Michigan State went for broke on Saturday and in the process likely ended any playoff hopes for No. 8 Penn State.
Brian Lewerke connected with Felton Davis III for a 25-yard touchdown with 19 seconds to play to give the Spartans a 21-17 victory in front of 106,685 at Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pa., the second straight loss for the Nittany Lions.
Michigan State (4-2, 2-1 Big Ten) used all its tricks, calling a fake punt, a halfback pass and a fake field goal, the fake field goal failing in the fourth quarter and looking like the difference in the game. But the Spartans got a late stop and marched for the winning drive with just more than a minute to play.
Davis finished with eight catches for 100 yards and two scores.
Penn State (4-2, 1-2) was coming off a bye week following a heartbreaking loss at home to Ohio State. The big plays were the difference early as Miles Sanders had a 78-yard run and then scored on a 48-yard run. He finished with 162 yards. Quarterback Trace McSorley was limited to 192 yards passing.
Penn State hit the first big play when Sanders burst through the Michigan State defense for a career-long 78 yards to the Spartans’ 5. On the next play, McSorley hit KJ Hamler with an easy 5-yard pass for the touchdown to give the Nittany Lions a 7-0 lead with 5:03 left in the first quarter. McSorley became Penn State’s career passing leader on the drive when he connected with tight end Pat Freiermuth on a 6-yard completion.
Michigan State evened things up later in the half thanks to some trick plays. First, it was a fake punt that resulted in a 26-yard run from Connor Heyward. Two plays later, Heyward took a handoff in the backfield and lofted a pass to Cam Chambers for 36 yards to the Penn State 1.
Penn State stuffed Michigan State on three straight runs, but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty gave the Spartans new life and they cashed in with La’Darius Jefferson’s 1-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 7 with 13:25 left in the second quarter.
The teams traded punts on each of their next two drives before Sanders broke free again, this time for 48 yards as he slipped through several tackles to give the Nittany Lions a 14-7 lead with 4:33 left in the first half. Michigan State had two chances to draw closer but added to its total of seven first-half punts and headed to the locker room down a touchdown.
Michigan State evened the score at 14 with 6:10 left in the third quarter when Lewerke connected with Davis on a 20-yard pass to the corner of the end zone. The score came after Michigan State held Penn State on fourth down at its own 36. Five plays later, the game was tied after a drive that was kept alive by a defensive holding call on the Nittany Lions.
After Penn State missed a 37-yard field goal late in the third quarter, the Nittany Lions retook the lead on a 20-yard field goal from Jake Pinegar, putting Penn State ahead, 17-14, with 9:21 left in the game.
Michigan State looked like it was lining up for a potential tying field goal on its next drive before the ill-fated fake. But a late decision to punt worked out as Michigan State got the ball back with 1:19 to play and went in for the winning score in eight plays.
—Field Level Media