Spartans roll into Big Ten title game
Michigan State dominated Penn State en route to a 55-16 rout at Spartan Stadium.
It really wasn't a fair fight. Penn State had its moments early on, but they just couldn't slow down the MSU defensive line when it mattered.
And in the second half, forget about it. The Spartans won today in every facet of the game. The run game looked good, and Connor Cook did just enough. He wasn't forced into many tough throws, but he was accurate and efficient when the run game set him up with some wide open wide receivers. He finished 19-for-26 for 248 yards and three touchdowns.
The Spartans now move on to face undefeated Iowa next week in Indianapolis with a spot in the College Football Playoff likely on the line.
Touchdown, Jack Allen?
See previous post where I said the Spartans are likely to keep making plays. You know why? Because Penn State just muffed the kickoff and MSU recovered at the PSU 9-yard-line.
And what did the Spartans do from there? Why, they handed the ball of to senior center Jack Allen, who took it home from nine yards out for the touchdown. Yes, you read that correctly. And guess what? That play made Mark Dantonio smile.
MSU 55, Penn State 16 (4th, 9:48)
Pick-six for McDowell
Malik McDowell tipped a screen pass from Christian Hackenburg to himself and took it home for a pick six touchdown, and the rout continues in East Lansing with MSU leading Penn State, 48-16. There's 9:56 left to play in the game, and it's probably about time for Penn State to pack it in, otherwise the Spartans are likely to keep making plays and this score could get more out of hand than it already has.
Scott gets in on the act
Penn State attempted an onside kick, but the Spartans recovered and did exactly what you think they would do: They marched down the field, slowly but surely, and scored a touchdown. This one came from LJ Scott from six yards out, and the Spartans lead, 41-16, with 11:18 left to play.
Nittany Lions show some life, Spartans still up big
Penn State is showing some life, although it took seven plays inside the 10 to get into the end zone. On fourth down from the MSU 5, Christian Hackenburg found Chris Godwin for a touchdown. Hackenburg couldn't hit a wide open receiver on the 2-point try, and it's 34-16, MSU leads with 14:51 to play in the 4th quarter.
Hackenburg connected on a 59-yard pass play to Saeed Blacknall, who actually fumbled the ball on a great play by MSU's Montae Nicholson, but had it bounce right back to him as he went to the ground.
With the Nittany Lions, though, nothing is ever easy. PSU was faced with third down before a pass interference call gave them an extra set of downs inside the Spartans 5. After the team's exchanged five-yard penalties, PSU found itself faced with another third down five yards from pay dirt. When that went nowhere, it came down to that final fourth down for the Lions to get into the end zone.
MSU toying with Penn State
The Spartans are keeping it simple and efficient. MSU put together a drive that ended in a 6-yard Josiah Price touchdown catch that should take any wind Penn State might have had left in its sails.
It's now 34-10 with 3:31 left to play in the third quarter.
It was a classic Spartan drive, running the ball 9 times for 29 yards, and using that to draw the defense in before hitting on a couple first down pass plays and a score. Connor Cook is now 17-for-23 for 224 yards and three touchdowns.
MSU is cruising towards its date with Iowa in next week's Big Ten Championship game.
Burbridge comes up with big catch-and-run TD
After picking a big third down to start the drive, Connor Cook found Aaron Burbridge again, and this time the wide receiver spun through a couple would-be tackler before diving over the goal line for a 29-yard touchdown that gives MSU a 27-10 lead early in the second half.
Penn State really needed to get off the field to give it some momentum to start the half. As it stand, they'll be playing from behind, and the MSU defensive line can pin its ears back and go after Christian Hackenburg.
Nittany Lions finally finish off a drive
After moving the ball up and down the field on MSU for most of the first half, Penn State finally found pay dirt with a touchdown, as Christian Hackenberg found Charles Godwin for an 8-yard touchdown with 35 seconds to play until halftime.
PSU has moved the ball, but it's been Sparty that has come up with the big plays in the first half. The opening drive interception in the end zone, the goal line stand, and the scoop-and-score have been the big differences.
That said, it's 20-10 at halftime and very much a game right now.
The Spartans have been outgained by Penn State, 268 to 194. The defense has looked shaky, but two turnovers are quite the equalizer.
Connor Cook hasn't been at his best, but he hasn't had to be. He led an impressive opening drive, and Gerald Holmes did most of the work on MSU's second scoring drive.
Spartans rolling now after Cox's big play
Well, that was a big play.
With Penn State driving into MSU territory, Christian Hackenburg completed a pass Kyle Carter down to the 23-yard line. Problem is, Carter didn't hold onto the ball when going to the ground, coughing it up. That's when the real fun started, as Demetrious Cox returned the ball 77 yards for a touchdown, eluding would-be tacklers and crossing the field in what is sure to be a highlight-reel play.
It's 20-3 with a little more than two minutes until halftime.
Saquon Barkley picked up 22 on 3rd-and-23 with PSU in its own territory. He then picked up that extra yard as the Lions went for it near midfield. Christian Hackenburg connected for 19 yards to DaeShawn Hamilton before the catch and fumble.
Pendleton carried off field
Trevon Pendleton was carried off the field, putting no pressure on his left leg as he left. That's a big loss for an MSU team that is definitely looking to run the ball today.
Holmes comes up big for Spartans
After the teams exchanged punts, Gerald Holmes was the man for MSU, capping an impressive drive in which he touched the ball on five consecutive plays with six-yard touchdown to give MSU a 13-3 lead with 7:12 to play in the second quarter.
Holmes came up big on the second play of the drive, taking a swing pass 24 yards down to the PSU 23 before running for gains of 6, 8 and 3 prior to getting in the end zone.
MSU stops Lions short, keeps lead
Chalk this up as a small victory for the Spartans. Penn State cut the MSU lead to 6-3 on a 19-yard field goal, but they had it 2nd-and-goal at the Spartans' 1 before trying to throw the ball twice and coming up empty.
The Lions got it going with a 25-yard jet sweep to Brandon Polk to get into MSU territory. The Spartans played well for three downs, forcing PSU into a 4th & 3 at the 33. Too far for a field goal and with little to lose, PSU went for it and converted on an 8-yard pass from Christian Hackenburg to Chris Godwin. Saquon Barkley showed off his tough running style with a 12-yard gain down to the MSU 4
Spartans, Lions exchange punts
Penn State has picked up four first downs in the early going, but the Spartan defense stiffened to force a punt that ended up pinning MSU at its own 5.
Connor Cook and Co. were able to pick up a first down, but on third down at their own 20, Cook was lucky not to be intercepted on a ball over the middle intended for Macgarrett Kings.
The Spartans punted the ball back to PSU, which will take over at its own 36 with 3:20 left to play in the first quarter. MSU still leads, 6-0.
Cook is money, MSU strikes first
Connor Cook doesn't look like he's missed a beat, leading MSU on an 80 yard drive and capping it with a 29-yard touchdown toss to RJ Shelton for the score. Michael Geiger missed the extra point, but the big story here is Cook, who looks healthy as a horse after one drive.
It's 6-0, MSU leads, with 9:35 to play in the 1st quarter.
Cook was surgical, going 5-for-6 for 66 yards on the drive, showing no signs of rust. His first pass attempt came on the second play of the drive and was completed to Aaron Burbridge for 13 yards.
MSU defense starts fast
Kevin Cronin kicked the opening kickoff out of bounds to give PSU good starting field position at its own 35, and while it looked like the Nittany Lions would take advantage, they coughed the ball up on a first down shot to the end zone from the MSU 31 where Christian Hackenburg was by Arjen Colquhoun.
PSU had picked up two first downs before the INT, including a 21-yard pass play to Chris Godwin the play before the turnover.
Cook in the starting lineup
Connor Cook has officially been announced by the official MSU twitter account as the starter for today's game. The Spartans still need to run the ball and keep their physicality that they played with last week. There's a lot on the line.
The time is now for MSU
With all of its goals still intact for 2015, the Spartans need to take care of business today against Penn State in East Lansing. Should they win, they'll head to Indianapolis next weekend for a showdown with Iowa that will decide the Big Ten champion, and likely a College Football Playoff participant.
No word yet on Connor Cook's availability for today, but he told ESPN on Friday that he expects to play. He's been warming up prior to the game, and all indications are that he'll play with so much on the line. We'll have a confirmation on Cook as the game gets underway.