It finally looked like Wisconsin (7-5, 4-4) was about to breakthrough. After the Badgers held Penn State (8-4, 5-2) to a field goal in overtime, Wisconsin got the ball with a chance to win the game and head off to Indianapolis with some much needed momentum.
Phillips found Melvin Gordon for the game's first touchdown.
The Badgers weren't able to get anything going on the possession and after Kyle French missed a 44-yard field goal attempt, Wisconsin fell for the fifth time this season in a game decided by a touchdown or less.
"We were running out of guys to get it done in the fourth quarter and in overtime," Wisconsin Head Coach Bret Bielema said. "The good news is that we were in the game. A lot of times, teams get into these situations and they don't even get close. I give credit to our guys there, but obviously we need to pull through."
Wisconsin got off to a great start in Happy Valley. On the game's first drive, the Badgers hit the big play early. Curt Phillips found Melvin Gordon in the flat and the freshman did the rest, taking it 57-yards for the touchdown.
Penn State would answer and do it rather quickly. On their first drive, the Nittany Lions drove right down field, with an impressive 15-play, 78-yard drive, capped off by a 3-yard touchdown run by Zach Zwinak.
It was Wisconsin's turn to respond later in the first quarter. The Badgers followed Penn State's touchdown with a quick 4-play, 53-yard drive, which would go down in history.
Senior Running Back Montee Ball took a pitch off the right side and found some room along the sidelines and strolled into the end zone. The touchdown was No. 79 of Ball's career, making him the NCAA's all-time leader in career touchdowns.
"He knew what went into that touchdown today when he got it," said Bielema. "It is a tremendous accomplishment by him and everyone around him, but it is obviously not as fulfilling as a win would be today."
The team's would go into halftime with Wisconsin holding a 14-7 edge. Throughout most of the second half, Penn State would dominate. The Nittany Lions consistently knocked on the door step and were able to manage two field goals by Sam Ficken in the third quarter, making it a 14-13 game heading into the fourth.
Duckworth hauled in a touchdown pass to tie the game.
Early in the fourth quarter, Penn State was finally able to take the lead. Matt McGloin hooked up with his tight end Jesse James to put the Nittany Lions up 21-14 after a successful two-point conversion.
Just as they did against Ohio State, Wisconsin would wait until their very last drive to tie the game in regulation. Phillips was clutch yet again on the drive and led the Badgers down the field, eventually finding Junior Wide Receiver Jeff Duckworth for the tying score.
"He got his tail knocked off a couple of times and bounced back every time," Bielema said of Phillips. "He knows that when he comes off of the field, he and Matt (Canada) have great conversations about where the ball was going to go, if it went and what they felt good about coming into the next series."
And just like last week against the Buckeyes, overtime would be Wisconsin's undoing. The Badger defense was able to come up with the stop, forcing Ficken to attempt a 37-yard field goal, which was good.
On their first and only possession of overtime, Wisconsin's offense went three and out and left the game into the hands of Sophomore Kicker Kyle French. Kicking into a swirling wind, French hooked the 44-yard field goal wide left, sending the Badgers to the Big Ten Championship on a two-game losing streak.
"He did kick pretty well this week," Bielema said of French. "I made a decision that we needed to be perfect all week, and he was. We said it after the second kick on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and he was 100% and he looked pretty good out there today.
"We had tough conditions today with the wind; they were really struggling during the pregame. It was a tough 43-yarder to kick in a windy game."
Despite five losses on the season, Wisconsin will play for their third-straight Big Ten title next Saturday in the Big Ten Football Championship Game, squaring off against Nebraska at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
French missed a 44-yard field goal in overtime.
"I know that is a concern, but with this group...I mean when we left yesterday from Camp Randall and Nebraska had beaten Iowa, there was a sparkle in our guys' eyes that they were going to get the chance to play in that game," Bielema said playing in the title game on a two-game losing streak.
"Where you have an early season loss similar to what we did with Michigan State, I know that that will be our rally cry and I think I need to be really, really smart. We backed off on this week physically and the amount of contact. We have played a lot of physical games and it is clearly taking a toll."
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