The script for Penn State in the final game of its season was something purely out of Hollywood, or Disney.
On Senior Day, in the cold, wind and snow flurries at Beaver Stadium, with the Nittany Lions' 31 seniors having been honored before the game and at a fever pitch emotionally, it came down to overtime and a sophomore kicker who struggled more with his performance early in the season than anyone on the team.
Sam Ficken nailed a 37-yard field goal on the first possession of overtime, Wisconsin missed a 45-yard attempt on its turn with the ball, and the Lions swarmed the field in jubilation Saturday after ending their fascinating and compelling season with a 24-21 victory over the Badgers.
"Tonight was a fairy-tale ending," senior defensive end Pete Massaro said. "I couldn't ask for anything more, the way we won that game, getting down early, coming back, just fighting every step of the way. It's kind of symbolic of how our season went really."
The Nittany Lions, who lost their first two games but still finished 8-4, suffered through NCAA sanctions in July that cost them a chance to play for the Big Ten championship or in a bowl, and led to the transfer of 10 players, including some important ones. But the seniors stayed strong and kept the team together. One of the strongest, linebacker Michael Mauti, sat out Saturday's game with a left knee injury, but the players honored him by having his No. 42 on the left side of their
"You can't say enough about these kids," Penn State coach Bill O'Brien said. "I've been around some special teams and this is a very special football team because of the players and especially the seniors."
Making a stand: In a game that featured 1,241 yards, there was a little bit of irony in the fact that Baylor's defense may have made the biggest plays in a 52-45 overtime victory against Texas Tech. Linebacker Eddie Lackey had two interceptions and a fumble recovery, and the Bears defense forced the Red Raiders into a failed fourth-down attempt from the 20-yard line in overtime. It was sweet redemption for a group that has been ranked among the worst in the nation for much of the season.
"We had a tough middle part of the season, but we never let that get to us," Lackey said. "It really was all about our attitude. Being able to come out here, still have energy to fight, earn us a bowl bid ... that was huge."
The victory gives Baylor six wins and makes the Bears bowl eligible for the third consecutive season. Texas Tech (7-5, 4-5 in the Big 12) also has a bowl game waiting.
The Dallas Morning News contributed to this report.