Last updated: February 19. 2013 7:00PM - 234 Views

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STATE COLLEGE -- Ten more minutes of a season that almost never happened.

It had been a full decade since Beaver Stadium hosted an overtime game. And in dark and snowy Happy Valley, the lights were going to stay on for one last celebration.

Sam Ficken hit his field goal -- his 10th straight to close out the season -- and Wisconsin could only manage a chance to tie it in the extra frame.

The kick started out straight. For a few brief seconds, everything from the past 12-plus months was an afterthought. No arguing about scandals or sanctions or statues. Nothing but this kick.

Wide left.

Penn State 24, Wisconsin 21.

After the players rushed off the sideline and to the corner of the field to sing the alma mater next to the student section, Bill O'Brien grabbed the microphone and belted out one final We are cheer before the Lions followed their coach down the tunnel to end the 2012 season.

This game told our whole story of what we've been through since last November, said Jordan Hill, one of the seniors who kept the team together in the summer and sent the Lions out winners in 2012 with a career performance.

We were not losing this game.

It's the first of a few long offseasons for Penn State. But the Nittany Lions will have some great memories to take into this winter.

After starting the season 0-2, the Lions won eight of their last 10 games to finish 8-4 and 6-2 in Big Ten play.

I knew this was a very frustrated team after the Virginia game, said Bill O'Brien, whose eight wins are a record for a first-year Penn State coach. But these kids hung tough. It's about these players.

It was about Zach Zwinak, who gashed the country's ninth-rated run defense for a career-high 179 yards, giving him exactly 1,000 on the season.

He had entered the year as the fourth-string tailback. After three games, he had 2 yards rushing.

I'm fortunate to be here, Zwinak said. I was gonna stay here no matter what. I made the decision to stay here this year. I chose to stay, and I'm here ‘til the end.

It was about Matt McGloin, who added another record to a resume full of them, giving Penn State a fourth-quarter lead with a 41-yard touchdown pass to Jesse James and giving him 24 scores on the season, tying the school record.

Finished with his final college game, McGloin couldn't bring himself to take off the Penn State uniform for the last time, doing interviews in his pads.

It's a different feeling, knowing that there are no more Saturdays left at Penn State, McGloin said. It's definitely emotional, but at the same time you're happy with what you left behind. And you keep moving forward.

It was about Hill, who spearheaded a Penn State comeback with 12 tackles. He had seven (three for loss) in the fourth quarter alone, preventing the Badgers' record-breaking running back Montee Ball from beating them at the end.

After giving up touchdowns on the Badgers' first two drives, Hill and the Lions defense forced seven straight punts spanning from the second to the fourth quarter, giving the team a shot to rally from seven points down.

It was about Michael Mauti, who inspired his team from the sideline as every player on the team donned his No. 42 on the left side of their helmet. Fellow linebacker Gerald Hodges wore it on his jersey.

Just really happy that these guys came out and never quit tonight, Mauti said. They ended it the way it should be ended.

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