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Mills comes back from injury to lead Penn State to win at Wisconsin

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Zack Mills found the perfect medicine for his sprained shoulder.
Mills recovered a fumble by fullback Paul Jefferson at the 1 and tumbled into the end zone for a first-quarter touchdown in No. 20 Penn State’s 34-31 victory over No. 19 Wisconsin on Saturday.
Mills landed on his left (throwing) shoulder on the Nittany Lions’ second drive and feared he’d join Badgers’ star Lee Evans on the sideline.
“At first they thought it was separated, but I went in and had it checked. They think it’s a sprained A.C. joint,” Mills said. “It was painful when I first when back in.
“But on the fumble the adrenaline kicked in and I didn’t feel anything.”
Mills went on to complete 21 of 37 passes for 287 yards. And he set a school record with 686 yards passing in consecutive games, surpassing Kerry Collins’ mark of 630 set in 1993.
Evans, on the other hand, didn’t feel good enough to play against Penn State (4-1, 1-1 Big Ten).
The Badgers (5-1, 0-1) were hoping to have Evans, the Big Ten’s leading receiver in 2001, back for their first conference game.
Evans injured his left knee in the spring game April 20, but the Badgers hadn’t really missed him until Saturday, when their offensive line couldn’t hold off the Nittany Lions’ pass rush, and their group of young receivers made several crucial mistakes in the fourth quarter.
Trailing 28-23 with 11:24 left, the Badgers got the ball at the Penn State 47, their best field position all afternoon. But sophomore Darren Charles had his second drop of the game, then freshman Jonathan Orr let a perfect pass bounce off his chest at the 25 on third down.
Badgers coach Barry Alvarez said. “You have to make (those) plays, particularly at crunch time.”
The Nittany Lions capitalized by moving 40 yards in seven plays for Robbie Gould’s career-long 51-yard field goal that made it 31-23.
“We were debating on the sideline what to do,” coach Joe Paterno said. “He said, ’Coach, I can do it.’ So, we let him.”
On the next possession, Bollinger’s pass to freshman Brandon Williams was tipped by Anwar Phillips, and linebacker Gino Capone came down with the ball. It was just the second interception of the season for Bollinger.
That led to Gould’s fourth field goal, a 40-yarder that made it an 11-point game with 2:55 left. The score became critical when the Badgers pulled to 34-31 with 1:17 left, as Bollinger hit Orr from 28 yards out and Dwayne Smith ran in the 2-point conversion.
Nittany Lions linebacker LaMar Stewart recovered the onside kick and Penn State ran out the clock.
Alvarez hoped Evans would be able to play.
“The way he practiced on Tuesday, I thought he was going to play,” Alvarez said. “He had some soreness. He practiced again on Thursday. It didn’t clear up the way we wanted it to and he didn’t feel comfortable with it.”
Wisconsin pulled to 28-20 when Williams caught a 7-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter, but as senior left tackle Ben Johnson rushed to celebrate he ran over a defensive back for a penalty that forced Scott Campbell to attempt his conversion kick from 36 yards, and he missed to the right.
Mike Allen’s 48-yard field goal with 13:05 left pulled the Badgers within five points.
A year ago, the Badgers controlled the clock for nearly 42 minutes and rushed for 320 yards in an 18-6 victory at Happy Valley.
The Nittany Lions dominated this time. Their 145 first-quarter yards were 14 more than they totaled against Wisconsin last year, their lowest output ever under Paterno.
Behind Larry Johnson’s 171 all-purpose yards, they outgained the Badgers 436-309. Johnson ran 14 times for 111 yards before leaving with a hamstring injury.
The Badgers’ only big break came when linebacker Alex Lewis slammed Mills and cornerback B.J. Tucker stepped in front of tight end Casey Williams and returned an interception 65 yards for a touchdown that gave Wisconsin 14-13 lead.
“I should have just eaten the ball,” Mills said. “But the way we were moving the ball, we had a lot of confidence.”
That faith showed as Penn State needed just four plays to regain the lead for good on Johnson’s 24-yard rumble.0