East Lansing, MI
Going into its three-game stretch against Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State, Michigan State considered it to be a measuring stick to see where the program matched up against the Big Ten’s and the country’s best.
But instead, that three-game stretch turned into a wakeup call, a humbling and a nightmare.
Coming off of a bye week, when coaches should have had guys ready to play, the Spartans woes continued. The Spartans played host to No. 6 ranked Penn State and were outclassed in all phases as Penn State jumped out to a 21-0 halftime lead on its way to a 28-7 win.
After both offenses failed to get anything going on their first drives of the game, the Penn State offense found success on its second drive, easily moving down the field on the Spartan defense as a 16-yard touchdown pass from Sean Clifford to Pat Freiermuth put the Nittany Lions out in front, 7-0 with 6:54 left in the first quarter.
On its next drive, Penn State would use a methodical 13-play, 86-yard drive to take a 13-0 lead early in the second quarter following the second touchdown of the game between Clifford and Freiermuth for the Nittany Lions.
Meanwhile, the Michigan State offense continued to sputter, going 3-and-out twice in its first three drives.
The only promising offensive drive of the first half for the Spartans, a 15-play 59-yard drive that used nearly eight minutes of time, was erased on a blocked field goal attempt.
Penn State would push its lead to three scores late in the first half when Clifford found Michigan-native K.J. Hamler for a 27-yard score, making it 21-0 heading to halftime.
The scoreless first half for the Spartans marked the eighth straight quarter where the offense had failed to score a single point. During that stretch, Michigan State was outscored by opponents (Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State) by a margin of 76-0.
The second half got off to a disastrous start for the Spartans as the defense forced a Penn State punt, but a muffed attempt by Brandon Sowards was recovered by Penn State inside the Michigan State 10-yard line.
On the next play from scrimmage, the Nittany Lions took advantage as Clifford connected with Freiermuth for a 6-yard score, extending the lead to 28-0 with 10 minutes left in the third quarter.
Clifford completed 18 of his 32 pass attempts for 189 yards and four touchdowns to lead the way for Penn State.
The Spartans finally broke their scoreless streak midway through the third quarter after the offense made its way into the red zone by way of a 49-yard pass from Brian Lewerke to Cody White, setting up a 4-yard touchdown run by true freshman Anthony Williams to cut the deficit down to 28-7 with 7:34 remaining in the third quarter.
The touchdown marked Michigan State’s first score in 130:26 of game time, the first points the Spartans scored since a Matt Coghlin field goal in the second quarter of Michigan State’s loss to Ohio State.
Lewerke finished the game 16-of-34 passing for 165 yards and an interception and was eventually replaced by backups Rocky Lombardi and Theo Day.
While the weather was a factor, the Spartan offense looked anemic for a third consecutive contest on Saturday afternoon, totaling just 259 total yards of offense in another display that left plenty to be desired from the coaching staff.
Michigan State now heads into another bye week next week before the Spartans welcome in Illinois to Spartan Stadium on November 9th.
Coaches can blame execution and that is fair. That is on players. But when the same mistakes continue to happen week after week and the backups either aren't getting reps or not good enough, that is on coaching that had been here for 13 years.
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