By Andre Monroe
Penn State deferred to the second half and would let Michigan State have the first go at it in this land-grant battle.
After just two plays, the Spartans would fumble in a weird sequence. MSU QB Payton Thorne threw a bubble screen behind the line of scrimmage that Jayden Reed dropped, and statistically it would count as a running play. Penn State jumped on the ball and gained possession a few minutes into the game.
The next possession would be an anticlimactic three-and-out for Penn State. Kaytron Allen would start with a couple of rushes for seven yards, and Sean Clifford would end it with a third-down throwaway after pressure forced him out of the pocket. Jake Pinegar’s ensuing kick attempt of 37-yards would be no good, leaning wide right of the goalpost.
Penn State’s defense having to keep the offense in the game early on has been a trend this season. Sacks by Coziah Izard and Adisa Issac halted Michigan State’s possessions, but Penn State could not get going in its first couple of drives of the game.
On its third possession of the game, Penn State decided that establishing the run would be a good idea. It worked, unsurprisingly, as Nick Singleton began to heat up with a 31-yard and 14-yard rush. A seven-yard pass to KeAndre Lambert-Smith on fourth down would keep the drive moving. Shortly after, Sean Clifford would find a wide-open Theo Johnson in the end zone on an 11-yard touchdown pass. The possession spanned 11 plays, 91 yards, and the key would be establishing the run with Nick Singleton. Penn State 7, Michigan State 0.
After an unsuccessful Michigan State drive to start the quarter, Penn State would answer with some trickery. In the classic double pass play, KeAndre Lambert-Smith would add himself to the quarterback controversy with a 48-yard touchdown pass to Theo Johnson. The throw was a beauty; he led Theo Johnson, who managed to get under the ball and run it in for a touchdown. Penn State 14, Michigan State 0.
Yet again, Michigan State’s offense was able to move the ball but to no positive end result. QB Payton Thorne connected with receivers Jayden Reed and Keon Coleman on multiple occasions, but when it mattered, Penn State’s defense would refuse to break. At this point in the game, Michigan State was 1-5 on third down and 0-1 on fourth down after Thorne’s pass was broken up by Dom DeLecua.
Kaytron Allen and Nick Singleton continue to show why they are one of the best one-two punches in college football already. The freshman duo is the first in the history of the Big Ten with 700+ rushing yards each in a season. It’s evident each game, one possession, you’ll see defenders struggle to catch up to Nick Singleton on a long rush, and the next, you’ll see Kaytron Allen wear defenders out with his tough running and impressive vision. Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen would combine for 45-yards on this possession. However, after a two-yard loss by Kaytron Allen on third down, Penn State would be forced into an FG attempt. Jake Pinegar would miss the kick, his second miss of the night, and Michigan State would retain possession with a little over a minute left in the first half.
Michigan State could finally put points on the board as the first half winded down. After a couple of Penn State defensive penalties and a 16-yard completion to Montorie Foster JR, Michigan State found themselves on Penn State’s 34-yard line. With no timeouts, Michigan State spiked the ball with a second left on the clock. Michigan State K Jack Stone’s field goal attempt of 51 yards would be good, and Michigan State was able to get on the board with no seconds left on the clock. Penn State 14, Michigan State 3.
The opening possession for Penn State in the second half would not go well. The only notable play would be a Sean Clifford scramble for 11-yards; however, the Nittany Lions would be forced to punt shortly after.
The Nittany Lions and Spartans would trade punts on consecutive possessions. After a sack on Sean Clifford, Penn State would line up to punt for the third time in the 3rd quarter. However, Ji’Ayir Brown would force a fumble on the punt return, and Tyler Warren would jump on it. The Penn State offense would take advantage of it, and Warren would add to his recovery with a 14-yard touchdown reception with 5:42 left in the quarter. Penn State 21, Michigan State 3.
Michigan State needed an answer as the game looked as if it got away from them. The possession began with a 25-yard pass to WR Tre Mosley. Michigan State would later convert a fourth down on a ten-yard gain on the ground by Elijah Collins to put Michigan State in the red zone for only the second time in the game. Michigan State got the answer they needed on a beautiful 9-yard back shoulder pass by Payton Thorne to Maliq Collins, who caught it with one hand. Penn State 21, Michigan State 10.
Michigan State would get the ball back to start the fourth quarter after another sack stalled Penn State’s offense. Michigan State’s passing attack would continue to come alive thanks to the likes of Keon Coleman and Tre Mosley. Payton Thorne would throw up multiple 50/50 balls, and they would go MSU’s way. Keon Coleman would haul in a 23-yard pass, and Tre Mosley would get a 17-yard completion plays later to advance to the red zone. Payton Thorne capped off the drive with an untouched touchdown run of two yards. However, Michigan State would fail in the two-point conversion. Penn State 21, Michigan State 16 with 10:52 left in the fourth quarter.
The following Penn State possession began with a Kaytron Allen rush to the left for seven yards. An acrobatic 19-yard reception by KeAndre Lambert-Smith two plays later would give the Nittany Lions much-needed momentum. After driving it to MSU’s 12-yard line, Sean Clifford would connect with Nick Singleton on a screen, and Singleton would run it in for the touchdown. Penn State 28, Michigan State 16.
On the ensuing drive, Kalen King intercepted Payton Thorne after Abdul Carter rushed Thorne. The offense would waste no time capitalizing. Sean Clifford threw a 50/50 ball to KeAndre Lambert-Smith, who did it all in this game, and Smith came down with it for the 35-yard touchdown reception with 3:56 left on the clock. Penn State 35, Michigan State 16.
Michigan State could not answer Penn State’s late back-to-back scores, which would be the end of the contest.
Andre Monroe covers Penn State Football for Insider Institute. Follow him on Twitter @amonroe_ and Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org