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3 Up, 3 Down: Michigan State outmatched and out-coached by Penn State

The Spartans had their chances, but too many blunders by players and coaches alike led to MSU's defeat...

Michigan State entered Happy Valley needing a win over No. 11 Penn State in order to secure bowl eligibility.

The Spartans battled tough for three and a half quarters, closing to within 21-16 midway through the fourth quarter, but costly mistakes and coaching blunders ended MSU's hopes in an eventual 35-16 loss to the Nittany Lions.

As a result, Michigan State falls to 5-7 overall and 3-6 in Big Ten play, and now need a lot of help in order to be rewarded with a bowl berth. Here are three positives and three negative takeaways from tonight's disappointing result:

Three Up

1. Michigan State's defense did its part

If you look at the scoreboard, you might wonder how the Spartans' defense could be considered a positive, but MSU let its defense down with a big special teams mistake and an inability to do much offensively.

Michigan State limited Penn State to 410 yards of offense, which is 25 yards fewer than the Nittany Lions season-average (434.5). A chunk of those surrendered yards came late with the game already decided as well.

After knocked back early by Penn State's run game, the Spartans adjusted and made things difficult for the Nittany Lions, who ended the game averaging 4.3 yards per carry after adjusting for sack-yardage.

Michigan State's defense did enough tonight to give themselves a chance to win, but the Spartans' three turnovers were a major factor in tonight's loss.

2.) K Jack Stone nails 51-yard FG

Michigan State had nothing going offensively throughout the first half, but they did work their way down the field right before halftime to give themselves a chance at points.

Mel Tucker elected to attempt a 51-yard field goal instead of trying for a 'Hail Mary' pass with one second left in the half. True freshman kicker Jack Stone rewarded his head coach's faith, nailing the kick to give the Spartans' three points and get a little momentum heading into the break.

We all know how big of a struggled the place-kicking has been for MSU this season, but in a big moment in today's game the unit came through. Maybe that's something to build on for next season.

3. Bryce Baringer is the nation's best punter

Michigan State senior punter Bryce Baringer is well on his way to winning the Ray Guy Award as the nation's best punter. He was excellent again today, averaging 54.4 yards per punt on five attempts.

Baringer's long was a booming 72-yard punt, and the senior had three punts of over 50 yards. He also pinned Penn State inside the 20 yard line three times.

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The Spartans have had an inconsistent and entirely disappointing season, but they had one heck of a punter this year, and we'll be missed next season.

Bonus: Keon Coleman is really good

Just wanted to give a nod to Coleman, who battled through an injury and ended with eight catches for 91 yards on the day. With Coleman and true freshman wide receiver Germie Bernard back next season, Michigan State would be wise to feature a more pass-heavy scheme next year.

The question will be if offensive coordinator Jay Johnson and quarterback Payton Thorne are the guy's to lead the Spartans' passing game next year. MSU has receiving weapons though, and they need to be utilized better in 2023.

Three Down

1. MSU's offensive line was dreadful

Michigan State was unable to generate any push up front throughout the game. The Spartans averaged just 2.3 sack-adjusted yards per carry on their way to just 50 rushing yards (sack-adjusted). This has been a problem for MSU any time they've come up against a team with equal or better talent on defense.

In addition to the O-line inability to get any push in the run game, quarterback Payton Thorne was under duress throughout the game. Penn State finished with three sacks and six quarterback hurries. The redshirt junior QB made a few nice throws, but it's tough when the defense is constantly in your face and knocking you on your tail.

Offensive line remains a huge area of need for Michigan State, and Tucker's ability to address it will determine the Spartans' success going forward.

2. Jayden Reed with a crucial fumble

Man...if this is the end of Jayden Reed's collegiate career, it will be a sad finish. The senior wide receiver, who was an All-Big Ten first teamer last year as a returner, had a crucial fumble midway through the third quarter that eventually led to a Penn State touchdown.

Reed got away with another fumble on a return earlier in the game. Just a very uncharacteristic mistake by a really good football player.

Unfortunately, Reed wasn't much of a factor in Michigan State's passing game either, having been limited to six catches for 36 yards. This season did not play out the way anyone expected, both for Michigan State as a whole and in the numbers Reed put up as a senior.

3. Defensive blunder was the back-breaker

We gave credit to Michigan State's defense above, but the Spartans had a big blunder late in the game when Penn State motioned four guys out wide on a 4th and short and the Spartans responded with just three defenders.

Someone on MSU's defensive coaching staff should have screamed at Tucker to call a timeout when that happened. Instead, the Nittany Lions threw a little bubble screen out there and scored an easy 11-yard touchdown for the final dagger.

There's a lot of reasons why this season was a disaster for Michigan State, but coaching blunders like the one we saw on that play encapsulates this season well. In critical moments, all season long, the Spartans had coaching blunders and/or poor execution.