Steve Manuel

Penn State vs. Michigan State: The High Five

Check out the highs and and a few lows as the Nittany Lions used a strong second half to dispatch the Spartans and win the Big Ten East.

It was a tale of two halves that saw Michigan State largely with the advantage in the first half and Penn State dominate the second on both sides of the ball, taking the lead and shutting down the Spartans. It surely didn't look easy by any stretch to the Nittany Nation headed into halftime, but by the time the fourth quarter came around the Lions' momentum picked up, helping them put together what became a 45-12 blowout of the Spartans. 

With the win, Penn State next heads to the Big Ten Championship (vs. Wisconsin). Let's look at the highs and lows from the game that clinched the Big Ten East title for the Lions.


Get 'Er Done: Thanks in part to Ohio State miraculously beating Michigan in double OT, the Lions took advantage of the opportunity they had and got the job done to win the Big Ten East and get a bid to the Big Ten Championship. Who would have guessed this back at the start of the season?

Senior Moment: What a fitting way to send off this group of seniors, who endured so much and embodied so much more for this program. In a game that meant so much, the Lions dug down and got a big win for the veterans to close out their PSU home careers with an exclamation point.

Change Up: While PSU struggled early on both sides of the ball (more on this in a bit), the adjustments the staff made in the second half — particularly with the pass rush and passing game — changed the momentum. The pass rush disrupted MSU's offensive production and the passing game went deep again and again, throwing the Spartan defense against the ropes.

Passing Lane: Speaking of the passing game, Trace McSorley was masterful in this game, hitting eight different receivers for 376 yards and four touchdowns. Chris Godwin (above) again led the charge for the wideouts with 135 receiving yards and two receiving scores. It was a fun air attack to watch, and one for which the Spartans had no answers.

Bell Ringer: Linebacker Brandon Bell was all over the field, particularly in the second half, and finished with a game-high 18 tackles and a half TFL. He was once again a major spark for a defense that had moments of stagnation early on in this game.


Been Served: While James Franklin would no doubt ever say revenge played a role in this game after Mark Dantonio had an OL run in a touchdown last year, this is payback that many PSU fans will no doubt enjoy quite a bit given that fact.


Slow Start: To say it was a slow start for PSU is an understatement. Electing to take the opening kickoff, the Lions squandered the opportunity with a three-and-out and a wasted timeout used to clear some confusion.

Off & On: It was not a strong first half for Penn State's defense, which allowed the Spartans to march up and down the field and score on their first four drives. While the unit deserves credit for limiting MSU to field goals on those opportunities, the Lion defense got out to a slow start.

Soft Serve: Early on, PSU's secondary insisted on playing the soft zone we've seen throughout the season, lacking aggression and providing significant gaps that the Michigan State receivers exploited. It helped make two average QBs look solid. On the day the Spartans picked up 234 yards through the air. Bear in mind they averaged 221 yards passing on the season coming in. 

Again & Again: While you don't want to abandon the run game by any stretch, the read-option and tendency to go up the middle against a defense line focused on stuffing the interior run was head-scratching, particularly when PSU was struggling to put drives together early. Thankfully, the staff adjusted and went to the air more consistently in the second half. 

Banged Up: Although it doesn't look all that bad, as RB Saquon Barkley was seen walking around the sideline, losing him with an apparent ankle injury is something no Nittany Lion fan wants to see. Particularly with a big game coming up for this squad.

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