Sad State: Spartans lose finale 31-22

"To be honest we just weren't as mentally tough as we needed to be. That's something we need to learn and we need to know that things just are not going to happen; we have to take them one step at a time." --John L. Smith

Under the lights of Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Michigan, the Penn State Nittany Lions (10-1, 6-1) defeated the Michigan State Spartans (5-6, 2-6) 31-22 to clinch their first Big Ten title in 11 years and grab a Bowl Championship Series bid.

Michael Robinson ran for 90 yards and also connected with Deon Butler for another score. Meanwhile, Michigan State quarterback Drew Stanton three three interceptions including two in the red zone and the Spartans had a punt block returned for the touchdown helping the PSU cause. The Nittany Lions completed a program turn around from last season's 4-7 season.

The Spartans finish the season having lost six of its last seven games after staring 4-0.

"It got a lot tougher in the second half of the season," said MSU coach John L. Smith. "To be honest we just weren't as mentally tough as we needed to be. That's something we need to learn and we need to know that things just are not going to happen; we have to take them one step at a time."

Drew Stanton threw for 233 yards and a touchdown while also rushing for 81 yards.

With 6:56 left in the second quarter, Penn State blocked a punt deep in Spartan territory and Matt Hahn recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown.

Michael Robinson rushed for a 33-yard score two minutes later to send give the Nittany Lions the lead at half, 17-0.

Although playing strong with no points to show for it, the Spartans came out in the second half and put together a scoring drive of their own with Jason Teague scoring on a 25-yard rush.

The game went back and forth until Robinson connected with Butler for a touchdown to give PSU a 24-17 lead.

With 1:13 left in the third quarter, Jerramy Scott took a direct snap from center Chris Morris and rushed 4 yards for a touchdown.

Although the Spartans showed life in the second half, the fourth quarter was a stalemate for both squads, until 4:58 remained when running back Tony Hunt put the nail in the coffin with a 1-yard touchdown rush.

"I thought our kids came out and I thought they played with effort and they played with heart," said John L. Smith. "Even after the second half when we spotted Penn State with some points I thought we came out and played with some good enthusiasm, but we just made mistakes and in a big game like this we can't have those mistakes."

Despite a late touchdown connection from Stanton to Kerry Reed, the Nittany Lions won the game, sending them to a BCS bowl game while the Spartans fell short.

Needing at least 6 wins to be bowl eligible, the Spartans spent their last three games attempting to gain that feat but fell short.

"We all expected to make a bowl game this year, and to not go really hurts," said sophomore SirDarean Adams.

Thirteen Spartan seniors played their final collegiate games on Saturday.

"I feel horrible about it," said junior Drew Stanton. "If there was anything I could do to change it I would because those guys deserve a lot more respect. I would do anything it takes on the football field for those guys to have a successful season, because they really deserve it."

Stanton revealed that he had been suffering from a thumb injury the last few weeks, but attempted to play over it to help his football team.

A long, cold off-season awaits Michigan State, who was entertaining a significant number of recruits during the Penn State game.

"Now what we have to do is get in the weight room and have a good recruiting season and get ready for next year," said Smith. Again congratulations to Penn State, but now we have to move on."

For the players who return for next season, they are part of a program that has experienced major slides in the past three years. The second half of the season poses problems for the Spartans and if John L. Smith wants to stay on at the helm then he needs to find answers.

"We just need to find a way to get over the hump. I sat out there for a while and watched them celebrate in our house. That's something that I will never forget, and it will motivate me over the off season," said junior Clifton Ryan.

A positive for next year's MSU football class is that they have many significant players returning and will have a large number of fresh recruits to help out.

"I think we learned that we have to stay humble, never give up, and always work hard. We know we have a lot of guys coming back next year, and we just need to stay positive, have the coaches continue to recruit great players, and come back strong," said Adams.

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