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Nov. 27, 2010
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) - Michigan State claimed at least a share of its first Big Ten title since 1990 after beating Penn State 28-22 at blustery Beaver Stadium on Saturday.
Now, the Spartans have to wait and see whether it's good enough for the Rose Bowl.
Edwin Baker ran for 118 yards and a touchdown, and Keshawn Martin's 35-yard reverse deep in Penn State territory set up another early score for Michigan State (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten).
Quarterback Kirk Cousins threw for 152 yards and two touchdowns to B.J. Cunnigham, and the defense held off a fourth-quarter charge by penalty-prone Penn State (7-5, 4-4).
No. 8 Ohio State beat Michigan on Saturday, with No. 5 Wisconsin still to play. If all three teams finish with one loss, the Bowl Championship Series standings would be break the tie, and the Spartans came into the week trailing their Big Ten rivals in those rankings.
Penn State scored 19 fourth-quarter points, and fans had dreams of an unlikely comeback after Matt McGloin found Derek Moye for a 4-yard touchdown pass with 56 seconds left.
Michigan State recovered the ensuing onsides kick to finally seal the win.
Bowl questions aside, coach Mark D'Antonio's crew can relish an 11-win season and the end of an eight-game road losing streak to Penn State after its first win in Happy Valley since 1965--the year before Joe Paterno took over as head coach.
Penn State managed just a 34-yard field in the first half against a Spartans defense that gave up 85 yards and a touchdown to Evan Royster. McGloin finished 23 of 43 for 312 yards with two fourth-quarter touchdowns and an interception.
Penalty flags sapped momentum, too, for the Nittany Lions, especially in a choppy first half that left them playing catch-up the rest of the way.
Trailing 14-3 at halftime, Jerel Worthy's sack of McGloin helped stop one third-quarter drive, and Penn State followed with another three-and-out deep in its own territory and punted back to the Michigan State 48. Cousins followed by deftly directing a six-play, 52-yard drive capped by his second touchdown pass to Cunningham for an 18-point lead.
The left shoulder and left ankle injuries that had Cousins hobbling off the field after last week's win over Purdue weren't bothering him Saturday. He finished 17 of 22 passing.
In 2008, the Spartans watched while Penn State players dance around the Beaver Stadium field with roses in their mouths after a 49-18 rout sent the Nittany Lions to the Rose Bowl. This time, it was Michigan State savoring a season-ending victory for a title.
Seventeen seniors have now won a school-record 33 games for the Spartans.
The young Nittany Lions, who start eight seniors, were uncharacteristically undisciplined with eight penalties for 67 yards. They had averaged an FBS-best 28 penalty yards per game.
The opening drive set the tone after Baker opened with a 17-yard rush, and a third-and-4 at the Spartans 49 turned into a first down on the Penn State 35 after defensive tackle Devon Still was called for a late hit on Cousins.
Baker carried five of the next six plays, capped by his 7-yard dash into the left front pylon of the end zone for a 7-0 lead in a score upheld by replay review.
Later, a 35-yard double reverse around left end by Martin to the Penn State 14 set up Baker's run up the middle to the 8. That softened the defense just enough to leave Cunningham open in the end zone on the next play for a touchdown pass from Cousins for 14-3 lead.