By Johnathon Gustin / @jgustin113
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Even though the current all-time offensive leader for Michigan State, senior quarterback Connor Cook, came back from injury and threw for three touchdowns, the postgame murmur all came from discussions around linemen Jack Allen and Malik McDowell scoring fourth quarter touchdowns in and out of position.
McDowell, a sophomore nose tackle, caught a deflected interception courtesy of fellow lineman Shilique Calhoun and rumbled 13 yards into the endzone for the score. Allen, the senior anchor on the offensive line, lined up as a running back for the second time in 2015 (first time was in the spring game) and showed impressive awareness of the field along with a monster stiff arm for a 9-yard touchdown run.
There of course was another defensive score, which helped the Spartans to start the game on the right foot and set the tone for what was to follow.
Christian Hackenberg was leading Penn State down the field, slicing into a defensive secondary that has been vulnerable all season when Arjen Colquhoun made a play on an underthrown pass by Hackenberg for a touchback.
State followed that up with a nine-play, 80-yard drive capped off by a R.J. Shelton 29-yard TD catch to give MSU the early lead with 9:35 remaining in the 1st quarter. Following the touchdown, place kicker Michael Geiger missed the extra point attempt which was his first kick following his game-winning field goal against Ohio State.
The scoring leveled off as both teams traded punts until the 2nd quarter when MSU scored two more touchdowns, the second being a 77-yard fumble return by junior safety Demetrious Cox.
Michigan Stated received the ball to start the 3rd quarter and Conor Cook proceeded to completely silence any lingering questions about his health. Cook moved the ball 75 yards down the field on a 3 minute drive that ended with a 29-yard bomb to senior receiver Aaron Burbridge. MSU would then score on all but their final possession, which would end in a fumble that was for all intents and purposes irrelevant.
Final stats for the game showed an overall even game. Penn State narrowly edged out the Spartans in time of possession 30:12 to 29:48. The team stat leaders for Penn State were Christian Hackenberg throwing for 257 yards on 22-of-39 passing and 2 TD. Chris Godwin had 11 catches for 109 yards and two touchdowns and Saquon Barkley ran 17 times for 103 yards.
For Michigan State, Connor Cook was 19-of-26 for 248 yards and 3 TD. Gerald Holmes and L.J. Scott combined for 105 yards on 23 carries and 2 TD. Aaron Burbridge lead the way receiving with 6 receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown while Shelton had 74 yards on four receptions along with a touchdown.
Next up for Michigan State (11-1) is Big Ten West Champion Iowa (12-0) in Indianapolis next Saturday at the Big Ten Championship Game with a 8:17 p.m. kickoff. Penn State falls to 7-5, but does qualify for a postseason bowl game invitation.