Penn State needed some help from Ohio State, and they got it, but the Nittany Lions still needed to take care of business, luckily for them, Trace McSorley was ready to go.
Ohio State battled back to beat Michigan, which meant the door was wide open for Penn State to take the Big Ten East, the only thing standing in their way was the Michigan State Spartans.
Penn State started senior day with the ball and McSorley, Barkley, and company got to work at their own 30. The drive resulted in nothing and the Lions quickly went three and out. Damion Terry got the start for Michigan State at quarterback, not Tyler O’Connor. Terry quickly linked up with Sparty’s best wide out R.J. Shelton for 39 yards and MSU was cooking at the Penn State 34. A couple L.J. Scott runs and a few completions got Michigan State to the 9 yard line, but Penn State’s defense held only giving up 3. 3-0 Michigan State. Penn State’s next drive was ugly as first down resulted in an incompletion and Barkley went backwards on second down. McSorley was sacked for an 8 yard loss on third down, and the crowd began to cheer, leaving the QB very confused. The reason for the cheers was because Ohio State had just beaten Michigan, Franklin later told his quarterback what had happened. Terry and Michigan State once again moved deep into Penn State territory, but another stand by the Penn State defense led to a 36 yard Michael Geiger field goal, 6-0. McSorley and Penn State’s offense got going finally as he hit Gesicki for 19 yards, then Godwin for 18, and Thompkins for 13, moving to the Michigan State 26. The drive stalled at the 17 and Tyler Davis hit the field goal, 6-3 and this point. Terry got going again for Michigan State, hitting Josiah Price for 23 yards. He and the Spartans moved to the PSU 21 before Terry took off for a 9 yard run, but he was hit hard and was shaken up, he did not return. With Tyler O’Connor at the helm, Michigan State settled for yet another field goal, 9-3. McSorley and Penn State answered as he completed passes of 25, 16, and 16 yards to move to the MSU 1 yard line. On third and goal, Barkley jumped over the pile, into the endzone to give Penn State its first lead, 10-9. With two minutes remaining before half, O’Connor lead an impressive drive down to the Penn State 3, but the defense held again, forcing a field goal, 12-10 Sparty at the half.
Michigan State started the half with the ball, but deep in their own territory on third down, Curtis Cothran and Evan Schwan met at the quarterback and took him down for a 10 yard loss. After a couple run plays and a short completion to Blacknall,Penn State was at the MSU 34. On second down, McSorley hit a wide open Godwin on the one yard line, who fell into the endzone for the score, 17-12. After another defensive stop, the offense got moving again and from the MSU 45, McSorley threw it up into double coverage, but Mike Gesicki made an unbelievable catch in the endzone for the touchdown, 24-12. Michigan State’s next drive was successful as they moved to the PSU 34, but O’Connor fumbled the snap and Penn State recovered. It only took two plays for McSorley to find a wide open Chris Godwin down the seam for the 59 yard strike, 31-12 and McSorley is showing off at this point. The play before the toucdown though, was scary as Barkley took a handoff for three yards, but got his ankle rolled up and limped off the field, the rocking stadium fell silent. A series of punts followed, and then Michigan State got a turn over on downs on their on 42. McSorley and Godwin linked up again for 20 yards and from the 14 yard line, Andre Robinson, who replaced Barkley, took it up the middle for the score, 38-12. After another MSU punt, McSorley found Juwan Johnson for 43 yards and on third and 10 from the 40, hit a wide open Andre Robinson who ran 40 yards for the score 45-12, and that would do it.
Final: Penn State 45 Michigan State 12
McSorley: 17/23 376 yds 4TDs o Ints 10 rushes 13 yds
Robinson: 3 rushes 32 yds 1 TD 1 catch 40 yds 1 TD
Godwin: 5 catches 135 yds 2TDs
Bell: 18 tackles
Total yards: PSU- 463 MSU- 343
Passing yards: PSU- 386 MSU- 234
Rushing yards: PSU- 77 MSU- 109
Turnovers: PSU-0 MSU-1
Sacks: PSU-4 MSU-1
Well, what a day it was in Happy Valley. To start off, Franklin got a huge commitment from 2018 5 star TE Zack Kuntz, we’ll cover this in our recruiting mash-up, but it was a great start. Then Ohio State came to life in the fourth quarter and overtime to beat Michigan 30-27 and open the door for Penn State to win the Big Ten East, then there’s the game of course.
Penn State did not look good in the first half, the offense was slow and couldn’t pick up first downs, the Spartans crowded the box, Barkley had no where to go, 12 carries for 14 yards, his worst outing to date. Penn State’s defense kept them in the game early, Michigan State could’ve easily score four touchdowns in the first half, but instead had to settle for four field goals. You really can’t say enough about the job Trace McSorley and his receivers did on Saturday, Trace was on fire in the third quarter tossing three touchdowns. Mike Gesicki made one of the best catches I’ve ever seen in double coverage and showed just how talented he is. Trace continues to show his improvement as a starter, he’s probably the hottest quarterback in the Big Ten right now, which is good news for Penn State as they prepare for the Big Ten Championship game against Wisconsin. Andre Robinson filled in nicely after Barkley was inured, the hope is that it won’t have to come to this, but Robinson should be a solid starter if Barkley cannot go next week.
The big story again was Penn State’s second half dominance, scoring 35 unanswered points after trailing 12-10 at half. On the season, PSU is outscoring opponents 280-105 in the second half. Brent Pry continues to show that Franklin was smart to trust him to run the defense after Bob Shoop left, because his unit has been lights out as of late, especially against the run. On the other side of the ball, Joe Moorehead is giving Penn State no choice but to pay the man lots of money if they want to hold onto him. At the beginning of the season, no could’ve predicted that Penn State would finish 10-2 and beat out Michigan and Ohio State for the division crown, but they did.
It was a great night to honor the seniors, and senior linebacker Brandon Bell had a huge game with 18 tackles, I was hoping center Brian Gaia would get the ball on the goal line to give a little payback to Michigan State, but James Franklin definitely remembered last year’s game, becuase he let McSorley and then Stevens air it out until the clock hit 0:00. Franklin let senior and former walk on Von Walker speak at the trophy presentation, which was nice considering Walker is a fan favorite and was lost for the season due to injury. It was a special night in Happy Valley, but a bigger prize lays ahead, the hope is that Penn State will not have to go for that prize without Saquon Barkley, but we’ll keep you updated on that.
Up Next: vs Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship