Though the Nittany Lions entered the game at 10-1 overall and 6-1 in the Big Ten, the spotty play of their offense in the previous three outings left many wondering if they deserved their lofty ranking.
So Penn State went into the Senior Day matchup looking to win to: secure a piece of the conference crown; lock down a spot in the Rose Bowl; and re-establish itself among the very best teams in the nation.
Mission accomplished on all fronts.
The Nittany Lions not only beat the Spartans (9-3, 6-2), they delivered the kind of smack-down that had been a trademark of the PSU program earlier in the season. State passed for a school-record 419 yards, rushed for 138 more and basically scored at will.
Meanwhile, the defense was every bit as impressive, toying with the Michigan State offense until the reserves took over deep into the fourth quarter.
The Lions are Pasadena bound, against a Pac-10 opponent to be determined. But before turning your attention to that game, take a look at what went down in this one.
MAN OF THE HOUR: Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark threw for 341 yards, the sixth-best figure all-time by a Nittany Lion. He was 16 of 26 with four TDs and did not have a pick. Nice way to shake out of his recent slump.
CLOSE SECOND: A collective nod to Penn State's trio of senior receivers. Jordan Norwood caught five passes for 127 yards, Deon Butler caught three passes for 133 yards and three TDs, and Derrick Williams caught four passes for 51 yards and a score. Talk about going out in style.
TURNING POINT: Up 14-0 early in the second quarter, Penn State faced a third-and-17 from its own 22. Clark completed a short pass to backup tailback Stephfon Green, who scrambled 37 yards. At that point, it was pretty obvious the Lions could do whatever they wanted offensively.
SOLID STRATEGY: We thought PSU would have to run the ball to beat the Spartans. We thought wrong. Great decision by the staff to air it out because it obviously worked.
NUMBERS GAME: Penn State was 13 of 17 on third downs. Michigan State was 3 of 12. Also, the Lions averaged an amazing 22.1 yards per completion.
BUSINESS AS USUAL: Tom Bradley's defense had another great game, holding potent running back Javon Ringer to 42 yards (and 2.5 yards per carry).
SPECIAL DELIVERY: Jeremy Boone only punted three times, but averaged 46.7 yards and had two downed inside the 20.
WHAT'S UP WITH?
Michigan State stopped the clock several times in the final minute in what appeared to be an attempt to delay Penn State's celebration.
Dick Witvoet, who has been at the heart of more than a few officiating controversies involving Penn State, was the referee.
Penn State somehow threw for all those yards without completing a single pass to a tight end.
HIT SQUAD: Penn State linebacker Navorro Bowman wiped out MSU QB Brian Hoyer on a trick play in the third quarter. Hoyer attempted a bomb after a throw-back pass from Ringer, and the ball was intercepted by Lion DB Lydell Sargeant.
HIDDEN HERO: Penn State safety Mark Rubin had a team-high eight tackles and once again was outstanding in run support.
LOST IN THE SHUFFLE: Senior kicker Kevin Kelly saw his streak of 31 consecutive games with a field goal snapped. Not that anyone was complaining.
DID YOU NOTICE?
The coveted Land Grant Trophy was broken, with a piece at the top falling off.
Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Devon Still, who missed the first 11 games with an ankle injury, played late in the fourth quarter.
The grounds crew used leaf blowers to clear snow from the field during a timeout the first quarter.
UNANSWERED QUESTION: Have you made your reservations for Pasadena yet?
Thinking of going bowling with the Nittany Lions this year? We are now accepting deposits on Rose Bowl packages.
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