MSU: Game Breakdown

The good, the bad and the ugly from Penn State's slow-starting, fast-finishing 42-14 win over Michigan State.

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- With a late afternoon game against Michigan State here Saturday, Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark spent the morning watching TV in his hotel room.

He was viewing ESPN when, surprisingly, the TV conversation turned to him. In discussing Clark, analyst Todd McShay described the Nittany Lion senior as an “interception machine” in big games.


Clark went out later in the day and -- after a lackluster performance by the entire team through 30 minutes -- laid a beat-down on the Spartans. Clark said he heard McShay's comments and was irked, but the key was not letting them overwhelm him when he hit the field.

“I was really upset about it, but I couldn't let it bother me,” he said. “I don't play for Todd McShay and I don't play for all the critics out there.”

That approach worked.

Below you can read about his exploits and more about PSU's 42-14 victory, a win that improved the Lions' record to 10-2 overall and 6-2 in the Big Ten.

MAN OF THE HOUR: Clark overcame the dicey first half and took over the game in the third quarter. He completed all six of his passes for 130 yards and three TDs in the stanza. He finished 19 of 27 for 310 yards and four scores and was not intercepted. More on Clark later.

CLOSE SECOND: Tight end Andrew Quarless caught four passes for 62 yards and two scores, both of them when the game was still a game.

CLOSE THIRD: Lion linebacker Navorro Bowman had 10 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and a sack.

TURNING POINT: On PSU's first drive of the third quarter, rookie wideout Curtis Drake lined up in the backfield and took a pitch. The former high school quarterback floated a 14-yard TD pass to Quarless, who went up over safety Marcus Hyde in the back of the end zone. The play gave the Lions a 14-7 lead and they never looked back.

SOLID STRATEGY: Penn State stuck with the passing game even though the Spartans caused some serious trouble with early blitzes. Once the offensive line adjusted to the pressure, Clark was able to spread the ball around.

NUMBERS GAME: Clark set school records for season passing touchdowns (23), career passing touchdowns (42) and season passing yardage (2,770).

BUSINESS AS USUAL: Tailback Evan Royster carried 13 times for 114 yards and went over the 1,000-yard mark for the second straight year.

SPECIAL DELIVERY: Stephfon Green opened the second half with a 37-yard kickoff return to give the offense a short field. It took Clark and company three plays to capitalize. Green replaced Chaz Powell, who missed the game (and did not make the trip) due to a separated shoulder.


• PSU's Graham Zug dropping a pass on a drive right before the half. No one was close to him. He made up for it with two catches for scores in the third quarter.

• The Spartans coming unglued in the third quarter. Penn State scored on drives of three, three and one play to blow it open.

Collin Wagner continuing to struggle. He missed two field goals in the first half, from 38 and 51 yards. One was wide right, the other wide left. It is difficult to remember when the Lions were this shaky at kicker.

• Penn State asking for a review of a Mark Dell catch late in the second quarter. He was clearly in, and replay confirmed the call on the field. It cost PSU a timeout that would have come in handy as the Lions made a late drive just before the half.

• The MSU players, led by QB Kirk Cousins, going into rapture even after modest early gains. Cousins had a 12-yard scramble in the first quarter and came up with a first-down signal. He repeated it again. Bowman dropped him for a sack on the next play and the drive eventually fizzled.

HIT SQUAD: Spartan tight end Charlie Gantt made a nice 27-yard reception in the first quarter, only to be wiped out by Lion safety Nick Sukay. Somehow Gantt held on.

HIDDEN HEROES: The PSU line struggled early, giving up three sacks in the first half. It allowed only one in the second half, tough, when the offense caught fire.

LOST IN THE SHUFFLE: Punter Jeremy Boone saw all five of his boots downed inside the 20-yard line.


• Those moves PSU linebacker Sean Lee unleashed after making his first interception of the season.

• Sukay showing some moves of his own on a 34-yard interception return.

• How wide open fullback Joe Suhey was on a throw-back pass from Clark that went for a 30-yard score.

• Senior cornerback A.J. Wallace, who sustained a concussion against Indiana a week earlier, made the trip but did not dress for the game. Rookie Stephon Morris got the start in his place and made five tackles.

Cedric Jeffries took over as the first-team nickel. With Wallace out, D'Anton Lynn, who usually moved from corner to nickel in five-DB sets, spent the entire game at corner.

• That the only bowl scout in attendance was from the Orange.

UNANSWERED QUESTION: Are the Nittany Lions BCS bowl worthy?


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