The Penn State-Michigan State game was setting up as your classic late-October Big Ten clash. The conditions were cold, wet and sloppy, with two teams with a world of talent on defense preparing for a slugfest, where every yard is earned. It was the type of game where you rely on your tight end to get things going on offense. Fortunately for the Nittany Lions, they have one of the very best in the nation in sophomore Pat Freiermuth.
The Spartans defense had no answer for stopping Freiermuth, as his three touchdown receptions helped Penn State build a 28-0 lead that ended with a decisive win against a team that’s been a major thorn in its side the past two seasons, and for nearly all of the James Franklin era. His first score came on a perfectly thrown ball by Sean Clifford, as Freiermuth showed outstanding focus and discipline by sticking with his route and trusting his quarterback. Despite being surrounded by Spartans, Freiermuth got to where he needed to be to snatch the ball and give the Nittany Lions an early lead.
His second touchdown was the most impressive. After catching a pass down the middle, Freiermuth was immediately hit by a defender in close coverage. He kept his legs churning to keep his feet, overpowering three Spartans for the last four yards before the end zone. It was the type of play that shows the work he put in during the offseason, and the little things that can make a major difference between a touchdown and potentially settling for a field goal.
His third and final score put Penn State up 28-0 as the Nittany Lions offense would quickly capitalize from a recovered muffed punt at the six yard line. Freiermuth would go in motion pre-snap, and then simply race out to the flat to catch the ball, and beat his man to the corner. He once again proved too fast, too powerful, and just too good to be stopped that play.
Freiermuth lead the team with 60 receiving yards and tied with KJ Hamler with five catches on the day.
P Blake Gillikin- Gillikin was outstanding once again, but this time was even more impressive in swirling wind and rain. His eight punts earned a 44.3 yard average with a long of 58 yards, providing the defense with a key advantage in the field position battle as always.
LB Micah Parsons- Parsons continues to amaze in his true sophomore season. His instincts have vastly improved since the start of his freshman season, and he is now making things nearly impossible for opposing offenses. Whenever a gap seems to open up, Parsons uses his incredible speed to step into the hole and stop the play dead. Parsons led the way again for the ferocious Nittany Lions defense with 12 tackles - double the amount of anyone else on the defense.
QB Sean Clifford- While most fans were assuming a low-scoring affair, Clifford went out and tossed four touchdowns in outright lousy conditions. Outside of one poorly thrown pass that resulted in an interception, Clifford played well beyond his experience level against a defensive staff that has made a habit out of rattling quarterbacks and getting them out of their comfort zone. Clifford more than rose to the challenge to help the Nittany Lions blow past the Spartans.