6 CFP), it was an inexplicable loss.
Wisconsin had not allowed more than 23 points in regulation all season. The only team to produce more than 400 yards was No. 2 Ohio State, which needed overtime to reach 411 in a win Oct. 15.
So when the Badgers jumped out to a 28-7 lead with 5:15 left in the second quarter, the Big Ten’s West Division champs looked like they would add another impressive victory to an already strong resume and hope for the best with the playoff committee.
Instead, the fantastic start turned into a dreaded nightmare that won’t go away any time soon.
“These are the games you dream about, being in a Big Ten championship game, representing the University of Wisconsin,” Biegel said. “Obviously, we didn’t take care of business today.”