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Michigan State falls to Penn State 35-16 in final game of regular season

The Spartans made it a one-score game in the fourth quarter, but the beautiful Land-Grant Trophy will be residing with the Nittany Lions at least until next year.

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Penn State Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State lost to Penn State by a final score of 35-16 on Saturday in what was the final game of the regular season for the Spartans, and more than likely the final game of the year for MSU as well.

Michigan State quarterback Payton Thorne went 24-for-43 on his passes for 229 yards, with two total touchdowns and an interception, while wide receiver Keon Coleman led the Spartans in receiving with eight catches for 91 yards). Coleman battled injuries throughout the game.

The game was chaotic from the start, with Michigan State’s opening possession resulting in a dropped backward pass that was recovered by Penn State at the Spartans’ 24-yard line. The Nittany Lions would fail to capitalize however, as the MSU defense held firm to force a 37-yard field goal, which Penn State kicker Jake Pinegar missed.

The teams would exchange punts over the next three possessions until Penn State led an 11-play touchdown drive beginning on its own 10-yard line. The drive was capped off by an 11-yard Sean Clifford touchdown pass to tight end Theo Johnson to give the Nittany Lions an early seven-point lead.

Following another Spartan punt, Penn State would get into the end zone once again, this time on a trick-play in which Johnson caught a pass from wide receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith for a 48-yard touchdown. The touchdown would make the score 14-0 in favor of the Nittany Lions.

Michigan State would put together a long 11-play drive following the score, but the possession would unfortunately end in a fourth-down stop from the Penn State defense. Penn State would respond with a 13-play drive culminating in a missed 28-yard field goal to keep it a two-score game.

With the half winding down, the Spartans went on another 11-play drive, finding most of their success through the air as they drove the ball into Penn State territory. Ultimately, the drive was capped off by a 51-yard field goal from Jack Stone — just his second made field goal of the season and the longest made field goal of the year for the Spartans. Stone’s field goal would send the game to halftime with the Spartans trailing 14-3.

The teams would exchange punts for the next three possessions coming out of halftime, with the final punt coming from Penn State. Unfortunately for the Spartans, wide receiver Jayden Reed lost control of the ball as he attempted to make his way up the field and the Nittany Lions would recover, setting them up with a first-and-10 from the Michigan State 17-yard line.

Penn State took advantage of the miscue from Reed, quickly finding the end zone on a 14-yard pass from Clifford to tight end Tyler Warren to make the score 21-3 in favor of the Nittany Lions.

Despite the unfortunate break, Michigan State continued to fight, leading a 10-play drive finalized by a nine-yard pass from Thorne to Maliq Carr to bring the Spartans within two scores.

Following a three-and-out from Penn State, the Spartans would find the end zone again, with Thorne scrambling in from two yards out to cap off an 11-play drive. Trying to get within three points, Mel Tucker elected to go for the two-point conversion, which was unsuccessful. The score was at 21-16 in favor of Penn State at that point.

Penn State would respond with an 11-play drive of its own, ending on a 12-yard screen pass to Nicholas Singleton on fourth-and-2, which Singleton took to the house to give the Nittany Lions a 28-16 lead with under five minutes to play.

A few plays into the next Spartan drive, a Thorne pass over the middle would be intercepted by Penn State’s Kalen King, setting up the Nittany Lions on Michigan State’s 35-yard line. A touchdown pass from Clifford to Lambert-Smith on the next play sealed the victory for Penn State, putting the Nittany Lions up 35-16 with 4:13 remaining on the clock in what would be the final score of the game.

Penn State was led by Clifford (19-for-24 for 202 yards and four touchdowns), Singleton (17 carries for 78 yards, three catches for 30 yards and a touchdown) and Lambert-Smith (five catches for 83 yards and a touchdown). Johnson also contributed three catches for 62 yards and two touchdowns.

The Nittany Lions out-gained the Spartans in total yardage 410-254 on the day, with a large portion of the discrepancy coming on the ground. Michigan State was out-rushed 160-25, with the Spartans’ 25 yards coming on as many carries.