Penn State got off to an ominous start in its regular season finale against Michigan State and trailed throughout in a 34-10 setback at Beaver Stadium. The Nittany Lions surrendered a 90-yard return touchdown to. R.J. Shelton on the opening kickoff and did little to reverse the early momentum before eventually being worn down by the 10th-ranked Spartans.
Given its offensive struggles and the inevitability of Michigan State’s high-powered offense scoring its share of points, Penn State had little margin for error on special teams if it wanted to spring an upset. Landing in a 7-0 hole that deflated the home crowd might have been a worst-case scenario for James Franklin.
While the Nittany Lions defense battled and held Michigan State scoreless in the second quarter, the offense came up empty on five of its six first-half possessions. When the Spartans took a 27-3 lead with two third-quarter touchdowns, one of which was set up by a Christian Hackenberg fumble, the game was effectively out of reach.
The Spartans’ offense had to work for everything it got against the Nittany Lions, with quarterback Connor Cook (13 of 25, 180 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) and running back Jeremy Langford (118 yards, 3.9 ypc) both having subpar days by their standards. Michigan State did most of its damage in the second half when it racked up 173 of its 298 yards and punted just once.
A special teams blunder, 14 points off turnovers and offensive limitations played a big part in a game where the Penn State defense was again up to the task. The same themes plagued the Nittany Lions all season long but were exaggerated when facing talented teams that capitalized on their opportunities.
The Spartans did exactly that and ended Penn State’s regular season with a loss.
Andrew P. Shay, Bob Flounders and Dustin Hockensmith broke down all the ups and downs of the Nittany Lions’ season finale for the Keystone Sports Network. Check out audio from the show in this post and get plenty more podcasts and analysis on KeystoneSportsNetwork.com and by following @KSNSportsNet on Twitter.