Spartans Rally in Fourth Quarter to Edge Nittany Lions
Nov. 17, 2007
EAST LANSING, Mich.; November 17, 2007 -- Michigan State scored the final 14 points of the game to hand Penn State a heart-breaking 35-31 setback today in Spartan Stadium in the regular season finale for both teams.
The Nittany Lions saw their three-game winning streak in the series end and finished the regular season with an 8-4 record. The Spartans improved to 7-5 overall and regained possession of the Land Grant Trophy.
Penn State took a 24-7 lead early in the third quarter on a fake field goal for a touchdown, but from that point, was out-scored 28-7 by the Spartans.
Senior tailback Rodney Kinlaw ran for a game-high 125 yards and scored two touchdowns, earning his fifth 100-yard rushing game of the season. His 28 carries tied his career-high. He finished the regular season with 1,186 yards.
Senior quarterback Anthony Morelli was 16 of 35 for 188 yards, with one touchdown and no interceptions. Kinlaw made four catches for 22 yards, Deon Butler had three receptions for 68 yards, with a touchdown, Terrell Golden had three catches for 31 yards and Derrick Williams added three catches.
The Nittany Lions did not turn the ball over the first time this season, ran 77 plays to Michigan State's 61 and gained 355 yards (188 passing, 167 rushing).
The Penn State defense forced three turnovers and limited the Spartans to 145 rushing yards, well below their season average of 205.4 yards per game, and forced three turnovers. But, Michigan State quarterback Brian Hoyer was 16 of 21 for 257 yards, with four touchdowns and two interceptions. The Spartans had eight pass plays of 20 yards or more, with seven coming in the second half.
Senior All-America linebacker Dan Connor made a game-high 13 tackles, for his eighth double figure tackle game this season and the 20th of his career. Connor's 136 tackles rank fourth on the school season and list and he has 410 career stops. All-America candidate Sean Lee made 10 stops, with 1.5 tackles for loss and his first interception of the season, setting-up a touchdown. Lee posted his ninth double figure tackle game in the last 10 contests.
Junior safety Anthony Scirrotto made a career-high 10 tackles and grabbed his third interception of the season, the 10th of his career, returning it 53 yards. Junior cornerback Justin King made eight tackles, as did junior linebacker Tyrell Sales, who also recovered a fumble, to set-up a touchdown.
The Nittany Lions turned the three turnovers in to 17 points, the most since scoring 21 points off five turnovers in the season opener with FIU.
Michigan State got on the scoreboard first on a 12-yard pass from Hoyer to Devin Thomas with 8:42 left in the first quarter.
The Nittany Lions moved the ball to the MSU 36, but on fourth down, kicker Kevin Kelly pooched kicked the ball and Jeremy Boone and Mickey Shuler hustled to save the ball from going into the end zone, as if was downed on the MSU one-yard-line. On third down, Phil Taylor sacked Hoyer and the Lions got the ball back on the MSU 46 after the punt.
A nine-yard run by Kinlaw brought up third-and-one. Morelli fired a 37-yard strike to Butler, who caught the ball at the goal line and tumbled into the end zone with 3:53 to play in the opening period. Kelly's extra point made it 7-7. The completion was Penn State's longest touchdown pass of the season.
On Michigan State's next possession, safety Scirrotto grabbed his third interception of the season, and 10th of his career, returning it 53 yards to the MSU 20. The Nittany Lions advanced to the MSU 3, but were forced to bring on Kelly, who made a 21-yard field goal for 10-7 lead with 14:10 left in the second period. Kelly made a field goal for a 19th consecutive game.
After a Michigan State punt was downed on the PSU 1, the Lions were forced to punt and the Spartans took possession inside PSU territory. But, linebacker Sean Lee made a fingertip interception, his first of the season, and the Lions took over at the PSU 35 with 5:46 left in the half. The Nittany Lions marched 65 yards in a season-high 15 plays to take a 17-7 halftime lead. A 12-yard screen pass to Kinlaw gave the Lions a first down at the MSU 4 and Kinlaw ran it in from there, scoring with just :08 to play.
The Nittany Lions out-scored the opposition, 114-21, in the second quarter this season.
Kinlaw ran for 80 yards on 15 carries in the first half, moving into the school top 10 list for season rushing yardage. Morelli was 7 of 15 for 102 yards in the first half, with Butler making two catches for 51 yards to lead the Lions.
The Nittany Lions got the ball the open the third quarter and marched 73 yards in 10 plays to take a 24-7 lead. Kevin Kelly lined-up for a 22-yard field goal, but took a direct snap from Patrick Weber and ran behind Rich Ohrnberger and Gerald Cadogan on the left side untouched for the touchdown with 10:11 left in the third. The fake field goal touchdown was Penn State's first since Joe Nastasi ran two yards for a score in the Nittany Lions' 27-17 win over Michigan in 1995.
The Spartans came right back, going 74 yards in seven plays. Hoyer threw a three-yard touchdown pass to fullback Jeff McPherson to cut the Lions' lead to 24-14 with 7:25 left in the third quarter.
Michigan State forced a punt and took possession at its own nine and quickly went 91 yards for the score. Hoyer connected with Thomas from 33 yards out to trim the lead to 24-21 with 2:20 left in the third.
The Spartans forced a three-and-out, but on its first play, Hoyer fumbled and linebacker Tyrell Sales pounced on it at the MSU 35 late in the third period. On third and 24 from the MSU 30, Morelli fired a 24-yard completion to Derrick Williams, who made a great catch at the MSU six for a first down. Two plays later, Kinlaw scored on a four-yard run to make it 31-21 with 13:02 left in the game.
Michigan State came right back, as Thomas made his third touchdown catch, a 26-yarder from Hoyer with 11:04 to play, cutting the lead to 31-28.
The Nittany Lions were forced to punt and Boone delivered a big 53-yard punt, with A.J. Wallace making the immediate tackle at the MSU 20 with 9:50 to play. Facing a fourth-and-five at its own 25, Michigan State lined-up to punt, but the snap went to Jehuu Caulcrick, who gained 17 yards to the MSU 42. Hoyer then completed passes of 23 yards to Kellen Davis and 22 yards to Devin Thomas to take the ball the PSU 12. Caulcrick carried five consecutive times, scoring from one-yard out to give the Spartans a 35-31 lead with 4:08 to play.
Penn State quickly moved the ball downfield. A 17-yard completion from Morelli to Butler was followed by an 11-yard pass to Kinlaw. Redshirt freshman Brent Carter came into the game and gained nine, eight and six yards, sandwiching a six-yard run by Morelli, to get the ball to the MSU 24 with 1:50 to play. But, Morelli threw four consecutive incompletions and MSU took possession with 1:27 to play and held on.
Only three seniors started for the Nittany Lions against the Spartans: Connor, Kinlaw and Morelli.
Penn State will await the announcement its bowl destination. The Nittany Lions will be playing in their 34th bowl game under Joe Paterno, who is the all-time leader in bowl appearances and victories, with a 22-10-1 record.