Penn State Struggles All Around, Falls to Michigan State in Regular-Season Finale
In the 26th all-time battle for the coveted Land Grant Trophy, it was the Michigan State Spartans who came away with a 30-27 win in the final week of the regular season and won the trophy for the first time since 2018.
During what was a snow-filled matchup in East Lansing, it was the hometown Spartans who kicked things off as they scored the first touchdown of the game on a 2-yard rush from Heisman Trophy contender Kenneth Walker III to give Michigan State an early 7-0 lead.
Walker continued his hot start as he led the Spartans next drive which started at their own 1-yard line.
The junior running back tallied 53 rushing yards on that drive alone which ended with a Payton Thorne passing touchdown as he found Tre Mosley in the back of the endzone to double the Spartans lead.
While a star for Michigan State shined early, it didn’t take long for the Nittany Lions star to make some noise.
Jahan Dotson kept the next Penn State drive alive with a third-down sideline catch before being on the receiving end of a 27-yard touchdown to cut the Michigan State lead to 14-7.
The targets didn’t stop coming as the game entered the second quarter as Dotson would break through the Spartans secondary for a 30-yard score, which was his second of the game and 12th of the season, to tie the game at 14.
On a long drive following that touchdown, the Spartans responded and even converted on a few fourth downs to eventually make their way down to the Penn State 5-yard line where they settled for a 22-yard field goal from Matt Coghlin to take a 17-14 lead.
The Nittany Lions next drive saw a similar start but different ending as they drove down the field but stalled at the Michigan State 9-yard line forcing up a Jordan Stout 27-yard field goal which missed wide right.
That was all for the first half as the Spartans took that 17-14 lead into the locker rooms.
Coming back from the break it was the Penn State defense who drew first blood with Daequan Hardy making a perfect read on the pass from Thorne and taking the interception all the way home for the 17-yard score to give the Nittany Lions their first lead of the game at 20-17 following a missed extra point by Stout.
Thorne redeemed himself once the Spartans got the ball back as he gave Michigan State the lead once again on a quarterback sneak from a yard out.
Similar to Penn State, though, a missed extra point from Evan Johnson kept it a 23-20 Spartans lead toward the end of the third quarter.
Midway through the fourth quarter, the Spartans got a big defensive stop of their own as Penn State running back Keyvone Lee fumbled the football leading to a Michigan State recovery.
That led to points on a fourth-and-long as Thorne found Jayden Reed for a 20-yard touchdown which gave the Spartans a 30-20 lead and proved to be the dagger in this game.
If that touchdown wasn’t convincing enough, Penn State running back John Lovett kept the fumbling going as he fumbled the ball away on the kick return.
The Nittany Lions got a late touchdown with less than a minute to go in the game on a 15-yard pass from Clifford to Parker Washington to make it a 30-27 Michigan State lead which was the game's final score after the Spartans recovered Penn State’s onside-kick attempt.
Logan Bourandas is a third-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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