Penn State handles Michigan State; Freiermuth catches 3 TD passes
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Pat Freiermuth scored the game’s first two touchdowns.
Turned out that was all No. 6 Penn State really needed against Michigan State’s anemic offense.
Freiermuth and the Nittany Lions would add more points later, and unbeaten Penn State beat the Spartans, 28-7, on Saturday. Sean Clifford threw four touchdown passes on a rainy day, and the Nittany Lions avenged close losses to Michigan State from each of the past two seasons.
“I’m very excited that we’re undefeated still, and that’s the only goal I’ve had all season and I plan on going through the whole season doing that,” Clifford said.
The Spartans (4-4, 2-3 Big Ten) wrapped up a dreadful stretch in which they lost to Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State by a combined score of 100-17.
Penn State (8-0, 5-0) moves on to a surprising matchup of undefeated teams Nov. 9 at Minnesota. The Nittany Lions had lost five of their previous six against Michigan State.
Clifford’s first touchdown pass to Freiermuth, a 16-yarder, opened the scoring in the first quarter, and those same two players gave Penn State a 13-0 lead with a 19-yard strike in the second. KJ Hamler’s 27-yard TD catch with 1 minute, 20 seconds left in the half — plus a successful 2-point conversion — made it 21-0.
A fumbled punt by Michigan State set up Clifford’s 6-yard touchdown toss to Freiermuth in the third quarter. Then the Spartans finally scored for the first time in 2 hours, 11 minutes, 2 seconds of game time. Brian Lewerke found Cody White for a 49-yard pass, and Anthony Williams scored on a 4-yard run.
“From my perspective, we need to execute better,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “There are things that we can do from a call situation, but we’ve got the same — a lot of the same plays are the same plays that other people run as well, timing and who to go to and those type of things. But we’ll look at everything.”
The Nittany Lions hadn’t won the Land Grant Trophy that often recently, but they had an easy time Saturday. Last weekend, Penn State nearly let a 21-point lead slip away in a win over Michigan. The Nittany Lions had no problems holding on to their big advantage against the Spartans.
“We were able to score enough early on in the first half before things got too messy to be able to get a win. I’m pleased with that,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “The bye week is coming at a tremendous time for us.”
Penn State defensive tackle Antonio Shelton was called for unsportsmanlike conduct and ejected in the fourth quarter. The Nittany Lions had nine penalties for 104 yards.
The was the third time in school history that Michigan State played three straight games against teams in the AP top 10. It didn’t go any better the previous two times. In 1970, the Spartans lost 29-0 to Notre Dame, 29-0 to Ohio State and 34-20 to Michigan. The 1972 Michigan State team lost 51-6 to USC, 16-0 to Notre Dame and 10-0 to Michigan.
“We just got to loosen up,” Michigan State linebacker Antjuan Simmons said. “We carry a lot of pressure, put a lot of pressure on ourselves. We want to be the best. It kind of wears on you. We had to go back to the basics, just have fun, just trusting our job. Second half, I feel for the most part, we did that. We competed.”
With No. 5 Oklahoma’s loss to Kansas State, Penn State has a chance to move up when the AP releases its next Top 25 on Sunday.