Michigan State 21, Penn State 17
It was yet another game where the Nittany Lions had the lead deep in the final quarter but couldn’t close it out. Yea, verily, it was yet another game with a defensive breakdown at a crucial game juncture. For icing on the cake, it was yet another game with special teams breakdowns. All these conspired with poor offensive point production to produce yet another heartbreaking, close loss. Michigan State prevailed 21-17 before a striped-out Homecoming six-figure crowd at St. Joe Memorial-Penndot Stadium at Beaver.
This fourth quarter give-up, coupled with sloppy play and bad play calling, is becoming standard practice for Penn State.
Although Miles Sanders had a breakout day after having been shut down by tOSU two weeks ago, the Lions could produce only 17 points, too few for this shaky defense to protect. In spite of gaining 397 total yards, Penn State was thwarted by an opportunistic Moo U. defense that was there when it needed to be, allowing PSU only three third-down conversions in fourteen tries and forcing two turnovers. Penn State’s only fourth-down attempt at a crucial juncture was also predictably thwarted by the Spartans.
Moo U. lacked the services of their stud running back LJ Scott, and they also have been riddled by injuries on the offensive line. Yet the Nittany Lion defense could not stop them. And when Michigan State had to resort to a trick play, the special teams guys could not stop them.
Balls to the Wall vs. Ballsless
Mark D’Antonio coached his team to play balls-to-the-wall, go-for-broke football. It worked. On the other sideline, James Franklin had no answers. A fake punt early caught the defense sleeping. Franklin said they practiced it, but didn’t execute. Later, a fake field goal didn’t work. D’Antonio was willing to throw everything at PSU but the kitchen sink.
In what one pseudo-sports journalist described last year as an “increasingly irrelevant statistic”, Moo U. dominated time of possession 34:12 to 25:48. It makes sense that an inherently shaky Penn State defense was tired in the fourth quarter — too tired for the team’s best defensive back to make a game winning interception that would have stopped Brian Lewerke’s final drive for the lead.
Turnovers’ll kill ya. PSU had two. Penalties’ll kill ya. PSU had six versus Moo U’s three. Crappy special teams’ll kill ya. PSU allowed one huge fourth down conversion on a fake punt and PSU’s freshman kicker Jake Pinegar doinked one off the goal post from 37 yards. Crappy defense’ll kill ya. PSU’s defense gave up 418 yards, including yet another long desperation touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter: 76 yards on 8 plays in one minute. Stupid coaching’ll kill ya. Yeah, I mean that dumbass fourth down call.
The Nittany Lions died a thousand deaths in this game.
The offense has some unexpected success with the running game, but Trace McSorley managed only 192 yards passing. That was ass-backward, given that coming into the game the Moo U. rush defense was #1 nationally and its pass defense gave up enough yards to be ranked #122.
Franklin Wasn’t Talking about Great Teams
In his post-game comments, James Franklin avoided talking about PSU being a great team and being beaten by an elite team. He got right down to basics: poor offensive execution, poor defensive execution, and poor special teams execution. Three lemons. No lemonade to be seen anywhere. Yet another winnable “Super Bowl” squandered.
After the game, Mark D’Antonio smiled and his face didn’t break as expected. His underpowered team had pulled off a top-ten upset.
Penn State dropped to #18 in the AP poll. Moo U. is at #22, poised to play spoiler for Ohio State, Michigan, or both.
Predictor of the Week
K. John was once again our winning predictor, although we had very few entries this week. I guess shock had set in after the OSU loss. K. John predicted a PSU win 23-20, but in spite of picking the wrong winner he felt it would be close because the two teams were pretty evenly matched. He nailed the victory margin, too.
On to Indiana
Yeah, and they better not be pouting for the Hoosiers or there could be some nasty surprises awaiting them. After Indiana, there’s that stretch we thought might have a couple of little hurdles to jump over. Well, I was thinking that at the beginning of the season. Now, after half the season is over, those hurdles are looking like Mt. Everest.
#19 Iowa, #6 Michigan (in da Big House), and #23 Wisconsin, followed by a bye week with Rutgers, are who lie ahead. Are we still speculating that this team could finish the regular season 10-2? Hell, even my 9-3 prognostication looks shaky at this point.
I’ll be back during the week with a few choice comments about the forthcoming trip to Hoosierville.