On a frigid late November morning in Pennsylvania, Penn State and Michigan State squared off for the Land Grant trophy for the final time until at least 2013. Typing that sentence just made me think. With the new Big Ten divisions, if Penn State and Michigan State meet in the Big Ten Championship game, will the Land Grant trophy be on the line? Will Jim Delany stand up on a stage after the game and say "Here's your Big Ten Championship trophy, and over there on that flat bed truck is your Land Grant Trophy. Please get it out of here. It's blocking the cameras."
On to the game.
The Spartans started the game in control with a 71 yard touchdown drive that was aided by a Devon Still penalty for roughing the quarterback. Poor penalties were an ongoing theme all day. Penn State came into the game leading the nation in fewest penalty yards, but they uncharacteristically committed eight penalties for 67 yards.
Penn State responded to Michigan State's opening punch with a drive of their own. But a delay of game and incomplete pass to Zug in the redzone forced Penn State to settle for a field goal.
The teams traded punts, and then Michigan State drove 80 yards with a bruising running game. A 35 yard run by Keshawn Martin set up an eight yard pass to an uncovered B.J. Cunningham to give the Spartans a 14-3 lead. It was the kind of drive that stirred panic on the Penn State sideline which had seen similar drives against Alabama, Illinois, Iowa, and Ohio State spell doom later on. Penn State was fortunate to hold the score in place until halftime.
The second half started with a bang when Matthew McGloin hit Justin Brown on a 26 yard pass to midfield. It was one of many plays to Brown on the day. The sophomore wide receiver finished with six catches and 106 yards. But the offense fizzled there and they were forced to punt four plays later.
The teams traded punts back and forth until late in the quarter when Kirk Cousins hit B.J. Cunningham again on a 24 yard touchdown pass. The 21-3 deficit appeared to be too much for the sputtering Nittany Lion offense to overcome. But that's when things started getting interesting.
On Penn State's next drive McGloin led them 74 yards on six plays hitting five different receivers. Joe Suhey caught the final pass for a 25 yard touchdown to cut Michigan State's lead to 21-10.
What Penn State needed desperately at that point was a defensive stop to get the ball back in the hands of the offense. A short field would have been nice too. But like they had done so many times all season, the soft defense riddled with inexperience and injuries couldn't make a play. Malcolm Willis moved them out to midfield on a late hit penalty on the Michigan State sideline. Then the Spartans grinded away and scored on a Charlie Gantt touchdown from three yards out. At 28-10, Penn State was done. But not really.
A holding penalty on Quinn Barham, his third penalty of the game, forced PSU into a 3rd-and-20. McGloin calmly hit Justin Brown on a 45 yard pass to keep the Lions alive. Six plays later Evan Royster ran up the middle and dove for a 10 yard touchdown to get Penn State within 12 points. They elected to go for the two point conversion but came up short when McGloin's pass fell harmlessly out of bounds behind the back line.
With six minutes to go and down by two scores, Penn State elected to not attempt an onsides kick. Michigan State made them pay with two first downs that forced Penn State to use all of their timeouts. It appeared that all was lost, but Nathan Stupar stepped up and forced Edwin Baker into a fumble. Kevion Latham jumped on it at the 50 yard line with just over two minutes to go to breathe new life into the Lions.
This is when the Derek Moye show started. On first down McGloin hit Moye on a jump ball for 29 yards down the left sideline. Three plays later he nearly hit Moye in the back corner of the endzone, but instant replay showed he didn't keep control of the ball until he hit the ground. So on 4th-and-6 Moye caught a slant for 13 yards for a first and goal at the four.
McGloin threw a pass into coverage that was tipped in the air and intercepted by Trent Robinson. Instead of taking a knee and ending the game, Robinson got greedy and ran out of the endzone. He got about four yards until Moye caught him from behind and stripped him of the ball to set up another 1st-and-goal. On the next play McGloin hit Moye in the endzone for the touchdown. After the PAT, the score was 28-22.
But that was where Penn State ran out of miracles. Collin Wagner's onside kick didn't get much bounce and Michigan State jumped on it before it went ten yards.
It was a disappointing loss, but I'm really pleased with how this young team did not give up. They had the co-Big Ten Champions on the ropes until the very end after digging themselves a hole early. Congratulations to the Spartans on a good game and season.
We'll have to wait and see which bowl game Penn State ends up in, but if I had to guess I would say it's looking like the Gator Bowl where they will probably play Florida.