STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Trace McSorley has gotten used to seeing extra defenders crowding the line of scrimmage this season and he’s become adept at taking advantage of it
With another defense selling out to stop star running back Saquon Barkley, McSorley completed 17 of 23 passes for 376 yards and four touchdowns to lead No. 8 Penn State to a 45-12 victory over Michigan State and the Big Ten East title Saturday.
Penn State (10-2, 8-1 Big Ten, No. 7 CFP) edged No. 2 Ohio State for the East title, setting up a conference championship game against West winner Wisconsin next week in Indianapolis. The Nittany Lions beat the Buckeyes 24-20 at home Oct. 22.
"It’s almost like pick your poison," McSorley said. "We’ve got so many weapons outside, if you want to try to load the box to stop Saquon and our run game, we’ve got enough weapons outside and if you want to try and stop that, we’ve got one of the best running backs in the country. He’s going to do what he does."
But Barkley couldn’t get going and eventually left the game with a right leg injury.
The Spartans (3-9, 1-8) stacked the line of scrimmage and held Barkley to 9 yards in the first half on nine carries. Meanwhile, Michael Geiger kicked four field goals, the last giving Michigan State a 12-10 halftime lead.
McSorley, who set a school record for total offense in a season (3,348), and his speedy, physical receivers took over in the third quarter. The shifty, dual-threat quarterback threw deep touchdown passes on three straight drives to cue Penn State’s 35-0 second half.
"Disappointing outcome to a disappointing season," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. "Thought we played very well in the first half, especially the first quarter, came out and established ourselves early on but drove down the field four straight times and had to settle for field goals."
McSorley found Chris Godwin down the sideline for 34 yards on Penn State’s first second-half possession and followed it with a 45-yarder to Mike Gesicki. Godwin got loose down the middle minutes later and McSorley hit him in stride for 59 yards to give Penn State a 31-12 lead.
"Trace did a great job of giving me a great, catchable ball and after that point, it’s just finishing the play," Godwin said.
Andre Robinson added a 14-yard touchdown run and caught a 40-yard pass from McSorley to complete the scoring in the fourth quarter, and Barkley scored on a 1-yard run in the second. Barkley left in the third quarter with an apparent right leg injury and did not return.
Tyler Davis added a second-quarter field goal for Penn State which won its eighth straight game.
"It’s been special," Penn State coach James Franklin said. "I think this team, the connection and the bond they have for each other, we’ve overachieved and we keep overachieving."
BEND BUT DON"T BREAK
The Spartans moved against Penn State’s defense until they pushed into the red zone. Michigan State mounted four long first-half drives of at least 11 plays but had to settle for Geiger’s kicks each time.
The Spartans never got into the red zone after Geiger’s final field goal, managed just 87 yards in the second half, lost a fumble and allowed three sacks.
"We were pissed off that they got down there and we knew once our feet were set, they weren’t doing anything special that could really keep us on our heels," linebacker Brandon Bell said.
EYES ON BARKLEY
Barkley was helped to the sideline by training staff in the third quarter and didn’t return. He had a towel over his head while he sat on the training table.
Franklin, who only confirms injuries if a player is out for the season, said he expects Barkley to practice and prepare as he would normally from the information he had at the end of the game.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions will get another shot to impress the selection committee in the Big Ten championship game. As for a shake up right now, the question is how far will No. 3 Michigan fall having lost two of its last three, including a double-overtime game at Ohio State.
THE BIG PICTURE
Michigan State: The Spartans’ run of nine straight seasons with a bowl appearance under Dantonio was snapped weeks ago. Their chance to play spoiler was hindered by more injuries Saturday. Dantonio’s squad, which started different lineups on both sides of the ball in every game, lost starting quarterback Damion Terry (concussion), guard Brandon Clemons and TE Josiah Price. Running back LJ Scott hurt his right leg in the first half, and although he returned, was not effective.
Penn State: With injuries mounting, Penn State appeared destined for another ho-hum season at best after a Week 4 loss to Michigan dropped the Nittany Lions to 2-2. The vibes were bad enough that athletic director Sandy Barbour had to publicly refute speculation that Franklin’s seat was hot. Franklin’s team recovered and hasn’t lost since that afternoon in Ann Arbor. Of even more significance is Penn State got it done with one of the youngest rosters in the country. It’ll lose just 17 seniors and return many key contributors next season.