Big Second Half, Ohio State Win over Michigan Gives Penn State Shot at Big Ten Title

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. (EYT) – Penn State scored 35 unanswered second-half points to beat Michigan State, 45-12, Saturday afternoon and clinched the Big Ten East Division title thanks to Ohio State’s overtime win over Michigan early in the day.

(Photo of Trace McSorley. Photo by Paul Burdick. Check out more of Burdick’s work here)

A roar went up in Happy Valley early in the first quarter when the fans realized Ohio State beat Michigan, 30-27 in overtime meaning a Nittany Lions win would give them their first-ever Big Ten East championship.

And in keeping with a season-long trend, Penn State took care of business after halftime dominating the Spartans, who lost starting quarterback Damion Terry, an Erie Cathedral Prep grad making his first start, to concussion-like symptoms in the first half.

Trace McSorley threw four touchdowns after the break, including three in the third quarter, to help Penn State take control of the game.

His 34-yard strike to Chris Godwin four minutes into the half gave Penn State the lead for good, 17-12, and he added a 45-yard strike to Mike Gesicki, who made an acrobatic catch into the end zone, plus a 59-yard strike to Godwin before the end of the third quarter to put the Nittany Lions ahead 31-12.

After an Andrea Robinson 14-yard touchdown run made it 38-12, McSorley tossed a catch-and-run 40-yard scoring pass to Robinson, who was subbing for the injured Saquon Barkley, who appeared to injury an ankle in the second half – he was seen on the sideline walking gingerly.

Barkley gave Penn State its first lead of the game, 10-6, when he leapt over the pile from the 1-yard line late in the first half.

But Michigan State, which kicked field goals on each of its first four drives of the game before having trouble moving the ball in the second half, took a 12-10 lead into halftime when Michael Geiger booted a 21-yard field goal with 10 seconds left in the half.

The late field goal, though, showed what Penn State’s defense did to the Spartans in the opening half.

The Nittany Lions allowed big chunks of yardage, especially from Terry who was 7 of 12 passing for 101 yards while adding 13 yards rushing and a catch for 15 yards, in the opening 30 minutes but tightened in the red zone.

Michigan State had four first-half drives that last at least 11 plays, including a 14-play and a 13-play drive, but all ended with field goals instead of touchdowns.

But after halftime, the Spartans ran just 42 total plays on eight possessions (an average of 5.25 plays per possession) and gained just 97 yards being outgained by the Nittany Lions 338-97 after the break and 463-343 for the game.

It marked the fifth straight game Penn State scored at least 30 points with four of those being at least 40 points.

McSorley threw for 376 yards going 17 of 23 with the four scores as Michigan State limited the Lions to 77 yards rushing, 32 from Robinson on three carries. Barkley was limited to just 14 yards on 12 carries, the fewest yards for the superstar sophomore since gaining one yard on one carry in his career debut against Temple last season.

Godwin had a huge day with five grabs for 135 yards and two scores and was one of nine Penn State players to catch a pass on the day.

Penn State will play Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game at 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. It’s the Nittany Lions first trip to the Big Ten title game, which began in 2011. Penn State last won a Big Ten title in 2008 and has won three Big Ten title since joining the conference in time for the 1993 season (1994, 2005, 2008).

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