Rapid Reaction: Penn State keeps Land Grant Trophy with win over Michigan State
Good news for all those whose lower backs might have been involved. The 70-pound Land Grant Trophy doesn’t need to be moved.
Penn State came back from a 21-10 halftime deficit to beat Michigan State 39-24 and retain the infamous trophy for a second straight year. It was Penn State’s first December home game since 1968.
After taking a 3-point lead midway through the 1st quarter, the Nittany Lions quickly fell behind as Michigan State quarterback Payton Thorne had a half to remember. Thorne, who was making his first career start in place of an injured Rocky Lombardi, threw an interception on his first pass attempt, but the ensuing return was fumbled by Penn State’s Jaquan Brisker.
Thorne then quickly rebounded, completing 11 of his next 12 passes for 202 yards and 3 touchdowns as the Spartans surged to an 11-point lead. Jalen Nailor was responsible for 2 of the touchdowns, making scoring grabs of 45 and 7 yards in length. Thorne became the first Michigan State QB with 3 passing touchdowns in a half since Tyler O’Connor did so against Rutgers in 2016.
But just when it seemed the Spartans had all of the momentum and were going to ruin Penn State’s Senior Day, the Lions came roaring out of the halftime locker room and marched down the field on a 75-yard drive punctuated with a Parker Washington receiving touchdown and Jahan Dotson 2-point conversion to cut the Spartans’ lead to just 3.
Matt Coghlin connected on a 23-yard field goal later in the 3rd quarter, but Penn State immediately responded with a 1-yard touchdown rush from Will Levis to take a lead it would never surrender.
Penn State scored a pair of explosive touchdowns in the 4th quarter from its two wideout playmakers. Washington scored on a 49-yard reception, and less than a minute later Dotson returned a punt 81 yards to the house.
81-YARD punt return for Jahan Dotson! 💥@PennStateFball | @H55ZY pic.twitter.com/MItwA6RVaS
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) December 12, 2020
The two receivers had big days for Penn State, combining for over 200 yards of offense. Dotson became the first Penn State player to have a receiving and a punt-return touchdown since Bryant Johnson in 2002.
While Thorne ultimately cooled off in the second half, he had the best quarterback performance of Michigan State’s season since Lombardi passed for 323 yards against Michigan. Penn State’s Clifford also had his best passing day since the Lions lost to Maryland in early November.
Both teams now await an announcement from the Big Ten about if and when the final week of games will occur for Champions Week.