Michigan State Rallies Past No. 8 Penn State

McSorley sets Penn State career passing yards record


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley became the school’s all-time passing yards leader and running back Miles Sanders rushed for 162 yards and a touchdown against the nation’s No. 1 rush defense, but Michigan State rallied for a 21-17 victory over the No. 8 Nittany Lions in Big Ten football action Saturday afternoon in Beaver Stadium.


Penn State (4-2, 1-2 Big Ten) held a 17-14 advantage with less than 1:30 to play before Michigan State (4-2, 2-1) put together an eight-play, 76-yard touchdown drive to pull ahead 21-17 with 19 seconds left on the clock. Spartan quarterback Brian Lewerke connected with Felton Davis III on a 25-yard reception for the score.


KJ Hamler returned the ensuing kickoff 24 yards to the Penn State 26 and caught a 20-yard pass to advance the Lions to the 46, but the Spartans pressured McSorley on the final play and his throw fell incomplete as time expired.


Penn State’s last five losses have been by a total of just 12 points, which is the smallest margin of defeat over five losses in program history. The Spartans’ late go-ahead touchdown marked the only time they led all afternoon.


McSorley continued to rewrite the program history books, becoming Penn State’s all-time leader in career passing yards. He finished the day with 192 passing yards to total 8,610 for his career, surpassing Christian Hackenberg’s previous program standard of 8,457.


Sanders also achieved a milestone, eclipsing 1,000-career rushing yards to become the 45th Nittany Lion to do so.


Keys and Difference Makers

Miles Sanders and the Penn State running game

Sanders totaled 162 yards on 17 carries, breaking free for a career-long 78-yard run in the first quarter to setup Penn State’s first touchdown and for a 48-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. McSorley added 37 yards on the ground and running back Ricky Slade added eight for a total of 205 yards. Penn State has rushed for 200 or more yards in its last nine consecutive games.


The Michigan State defense had only surrendered 169 rushing yards total in all five of its games combined this season prior to Sanders’ 162-yard performance against it, and his 78-yard run was more than Michigan State had allowed in any game this season.


Michigan State Defense in the Second Half

Although Michigan State allowed a season-high rushing yard total on the ground, only 39 of those yards were allowed in the second half. Accordingly, the Spartans limited Penn State to just a field goal over the final 30 minutes, slowing the Nittany Lions top-ranked, second-half scoring offense, which entered the day averaging 31 second-half points per game.


Safety Kari Willis led the unit with nine tackles and a forced fumble that linebacker Tyriq Thompson recovered to halt Penn State’s game-opening drive at the Michigan State 33. The Spartans, managed just one sack on the day, but the sack was a crucial one McSorley slipped on fourth-and-4 in the third quarter after a Penn State drive start in Michigan State territory.


Trace McSorley (PSU, QB)

McSorley became the all-time leading passer in Penn State history with his 192 yards passing, completing 19-of-32 passing attempts with one touchdown. The touchdown pass extended his streak for consecutive games with a touchdown pass to 34, dating back to the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl.


Brian Lewerke (MSU, QB) and Felton Davis III (MSU, WR)

Lewerke completed 24-of-52 pass attempts for 259 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. Davis III was his top target, catching eight passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner.


KJ Hamler (PSU, WR)

Hamler was Penn State’s leading receiver, catching five passes for 66 yards and a touchdown. It was his fifth touchdown grab in six career games. He added 57 yards on kickoff returns to total 123 all-purpose yards.


Garrett Taylor (PSU, S)

Taylor had an interception in the third quarter, a career-high five pass breakups and a forced fumble at the goal line that Michigan State retained in the second quarter.



A career-long 78-yard run by Sanders flipped the field in Penn State’s favor to setup the first score of the game, as he rushed from the Nittany Lions’ 17 to the Michigan State 5. On the very next play, McSorley threw a touchdown pass to Hamler, giving Penn State a 7-0 lead with 6:35 remaining.


Michigan State was able to even the game at 7-7 at the start of the second quarter. Cam Heyward keyed the drive with a 26-yard run on a fake punt and a 36-yard pass after a handoff. The pass was caught by Cam Chambers at the 1, and after three Michigan State rushing attempts and a dead-ball personal foul after a third-down stop, La’Darius Jefferson punched the ball across the goal line for a touchdown.


Both teams were held to three-and-outs on their next two possessions, but Penn State took a 14-7 lead with 4:33 remaining in the half on a 48-yard Sanders touchdown run.


In the third quarter, Penn State was unable to take advantage of a Taylor interception. Taylor intercepted a Lewerke pass and returned it 37 yards to the Michigan State 35, but McSorley was sacked on fourth-and-4.


The Spartans responded with a five-play, 64-yard touchdown drive. Lewerke connected with Matt Sokol for 25 yards and then found Davis III for a 20-yard touchdown reception.


Penn State looked to retake the lead in the final half-minute of the third quarter, but a 37-yard field goal attempt by Jake Pinegar clanged off the right upright.


Pinegar was able to give Penn State a three-point lead with 9:21 remaining in the fourth quarter though on a 20-yard attempt. The Nittany Lions drove 55 yards on 11 plays, as McSorley went 3-for-4 for 43 yards, moving into the red zone on a 21-yard completion to Mac Hippenhammer.


Michigan State was able to drive 76 yards for a touchdown in exactly one minute to go ahead for the first time though with just 19 seconds remaining.


Up Next

The Nittany Lions return to action next Saturday when Penn State travels to Indiana for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff on either ABC or ESPN.


A limited number of single game tickets for the 2018 season presented by PSECU are available for the Maryland game. Verified resale tickets are available for all seven home games via ticketmaster.com. With more than 6,300 new season tickets sold, the season ticket allotment for the 2018 season is exhausted. For information on joining the Nittany Lion Club, as well as club seating in Beaver Stadium, fans can visit www.NittanyLionClub.com, call 1-800-NITTANY weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. or visit the Bryce Jordan Center ticket office weekdays from 10 a.m-6 p.m.