Michigan State's Aaron Burbridge (16) hurdles Penn State's Troy Reeder (42) and Michigan State's Delton Williams (22) during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015, in East Lansing, Mich. Michigan State won 55-16. (AP
Al Goldis
November 28, 2015

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) The first drive of the game looked promising for Penn State until Christian Hackenberg was intercepted in the end zone.

Later in the half, Kyle Carter caught a pass and fumbled. Michigan State picked up the loose ball and ran it back for a touchdown.

''You can't do that against a good team,'' Hackenberg said. ''We made too many mistakes.''

Hackenberg threw for 257 yards and two touchdowns, but Penn State turned the ball over four times in a 55-16 loss to No. 6 Michigan State on Saturday. The Nittany Lions moved the ball well for a while, but they unraveled in the second half as the Spartans wrapped up a spot in the Big Ten championship game.

Michigan State (11-1, 7-1) is No. 5 in the playoff selection committee's ranking.

The Spartans finished tied atop the Big Ten East with Ohio State, and Michigan State upset the Buckeyes last weekend with quarterback Connor Cook sidelined because of a shoulder injury. Cook came back Saturday and was brilliant against Penn State (7-5, 4-4). He went 19 of 26 for 248 yards and three touchdowns.

''Sitting out stunk,'' Cook said. ''Obviously, I've been very fortunate to be able to play in a lot of games and not have to sit out. That was a reality check.''

The Spartans kept the Land-Grant Trophy with their most lopsided win in a series with Penn State that started in 1914. It was 41-16 in the fourth quarter before Malik McDowell intercepted a pass that had bounced off fellow defensive lineman Shilique Calhoun. McDowell ran it back 13 yards for a TD.

After a Penn State fumble on the ensuing kickoff gave the Spartans the ball at the 9, Cook took the field and center Jack Allen lined up next to him in the backfield. Allen took a handoff, and the 296-pound lineman rumbled to the end zone for another touchdown.

Penn State was competitive in the first half but lost two crucial turnovers. Arjen Colquhoun intercepted a pass in the end zone on the game's first possession, and the Spartans turned that takeaway into a touchdown when Cook threw a 29-yard pass to R.J. Shelton.

The extra point was no good, and Penn State kicked a short field goal early in the second quarter, but Michigan State went ahead 13-3 on a 6-yard touchdown run by Gerald Holmes. Then Demetrious Cox of the Spartans picked up Carter's fumble and returned it 77 yards for another TD.

''They were able to dictate the game to us, especially with their offense,'' Penn State coach James Franklin said. ''Then the turnovers with our offense put the team into a difficult position.''

Hackenberg threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Chris Godwin with 35 seconds left in the half to make it 20-10, but the Spartans scored the only two touchdowns of the third quarter. Cook threw a 29-yard scoring pass to Aaron Burbridge to make it 27-10. Burbridge came back in from out of bounds - officials ruled he was forced out - and caught the pass around the 10. He bounced off one defender and spun past another before diving into the end zone.

Cook was hurt two weeks ago in a win over Maryland. He said he was able to practice Thursday, and against Penn State's formidable pass rush, his offensive line kept him out of harm's way.

Penn State defensive end Carl Nassib has not been at full strength since he was hurt in a game at Northwestern three weeks ago, and the Nittany Lions were without defensive end Garrett Sickels.

''With the size and experience that they have on the offensive line, and us missing two out of our four (defensive line) starters in the game, they were able to take advantage of that,'' Franklin said. ''They were pretty much able to run consistently. When they did take shots ... we weren't able to get pressure on them.''

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AP college football website: http://collegefootball.ap.org

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