Find a way to run the ball: B+
Michigan State had some decent success on the ground considering how tough Penn State’s run defense is. Jeremy Langford continued his 100-yard streak, which was part of the storyline coming in. It took until the final drive for the Spartans, but he got it done and finished with 118 yards on 30 carries with two touchdowns.
Convert in the red zone: B
Michigan State scored on each of its four trips into the red zone, but settled for a field goal on the first trip. The Spartans also were in the red zone before Connor Cook took a sack and Michael Geiger kicked another field goal later in the first. They scored three touchdowns in their four red zone trips, which is very solid.
Play up: A
Once again, Michigan State showed up. For three straight weeks after a tough loss to Ohio State, the Spartans came to play and performed accordingly. If anything has changed in the Mark Dantonio era – a lot has – one of the biggest things is his teams do not fall off when goals fall away.
Get pressure on Christian Hackenberg: B
Michigan State had three sacks and got some decent pressure into the backfield on Hackenberg, but Penn State’s offensive line did a decent job keeping the Spartans in check. Hackenberg seemed to have more time than he had in previous games.
Handle the environment: B+
The stage never seemed to big or the environment too loud for the Spartans. They did have a pair of false starts on wide receivers, which is not a typical penalty.
The offense put up 27 points, but it was a struggle for much of the game. Cook was erratic at best early, but picked it up later. Langford and the run game did enough to win. But it also was the first time this season that Michigan State had less than 400 yards, finishing with 298.
No coverage busts nor huge plays. Just one touchdown and a field goal allowed. It was a good performance from Michigan State and the secondary was solid. Tony Lippett, Trae Waynes and Demetrious Cox all played well – with Waynes having a great interception.
Special Teams: A-
The first kickoff return for Michigan State since 2009 gets an automatic A, right? R.J. Shelton was big for the Spartans, opening the game before some ABC stations had even tuned into the game for many. Geiger was 2 of 3 on field goals.