Five Things We Learned: Michigan State
No. 8 Penn State came away with its second heartbreaking loss in a row at the hands of the Michigan State Spartans 21-17 on Saturday at Beaver Stadium.
Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke found receiver Felton Davis III for a game winning 25-yard touchdown pass with 19 seconds left in the game. The Nittany Lions will try to put this losing streak behind them when they travel to Indiana next Saturday for a date with the Indiana Hoosiers. Here are five things we learned from Saturday’s game.
1. Penn State shoots themselves in the foot way too much
The Nittany Lions were penalized six times for 41 yards against the Spartans. Those penalties included an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that turned a fourth and goal into a first and goal. Several defensive holding penalties also kept Spartan drives alive. Penn State also lost a fumble on their first drive of the game. If this program wants to be elite, they can start by cutting down on these mistakes.
2. The defense played well, but couldn't finish it off
On a day when Penn State’s offense was being held in check, the defense was stepping up. Guys like Garrett Taylor, Koa Farmer, Nick Scott, and Shareef Miller were all stepping up. It’s just when they needed a big stop, they couldn’t get it. The same thing happened against Ohio State. The defense needs to play complete games if this team wants to win.
3. The kicking game is a huge concern moving forward
Jake Pinegar is only a true freshman, but he is going to have to step up his game moving forward. He is now 3/6 on the season, missing from 37 yards and barely making a 20 yarder on Saturday. This lack of trust in the kicking game is causing Penn State to go for it on fourth down more instead of taking the easy three points. Leaving points on the board are how you lose games. Penn State has left a lot of points on the board this season.
4. KJ Hamler has established himself as the No.1 receiver, but the other guys need to step up
KJ Hamer was Penn State’s leading receiver once again on Saturday with five receptions for 66 yards and a touchdown. He has electrified this team with his play all year. It’s the other main receivers, Juwan Johnson, Brandon Polk, Deandre Thompkins, who need to step up their game. They have all shown flashes this season, but have also disappeared for long stretches as well. If Penn State gets more consistency from these guys, plus more good signs from Mac Hippenhammer and Pat Freiermuth, who have also shown flashes, Trace McSorley will be able to run this offense to heights it is capable of hitting.
5. Penn State has a bit to go before being considered an “elite” program
After the Ohio State loss, James Franklin said that players were going to have to step out of their comfort zone if they wanted to become an elite team. With two weeks to prepare for this game, the Nittany Lions were still making mistakes that elite programs don’t make. Penalties, lapses of discipline, missed tackling and special teams errors were all still prominent in this game. Penn State needs to fix this or these types of results will continue.
Kevin McConlogue is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism with a minor in political science. To contact him email firstname.lastname@example.org.