Spartan losing streak stretches to three as Penn State handles Michigan State
It was all ugly.
Offense. Defense. Special teams.
Saturday afternoon's game at Spartan Stadium was never in doubt. Not with the way Penn State played. And, definitely not with the way Michigan State played.
The sixth-ranked Nittany Lions made quick work of the Spartans as they beat MSU 28-7 to remain undefeated on the year and reclaim the Land Grant Trophy for the first time in two years.
Michigan State lost a third-straight game for the first time since the 2016 season.
Spartan Scoreless Streak
Michigan State's offensive struggles had officially reached startling standards.
Twenty-five consecutive possessions without scoring. Eight quarters in a row without points. Many punts.
Despite having a week off to sort out their issues, the Spartans failed to generate any offensive production until midway through the third quarter. True freshman running back Anthony Williams Jr. found the end zone for his first collegiate touchdown on a 4-yard option play to bring the Spartans within three scores at 28-7. It was also Michigan State's first touchdown since the first half of the Ohio State game on Oct. 5.
That was all the Spartans could muster against Penn State's defense.
MSU had no answers in the first half as the Nittany Lions built up a 21-point advantage. The Spartans crossed midfield in three of its offensive drives in the half. Those ended in a punt, a blocked field goal and a sack on a Hail Mary attempt by Brian Lewerke as the clock expired.
Lewerke finished 16-for-34 for 165 yards, one interception and a fumble. He was pulled in favor of Rocky Lombardi with 12 minutes left in the game and then returned with less than seven minutes left. His one big play was a 49-yard strike to Cody White to set up the scoring play by Williams Jr. two plays later.
Lombardi was pulled after two possessions in favor of Theo Day, but later returned and threw an interception.
White finished with three catches for 66 yards, while MSU rushed for 77 yards, led by Elijah Collins, who finished with 53 yards on 17 carries.
In his first college game, true freshman Tre Mosley led the Spartans in receiving with four catches for 37 yards.
The Spartans had 14 offensive drives in the game. Seven ended in a punt, four in a turnover — two by Lewerke, one by Lombardi and one on Brandon Sowards' muffed punt — a blocked field goal, one when the clock ran out in the first half and Williams' touchdown.
Michigan State finished with 259 total yards.
"You have to remain positive. We have to get ourselves healed up," Michigan State Coach Mark Dantonio said. "We have a lot of guys who are banged up, nicked up; guys that haven't played. You got to try to get those guys back and you have to stay positive that we are 4-4 – that's the beauty in it, I guess, if there is any beauty there. The beauty is we're not 2-7, we're 4-4. We got to take that and try to build on those things and get ourselves ready for Illinois."
When Penn State's offense moved into the red zone, Sean Clifford looked towards No. 87 for big plays.
Sophomore tight end Pat Freiermuth had a field day against Michigan State's defense, scoring two touchdowns in the first half and adding a third in the third quarter.
After punting on their first possession, the Nittany Lions went down the field and capped a 62-yard drive with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Freiermuth. Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford threw what appeared to be a pass into triple-coverage. The ball found an open pocket, right into Freiermuth's hands for the easy score.
The Nittany Lions drove down the field on their next possession, and Freiermuth found the end zone again when he caught a pass at the 5-yard line and muscled his way passed the goal line to give Penn State a 13-0 lead.
Freiermuth finished with five catches for 60 yards and three touchdowns.
After the Nittany Lions blocked a 46-yard field goal attempt by Matt Coghlin on Michigan State's next possession, Clifford turned to K.J. Hamler eight plays later to burn the Spartan defense. The Pontiac, Michigan native was on the receiving end of a 27-yard touchdown pass to extend Penn State's lead to 21-0 with a minute to go in the first half.
Hamler finished with five catches for 57 yards and a touchdown.
Freiermuth added his third touchdown one play after Sowards' muffed punt to extend the Nittany Lions' lead to 28-0. And with the way the Spartans' offense played, it was more than enough.
Clifford finished 18-for-32 for 189 yards, four touchdowns and one interception by David Dowell.
Michigan State (4-4, 2-3 Big Ten) will have its second week off in a three-week span before beginning the final stretch of its regular season schedule. The Spartans host Illinois on Nov. 9 before traveling to Ann Arbor on Nov. 16. Michigan State makes its final road trip on Nov. 23 to Rutgers, and then will host Maryland for senior day on Nov. 30.
"We just have to play better. There is no other way to say it or any other way I can put it, we just have to play better and keep a positive mindset," Spartan linebacker Antjuan Simmons said. "Come back ready to work, take this bye week and get better, come back to play Illinois."