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No. 7 Penn State Punches Its Ticket To Indy, Blasts Michigan State 45-12

No. 7 Penn State (10-2, 8-1 Big Ten) capped its first undefeated season in Beaver Stadium since 2008 and its eighth-straight win thanks to a 35-0 second-half explosion.

James Franklin’s Nittany Lions topped Michigan State for the first time since 2009 in East Lansing, cruising past the Spartans 45-12 on Senior Day. They tied the all-time series at 15-15-1.

How It Happened

Penn State won the coin toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff. Backup safety Nick Scott showed shades of 2012 when he donned Von Walker’s No. 25 for the injured senior. Although the Nittany Lions’ first offensive series stalled out before they could reach midfield, fans went crazy as Ohio State took the lead, 24-17, in overtime at the Horseshoe. Somewhat surprisingly, Mark Dantonio went with Damion Terry as his starting quarterback instead of senior Tyler O’Connor. The Erie, Pa., native promptly led the Spartans on a lengthy 12-play, 76-yard drive to reach the Penn State doorstep. They would settle for a 28-yard field goal from Michael Geiger to make it 3-0 with 8:13 to play in the first quarter.

Despite having to bring Blake Gillikin out for a second-straight punt, Beaver Stadium exploded as Ohio State prevailed 31-27 in double OT. Michigan State again made its way deep into Nittany Lion territory, thanks in part to a 15-yard pass-back from receiver RJ Shelton to Terry. Geiger nailed his second field goal of the ballgame from 36 yards out to give the Spartans a 6-0 lead with 2:44 left in the opening quarter. Tyler Davis responded with a 35-yard field goal of his own on Penn State’s next drive to cut the deficit to 6-3 just under two minutes into the second quarter.

Garret Sickels and Troy Apke Penn State Football vs Michigan State 2016Terry went down hard as the Spartans reached first and 10 from the Penn State 12-yard line. O’Connor would come on in relief. Star running back LJ Scott also suffered an undisclosed injury and wouldn’t return. Sophomore linebacker Manny Bowen stepped up with a huge sack to force Geiger to try yet another field goal. His kick from 33 yards was pure and Michigan State took a 9-3 lead with 7:17 to go before the half. Penn State’s second-straight 10-play drive resulted in a beautiful Saquon Barkley leap up and over the line of scrimmage and into the end zone. Davis hit the PAT and the Nittany Lions took their first lead of the ballgame, 10-9, with 2:14 left before the break. Geiger delivered his fourth field goal of the half from 20 yards out to give Michigan State a 12-10 advantage with :10 to go.

Penn State posted just 14 rushing yards and picked up only seven first downs heading into the locker room, but this season’s been all about the second half for the Nittany Lions. Senior linebacker Brandon Bell had a game-high 10 tackles at the break. He would finish with 18 on the day. Brent Pry’s defense forced a huge three-and-out to energize the crowd, and Michigan State punted the ball away from its own end zone. Penn State took over with tremendous field position at its own 48-yard line and quickly dialed up a touchdown.

Chris Godwin unleashed a filthy double move on his defender and Trace McSorley found the junior from 34 yards out. Davis hit the PAT and the Nittany Lions took their second lead of the evening, 17-12. They would follow it up with a five-play stop to get the ball right back. Junior Mike Gesicki set Penn State’s single-season receiving yardage record (610) for a tight end thanks to a 45-yard touchdown grab of his own, topping Mickey Shuler’s 1977 mark of 600.

alexbauer-7070Just when Penn State fans didn’t think it could get any better, McSorley hit a wide-open Godwin for a 59-yard score to give Penn State a 31-12 lead with just over two minutes to play in the third quarter. Redshirt freshman Andre Robinson joined the party with a 14-yard touchdown run to make it 38-12 with 6:33 to go. Robinson paced Penn State with 32 rushing yards on the day. He would haul in another score on a 40-yard connection from McSorley to give the blue and white a 45-12 lead. Juwan Johnson even corralled a 43-yard gem for the second catch of his Penn State career.

The Nittany Lion defense pitched a second-half shutout to overpower Michigan State, who finished its season 3-9 (1-8 Big Ten). Penn State had four sacks to just one from the Spartans. Tommy Stevens checked in at quarterback to close things out. The Nittany Lions couldn’t get much going in the trenches, though, as Barkley was held to a season-low 14 yards rushing on 12 carries. They would post just 77 yards on the ground, but didn’t surrender a turnover and only gave up one penalty.

Player Of The Game

Trace McSorley | Redshirt sophomore | Quaterback

The Ashburn, Va., native finished a sterling 17-of-23 day with a career-high 376 passing yards and four touchdowns to no interceptions.

What’s Next?

Pack your bags for Indianapolis, folks! The Nittany Lions will represent the Big Ten East against No. 6 Wisconsin at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 3. Thanks for the assist, Ohio State!

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About the Author

Ethan Kasales

Ethan’s a senior journalism major who grew up in Lemont, a few minutes from campus. When he’s not covering Penn State sports, you can usually find him golfing or teaching snowboarding at Tussey Mountain. Feel free to email him at [email protected].

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