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Not Quite Enough Defense: Penn State Falls 27-24 To The Spartans

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The defense couldn’t hold on for the win.

Penn State v Michigan State Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Penn State had chances to win the game but never was able to take control. Leading by three points in the fourth quarter, the defense played well enough but still allowed two field goals, which was enough for a Spartan victory.

Where this leaves the Lions’ post-season hopes, that will remain to be seen. Clearly this is not the way that the team or the fans wanted the game to go, so with heavy hearts, we face another late-game loss on the road to overcome. Let’s hope that everyone involved with the team, both inside and outside the locker room, is able to process the grief of this loss and move on to the next game.

What Happened

Trace McSorley threw an interception on Michigan State’s side of the field to end a promising opening drive.

MSU started on its own 27 yard line to begin the first drive. The Spartans gained a first down and overcame a personal foul on the next series for another set of downs at midfield. The drive stalled when Troy Apke made a well-timed hit to separate the ball from a receiver on third down.

Kevin Givens got the start at right defensive end, replacing the injured Ryan Buchholz who was hurt last week. Givens is listed as a 6’1” 287-pound defensive end but is used as a pass-rush specialist in long-yardage situations. With the nature of MSU’s offense being less explosive outside than most, the move made sense as Givens is also strong against the run.

McSorley led a 92-yard drive capped with a DaeSean Hamilton touchdown catch and run of 31 yards to give the defense some breathing room.

After a penalty on the kickoff, MSU started the series at midfield. Two consecutive throws for first downs followed and the ball was quickly on the 18 yard line. A few plays later the Spartans tied the game up when Brian Lewerke hit Darrell Stewart in the end zone to finish the drive. The Lions’ defense didn’t do much to slow down the offense but it also wasn’t given a full field to defend.

Saeed Blacknall capped another Penn State touchdown drive with a catch and run of 27 yards on 4th and 8 on the next drive. Once again the defense had a lead, 14-7, and a chance to settle down.

MSU crossed midfield on its next drive but then on 2nd and short, the Penn State defense stiffened. Yetur Gross-Matos and Tyrell Chavis teamed up for a sack and 9-yard loss. On replay, it was evident that the entire defense deserves credit for the play, as there was nowhere for the ball to be thrown.

Troy Apke made a solid tackle on an underneath throw on the next play to force a punt. A few plays later the Lions punted the ball back to the Spartans.

The next drive was interrupted by a weather delay when lightening came into the East Lansing area. With 7:58 left in the second quarter the teams ran into the safety of the stands to wait out the storm. The delay officially lasted 3 hours and 23 minutes. The Spartans would resume with a 3rd and 4 play from the Penn State 37 yard line.

The Lions held solid to force a 4th and 1 on the next play. The defense swarmed to force a loss on the play, getting the ball back to its dangerous offense.

Penn State held the ball for only three plays before punting back the other way. A pass interference on Christian Campbell gave the Spartans a first down and two long pass plays later the game was tied up, 14-14. Lewerke hit Felton Davis for a diving touchdown catch from 33 yards out.

The game had only been resumed for ten minutes in real time but with the teams even on the scoreboard it was as though a new game had begun. Rain drenched the field during the long delay and continued to fall as play resumed. Conditions were not favorable for the offense.

With 3:54 left in the first half, five hours after the initial kickoff, Trace McSorley had a chance to lead the Penn State offense again. The series started inside the Penn State ten yard line as Saquon Barkley had trouble fielding the kickoff. A three and out ensued but a massive punt by Blake Gillikin allowed the Lions 55 yards to defend. It was a clutch 52-yard boot in soggy conditions with the team needing all the yardage it could get.

Tyrell Chavis made a great play on first down for a three-yard loss to start the series. Shaka Toney and Chavis combined to force Lewerke to throw the ball away on 3rd down, giving Penn State another chance with 1:09 left in the first half. Watch how Toney comes from the right defensive end position, running a twist as Chavis, lined up in the center, runs to the outside. It was only a three-man rush for the Lions and it was enough to force a quick throw. Toney had the speed to flush Lewerke out of the pocket, and though there were three MSU lineman in front of Chavis, the scheme allowed Chavis to out-flank the trio to the quarterback.

The next Penn State drive lasted just two plays, ending with an interception. The Spartans took over at the 36 yard line with just under a minute left in the half. Penn State held just enough territory to keep points from mounting, as MSU was forced to punt, having gained nothing in three plays from scrimmage. The teams went to the locker rooms once again, just twenty minutes after the lightening delay, to regroup.

MSU got the ball to start the second half. Kevin Givens made a solid tackle on first down to hold the runner to no gain and on third down he forced Lewerke to throw the ball away. Givens held the edge just long enough for Amani Oruwariye to join him from his cornerback position to swat the ball down. Not bad for a 287-pound versatile defensive lineman that was lined up over center on the play.

Heading into a relentless and wet wind Penn State’s offense stalled at the MSU 33 yard line, just outside of range for a field goal attempt from Tyler Davis. Following a punt inside the ten yard line, the PSU defense had a full field to defend. It would need it.

On third down and long Felton Davis made another great play, taking the ball 36 yards and across midfield to the Penn State 45. Shane Simmons got a sack on second down to force a 3rd and long. Once again MSU converted when Hunter Rison made two consecutive catches to set up a first and goal. A play later the Spartans were up 21-14 when LJ Scott powered into the end zone.

Trace McSorley led the Lions down the field and into MSU territory. On 3rd and 9 at the 38, DaeSean Hamilton took a catch all the way down to the 15. The drive stalled but Tyler Davis made a field goal to cut the game to 21-17.

Freshman cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields got his hands on a ball on the next play but was unable to make an interception. It was nice coverage for the young corner that played a great deal of snaps on Saturday.

McSorley got the lead back in the hands of the Lions on the final play of the third quarter when he hit De’Andre Thompkins for a 70-yard bomb on the next play.

The Spartans moved the ball across midfield on the next drive and into field goal range. Penn State’s defense tightened and forced a field goal by Matt Coghlin, tying the game at 24 apiece with 10:56 left to play in the fourth quarter.

The next Penn State offensive series was going well until Trace McSorley under-threw a ball intended for Saeed Blacknall that was intercepted by David Dowell. The defense was forced to deal with its third ‘quick change’ situation of the game. On what would have been a stop on 3rd and long, a very late flag was thrown on a pass interference on Amani Oruwariye to continue the drive. Oruwariye made up for the penalty two plays later with this great interception to keep MSU off the board.

The Penn State offense had another chance to take the lead late in the game. McSorley drove the team across midfield in just three plays. Three plays later, on 3rd and 18, Mike Gesicki caught a 15-yard pass to set up a 4th and 3 from the 31 yard line. De’Andre Thompkins was unable to hold what would have been a first down catch and the ball went back to the Spartans, a tie game, with 4:05 left to play.

Michigan State drove the ball into Penn State territory, the clock under two minutes. On what would have been a 4th and long following a pass broken up by Tariq Castro-Fields, Marcus Allen was called for a late hit on Lewerke to extend the drive. With four seconds left in the game, from 34 yards out, Matt Coghlin made the kick to give Michigan State the win, 27-24.