Penn State ends season with loss to Michigan State

There are plenty of areas to place blame for Penn State’s 28-22 loss to Michigan State on Saturday.

It could have been the eight penalties for 67 yards. It could have been the secondary breakdowns, freeing Michigan State wide receiver B.J. Cunningham for two touchdowns. It could have been the offense’s inability to move the ball until the Spartans had already taken an 18-point lead late in the second half.

But to senior running back Evan Royster, the clock simply reached zero a bit too soon.

“We ran out of time,” said Royster, one of 18 players honored on Senior Day before a Beaver Stadium with a student section about two-thirds full. “We had the momentum. We were doing things right. It was just too little too late.”

For the first three quarters, however, the Nittany Lions weren’t doing much right, and Michigan State capitalized. The Spartans’ victory was their first at Beaver Stadium since Penn State joined the Big Ten, and it locked up a share of the Big Ten title and an 11-1 record.

Penn State fell to 7-5 with the loss, capping a regular season full of disappointment in opportunities to make a national statement. With the loss, a trip to the Gator Bowl on Jan. 1 against an SEC opponent appears most likely.

Following hot starts in each of his three starts at quarterback, Matt McGloin struggled in the first half Saturday, throwing for just 96 yards on 9-for-19 passing. He said he was especially disappointed at the number of times he missed open targets.

“Those are throws you can make in your sleep,” said a dejected McGloin, who finished the day 23-for-43 with 312 yards. “Sometimes it just doesn’t go your way. We shot ourselves in the foot in the first half,” McGloin said. “Against a team like that you can’t do things like that and expect to win. It’s frustrating right now because that’s a beatable football team.”

On defense, the Lions were called for a pair of personal fouls — one on safety Malcolm Willis and one on tackle Devon Still. But several other defenders came to the defense of their teammates, calling the penalties “aggressive mistakes.”

The Spartans defense stifled Penn State’s offense from the start. After the Nittany Lions kicked a field goal on their first possession, they failed to score again until the fourth quarter.

McGloin tossed a pair of touchdown passes in the final quarter and Royster ran for one, too, but the offense still came up six points short. The toughest part about the loss, McGloin said, was the seniors, who exited Beaver Stadium for the last time with a bitter taste in their mouths.

Saturday, the first three quarters went by too fast for the Lions to regroup. By the time they finally started to click on offense, Collin Wagner’s onside kick was in the Spartans possession, sealing a Michigan State victory.

Minutes later, in the postgame interview room, the sentiment was the same, from Paterno to his assistants, to the players. Royster, McGloin and quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno even used the same phrase to describe the game, while sporting identical disheartened, wistful looks on their faces:

“Too little, too late.”

 

 

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