No. 5 Spartans Pound Penn State 55-16 In Final Game
James Franklin suffered the most lopsided loss of his two-year Penn State tenure Saturday evening in Spartan Stadium, a demoralizing 55-16 beatdown that resulted in Michigan State’s berth in the Big Ten Championship Game next weekend against Iowa. A runaway 21-point fourth quarter was more than enough to seal the Nittany Lions’ fate.
How It Happened
Penn State started things off with a drive that looked promising from the start, moving the chains a few times before Hackenberg spotted one-on-one coverage in the end zone. He threw it deep, only to end the drive with an interception. Michigan State turned the turnover into points with an 80-yard drive capped off by a touchdown and missed extra point. Penn State responded with a decent looking drive that couldn’t convert on an eventual third down, and Pasquariello punted to the Spartans’ five-yard line. A good defensive showing gave Penn State a possession with decent field position.
The Nittany Lions promptly marched 63 yards in 11 plays, settling for a 19-yard Tyler Davis field goal to cut the deficit to 6-3 Michigan State. True freshman Saquon Barkley rattled off a handful of impressive runs, eventually bringing Penn State to the two-yard line. Hackenberg’s rollout toss on third and short, intended for Adam Breneman, sailed high and the Nittany Lions were forced to take a 19-yard field goal from Tyler Davis, making it 6-3 Spartans.
After trading punts, Mark Dantonio’s squad started its next position in excellent shape from the Penn State 49-yard line. The Spartans fed running back Gerald Holmes on multiple occasions before the sophomore found the end zone from six yards out, dragging Jason Cabinda with him, to make it 13-3 Michigan State. The Nittany Lions shook off an untimely 14-yard sack and delay of game penalty to extend the drive into Spartan territory. However, after hauling in a 10-yard catch, tight end Kyle Carter coughed up the football and Michigan State’s Demetrious Cox scooped it up, weaving 77 yards for a deflating touchdown and 20-3 lead.
Penn State’s offensive line continued to struggle, as right tackle Andrew Nelson picked up a facemask penalty, but Chris Godwin and Brent Wilkerson helped pick up the slack with a pair of nifty receptions. Barkley rattled off a smooth 21-yard run, setting the Nittany Lions up with an excellent chance to cut the deficit to 10 in the Michigan State red zone, and they did just that. Hackenberg delivered a beautiful ball to Godwin for an eight-yard touchdown to add some much-needed momentum and make it 20-10 Spartans with less than a minute to go before the half. Barkley’s 10 first-half carries for 86 yards brought the Coplay, Pa., native within 10 yards of eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark.
Starting the half with the ball and looking to add to its lead, the Spartans made short work of Penn State. It was capped off by a highlight-reel, spin move-heavy touchdown from Burbridge that left Marcus Allen in the dust.
Penn State needed a response on its next drive to keep its hopes alive. A penalty, two incomplete passes, and a completion that didn’t move the chains forced a punt. Michigan State smelled blood, and pulled off a sweet double-fake handoff to set a tight end loose and make the score 34-10.
The Nittany Lions’ next drive started with two fruitless plays, followed by a 77-yard monster gain from Hackenberg to Blacknall. Starting at the two-yard line, Penn State tried to fight its way into the endzone and facced 3rd and goal at the five as the third quarter ended.
On fourth and goal, Hackenberg’s pass to Godwin was right on the money from five yards out, as the Nittany Lions finally put some points on the board, 34-16. Penn State went for the two-point conversion, but Blacknall was unable to hang on.
The Nittany Lions went with an unorthodox look on the ensuing kickoff, electing to have both Chris Gulla and Tyler Davis on the field for an onside kick attempt that the Spartans recovered with ease. Cook immediately found R.J. Shelton for a 16-yard completion, making the Hinckley, Ohio, native the Spartans’ all-time leader in total offense. A few plays later, running back L.J. Scott waltzed into the end zone from six yards out to extend Michigan State’s lead to 41-16.
To make matters worse, with the Nittany Lions backed up deep in their own territory, Michigan State’s Shilique Calhoun got a paw on Hackenberg’s pass on 3rd and 15, batting it into Malik McDowell’s outstretched arms, who rumbled into the end zone for a pick-six from 13 yards away to put the Spartans up 48-16.
And just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse for Penn State, Koa Farmer fumbled the kickoff on the nine-yard line. Cook pumped up the home crowd before handing the ball to offensive line Jack Allen on a piece of trickeration for the touchdown, pouring gasoline on the already-blazing fire, 55-16.
With the game well out of reach, backup signal-caller Trace McSorely came on in relief for Hackenberg, orchestrating a solid drive into Michigan State territory. However, a turnover on downs gave the ball back to the Spartans and effectively ended the Nittany Lions’ hopes of salvaging a garbage-time touchdown. Michigan State turned to senior quarterback Tommy Vento midway through the following drive in order to run out the clock and seal its matchup with Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game. On a positive note, Barkley would finish with 103 rushing yards, eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark on the season.
Player Of The Game
Chris Godwin | Wide receiver | No. 12
The Middletown, Del., native turned in a spectacular performance on the road, recording 109 yards on career-high marks of 11 grabs and two touchdowns. A true sophomore, Godwin has solidified himself as Hackenberg’s favorite target and leads the team in receptions (63), receiving yards (968), and is tied with DaeSean Hamilton for the most touchdown catches (5).
With the conclusion of a 7-5 regular season, we now must wait to find out where Penn State will play its bowl game. The announcement will come December 7.
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About the Author
Penn State ranked just outside the top 100 in this year’s Forbes’ list of the top colleges in the United States.
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