Knowing they control their destiny in the Big Ten East by winning out, the Michigan State Spartans took care of business under extreme weather conditions Saturday, handing the Penn State Nittany Lions a 27-24 defeat.
With the score tied at 24 and less than one minute remaining, Penn State was called for roughing the passer after Michigan State failed to convert on 3rd-and-4 from the Nittany Lions' 37-yard line. Three plays later, Matt Coghlin hit the game-winning 34-yard field goal as time expired.
Heavy rain and lightning in East Lansing forced the two teams into the locker room during the second quarter. When they came back at approximately 4:30 p.m. local time, the stands were mostly bare because fans departed during the delay.
The Spartans held Penn State star Saquon Barkley in check with 131 total yards, including zero rushing yards in the first half.
Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke had no problems navigating the weather. The sophomore finished with 400 passing yards in the Spartans' biggest win of the season so far.
The Big Ten Network shared the footage of Coghlin sending the fans in East Lansing who remained through the delay home happy:
Big Ten Network @BigTenNetwork
Slip 'N Slidin' Spartans. 💦 Go Green, Go White, let's Go Home. @MSU_Football edges No. 7 Penn State with Matt Coghlin's game-winner: https://t.co/wIpxh7b8jh2017-11-4 23:10:55
With Barkley struggling to do anything in the first half, Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley got playmakers like Saeed Blacknall involved to make things happen:
FOX College Football @CFBONFOX
Not one, not two, but three, folks https://t.co/NF0W9VfxLB2017-11-4 17:03:27
For all of the hype about Barkley's talent, ESPN Stats & Info highlighted how ineffective he's been running the ball, especially in the first half, over the past four games:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Saquon Barkley has zero rush yards at halftime today. He has positive rushing yards in three of his last seven halves: https://t.co/VzuJSuTvLH2017-11-4 21:16:46
Dion Caputi of National Football Post did come to Barkley's defense for what he believes is a poor job by the Penn State coaching staff:
Dion Caputi @nfldraftupdate
Penn State hounded by their own secondary again, but - like last week - Saquon Barkley given no opportunity. That's on coaches, once again.2017-11-4 23:08:54
McSorley tried shouldering the offensive load with Barkley not being a significant factor. He threw for a season-high 381 yards and three touchdowns, but his three interceptions contributed to the Nittany Lions' sluggish performance.
Penn State's hopes of reaching the College Football Playoff took a hit after last week's loss to Ohio State. That hope evaporated by losing to Michigan State, which has had a terrific bounce-back season after going 3-9 in 2016.
The loss continues an unfortunate trend for Penn State head coach James Franklin dating back to his time at Vanderbilt, per ESPN Stats & Info:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
24 Michigan State defeats 7 Penn State 27-24 James Franklin falls to 0-10 in road games vs AP-ranked opponents (0-5 at PSU)2017-11-4 23:13:26
From Michigan State's perspective, this was a win the program needed. Michigan was its only ranked opponent in eight games prior to Saturday. The Spartans will head into next week's game against Ohio State, which was destroyed 55-24 by Iowa this week, with no reason to think they aren't the best team in the Big Ten.
The Ringer's Rodger Sherman thinks Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio might have received some help this week from a Greek god:
Rodger Sherman @rodger_sherman
Pictured: Mark Dantonio on the phone pre-game with Zeus, King of the Gods, ordering a thunderstorm before an MSU home game vs. a ranked team https://t.co/o0FolS6xvH2017-11-4 23:27:20
At the time of the delay, Penn State was ahead 14-7. Michigan State scored on its first drive when play resumed to tie the score and would only briefly trail for four minutes in the fourth quarter after that.
Lewerke probably deserves more credit for the win than Zeus. The Spartans quarterback attributed this team's success to its growing confidence, via Chris Solari of the Detroit Free Press:
Chris Solari @chrissolari
Lewerke: "It's just a confidence thing where we just believe in each other."2017-11-4 23:28:29
Per ESPN's Dan Murphy, Lewerke has had the two best passing days in Michigan State history in the past two weeks:
Dan Murphy @DanMurphyESPN
Brian Lewerke has thrown for 845 yards in his last two games. That's the No. 1 and No. 2 all-time passing days in Michigan State history.2017-11-4 23:16:03
It was easy to forget about Michigan State when this season started. The Big Ten East was supposed to be dominated by the three-headed monster of Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan.
The Spartans have already taken care of Penn State and Michigan, with Ohio State the last one standing heading into next week. Dantonio has done a fantastic job of coaching his team up and putting them one step closer to playing in the Big Ten Championship Game.