Even though the current all time offensive leader for Michigan State, senior quarterback Connor Cook, came back from injury and threw for three touchdowns, the postgame the murmur all came from discussions around linemen Jack Allen and Malik McDowell scoring fourth quarter touchdowns in and out of position. Sophomore nose tackle McDowell caught a deflected interception courtesy of fellow lineman Shilique Calhoun and rumbled 13-yards into the endzone for the score. Senior center Jack Allen lined up as a running back for the second time in 2015 (first time was in the spring game) and showed impressive awareness of the field along with a monster stiff arm for a 9-yard TD run.
There of course was another defensive score, which helped the Spartans to start the game on the right foot and set the tone for what was to follow. Christian Hackenberg was leading Penn State down the field, slicing into a defensive secondary that has been vulnerable all season when Arjen Colquhoun made a play on an underthrown pass by Hackenberg for a touchback. State followed up with nine play, 80-yard drive capped off by a R.J. Shelton 29-yard TD catch to give MSU the early lead with with 9:35 remaining in the 1st. Following the touchdown, place kicker Michael Geiger missed the extra point attempt which was his first kick following his game winning field goal against Ohio State. The scoring leveled off with both teams traded punts until the second quarter where the State defense made a 3-and-out stand, forcing to errant passes by Hackenberg to make Penn State settle for a field goal. State scored two more TDs in the 2nd quarter, the second being a 77-yard fumble return by junior safety Demetrious Cox.
Michigan Stated received the ball to start the second half. That is when Conor Cook completely silenced any lingering questions about his health, moving the ball 75-yards down the field in a 3 minute drive that ended with a 29-yard bomb to senior receiver Aaron Burbridge. State would then score on all but their final possession, which would end in a fumble that was for all intents and purposes irrelevant.
Final stats for the game showed an overall even game. Penn State narrowly edged out the Spartans in time of possession 30:12 to 29:48 The team stat leaders for Penn State were Christian Hackenberg throwing for 257 yards on 22/39 and two TDs. Chris Godwin had 11 catches for 109 yards and two touchdowns and Saquon Barkley ran 17 times for 103 yards.
For Michigan State, Connor Cook was 19/26 for 248 yards, 3 TDS. Gerald Holmes and L.J. Scott combined for 105 yards on 23 carries and two TDs. Aaron Burbridge lead the way receiving with 6 receptions for 75 yards, a TD and Shelton had 74 yards on four receptions along with a touchdown to boot.
Next up for Michigan State (11-1) is Big Ten West Champion Iowa (12-0) in Indianapolis next Saturday, Dec 5 with a 8:17pm kickoff. Penn State falls to 7-5 but does qualify for a postseason bowl game invitation.