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Michigan State in Review

Final Score

Michigan State 13
Penn State 17

Game Story

It was Senior Day in Happy Valley on Saturday. And to honor the seniors, the Nittany Lions decided to summarize their four years into four quarters.

Senior Day in Beaver Stadium

The first quarter represented 2003, characterized by a completely inept offense and a not-so-great defense except for some kid named Poosaloosny, or Polozany, or something like that. Penn State's first four possessions went punt, fumble, fumble, fumble. They only managed 51 yards in four possessions. Michigan State had one long drive that ended in a missed field goal. They were opportunistic in converting the Penn State turnovers into 10 points. Penn State didn't have many answers for them on defense, but that Ponoski kid had seven tackles. He's going to be a good one.

Hunt had two fumbles, but still finished with 130 yards

2004, represented by the second quarter, featured a bend-but-don't-break defense. Michigan State either started in Penn State territory or entered it on every possession. But despite being in on the scoring side of the field on all three possessions, they only came away with 6 points. The 2004 offense was an inconsistent group. Every time the started to show a spark of life they shot themselves in the foot. The Nittany Lions took their first drive of the second quarter on a 56 yard drive that ended with a 17 yard TD pass to Andrew Quarless. Just as you thought they had righted the ship and were ready to become a scoring machine, they came out on the next drive and fumbled it away. The half would finish with Penn State down by 6 points, but it could have been a lot worse.

The third quarter, representing 2005, featured a suffocating defense. The Spartans were shut out in the quarter. Their first drive went all the way down to the PSU 18 ending in a missed FG. After that Penn State abandoned the 4-3 defense in favor of the nickel for the rest of the game. The adjustment proved to be a good one. Their second drive made it to the MSU 47. Their next two didn't make it past the MSU 27. The 2005 offense was driven by determination and consistency using the big play to get the win. This was exemplified by an 80 yard drive that featured three plays of over 20 yards. Jordan Norwood capped of the drive with his second touchdown catch of the year giving Penn State its first lead of the day.

Playing the 2006 season in the fourth quarter was simple. They just played like they have all year. The offense was painfully frustrating to watch due to questionable play calling and an inconsistent quarterback. On their first drive, Tony Hunt was picking up yards in gobs. The Lions started off the quarter with two first downs on Hunt's legs. Then, for some reason that escapes me, they decided it was time to throw the ball. Morelli threw three incomplete passes and they were forced to punt. They wised up later in the quarter and went back to Hunt driving the ball to the MSU 28, but ineffective offensive line blocking stalled the drive and Penn State was forced to kick the FG. Then, with the chips on the table clinging to a four point lead the defense stepped up. After MSU drove to the PSU 38 yard line, Tim Shaw came up with a sack on 4th and 2 to preserve the 17-13 win.

Shaw's last play of his PSU career was a sack. Nice.

Game Balls

Paul Posluszny

The senior two-time captain walked off Beaver Stadium a winner. He led the team with 8 tackles and broke up two passes. He set the tone early with seven of his tackles in the first quarter. After the game he stayed on the field for several minutes giving interviews, shaking hands and posing for pictures. The Nittany Lions may not have ever had a classier kid in their program, and they may not ever have another one that comes close in comparison to Poz. Did you notice in the Senior Day picture above that Poz is standing in the back? Always deflecting the attention onto his teammates. Good luck and God's speed, Mr. Posluszny. It has been an honor to watch you leave it all on the field every game. You make your teammates, your coaches, and your fellow Penn State alumni proud. Now go collect bags of money in the NFL. You deserve every penny.

Andrew Quarless

Each week I find myself typing these recaps telling you Andrew Quarless had a career day. That's because each week Quarless surpasses his performance from the previous week. This week AQ had 4 catches for a career high 87 yards. He caught his first of hopefully many career touchdowns in the second quarter on a play that showed of all of his skills. He showed great hands making the catch, strength in breaking a tackle, and then speed to streak down the sideline for the touchdown. In my preseason poll I asked which freshman would make the biggest impact. A.J. Wallace won the poll with 37% of the vote. Quarless only got 13% of the vote, including mine.

Tom Bradley

After having problems stopping the Spartan offense in the first half and the first part of the third quarter, Bradley made the adjustment to completely abandon the 4-3 defense and play nickel on every down. The move worked and completely shut down the Spartan offense for the rest of the game.

Impressions of the Game

Sadly, Anthony Morelli is not much better than he was at the beginning of the year. This week he completed less than 50% of his passes (17-of-37) against a pretty weak pass defense. He did throw two touchdowns and didn't throw any interceptions, but he continues to think he use his arm strength to overcome defensive coverages. One play in particular exemplified Morelli's problem. He watched Jordan Norwood run a deep pattern locked on him the whole way. He waited longer than he should have to let the ball go. When he finally did, by the time the ball got there Norwood was draped by three defenders. During the game the announcers mentioned the coaches love what they see from Pat Devlin in practice. They said Galen Hall expects a dog fight for the starting QB job next year. I hope he's right.

The first half was another example of no leadership on the offense. After each fumble you could see how dejected the offense was on the sideline. Tony Hunt sulked on the bench with his head down after each fumble. Morelli stood there with his mouth hanging open staring off into space. Will somebody on this offense please step up and start calling out people? There is too much talent on this team to feel sorry for yourself and pout. Mistakes should piss you off and make you go harder.

Anthony Scirrotto continues to develop into a great safety and play maker. Late in the third quarter Scirrotto layed a big hit on MSU WR Terry Love forcing him to drop a third down catch that would have earned a first down for the Spartans. On the next play Scirrotto ran around the tackle and blocked the punt giving PSU excellent field position at the MSU 19. Unfortunately the offense couldn't do anything with it and Kelly missed the FG.

Look at the box score and you'll notice Justin King only had one tackle. You may be tempted to ask, "What's wrong with him? Why wasn't he a factor?" The answer is he has arrived as a shutdown corner. Teams don't throw to his side of the field anymore. Whenever MSU did King was all over his man. He had two pass breakups in the game. On one play it appeared the MSU player caught the ball and when he reached for the endzone King knocked the ball loose and it rolled out of the endzone to give PSU the ball on a touchback. That was the original ruling on the field. But the Big Ten officials reviewed the play and ruled it an incomplete pass instead. "Indisputable video evidence" my ass! MSU picked on Wallace and Davis most of the day and the pair was up for the task. Wallace had five tackles, all solo, and Davis broke up three passes.

The refs did their best to send John L. Smith out on a winning note. Michigan State was blatantly holding Penn State defenders all day and the flags stayed in their pockets. Then there was a phantom personal foul penalty in the fourth quarter that allowed the MSU drive to continue which nobody on television could explain. And I heard some chatter about a 12 man in the huddle penalty on PSU that they didn't show on television. Can someone explain that to me since I didn't see it?

Next Up

The Lions are a lock for the Outback Bowl. Rumors were no matter the outcome of the PSU-MSU game and the Indiana/Purdue game the Outback Bowl had made up their minds that PSU was getting the invite. Now the Lions will have to wait for the SEC picture to sort itself out. Traditionally the Outback Bowl hosts the #3 teams from the Big Ten and SEC. Since Michigan will most likely get an at large BCS bid, Penn State, who finished fourth in the Big Ten, will get bumped up into the Outback. Right now Auburn sits with the third best record in the SEC, but one game behind them is LSU who plays Arkansas next weekend. If the Tigers win that game they will have the same record as Auburn. Auburn holds the tie breaker thanks to their 7-3 win over LSU this year, but it's conceivable the Outback Bowl could skip over Auburn, but I doubt that would happen. But the Lions could end up with LSU for an opponent if the loser of the Florida-Arkansas SEC Championship game gets an at large BCS invitation.