Penn State football entered week seven as one of the nation’s best one loss teams after a heart-breaking loss 27-26 to Ohio State two weeks earlier. Trace McSorley was coming off the best game of his career as he accumulated 461 total yards, which put his name in the Heisman conversation. The bye week helped redshirt freshman receiver K.J. Hamler get healthy as he left the Ohio State game early due to injury.
Michigan State entered the game without six key offensive players and had just lost at home to Northwestern, which made the Nittany Lions 13.5 point favorites for the game. Penn State had a three point lead for most of the fourth quarter, until Brian Lewerke threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Felton Davis III to give Michigan State the 21-17 win. The loss to the Spartans was similar to the Ohio State loss two weeks ago as the Penn State defense was unable to get the needed stop to see out a victory.
Throughout the game, defensive ends Yetur Gross-Matos and Shareef Miller dominated the Spartan offensive line as they were constantly in the backfield. Lewerke looked uncomfortable for most of the game as he was constantly avoiding pressure and was unable to complete 50 percent of his passes on the day. The final drive of the game was a different story as Lewerke engineered an eight play, 76-yard game-winning drive in only one minute.
The final pass was to Davis III as he worked back to an under thrown ball by Lewerke and slipped past cornerback Amani Oruwariye for the winning score. The scoring drive allowed was eerily similar to Ohio State’s winning drive two weeks ago as Dwayne Haskins marched the Buckeyes 96 yards on eight plays in 2:32. Brent Pry’s conservative late game philosophy has hurt Penn State over the years as the Nittany Lions have had a fourth quarter lead in each of their last five losses and needed a fourth quarter comeback of their own against Appalachian State after the Mountaineers scored 28 fourth quarter points.
Head coach James Franklin has said that he wants to make Penn State elite team, but that will not happen if the defense keeps giving up fourth quarter leads. In consecutive games, the Nittany Lions had a lead at home with less than five minutes remaining in the game and lost. Pry had two full weeks to overcome the late game defensive issue, but his defense still gave up a fourth quarter lead. Franklin has Penn State trending in the right direction, but the team will not compete for a national title if the defense keeps giving up leads late in the fourth quarter.