It took all afternoon and some of the evening, but Michigan State added to the Big Ten's playoff misery and injected itself into the thick of the conference title race on Saturday.
In a noon ET game delayed by severe weather in the second quarter for over three hours, No. 24 Michigan State upset No. 7 Penn State 27-24, as Matt Coghlin's 34-yard field goal as time expired ended a marathon game in East Lansing and dealt a fatal blow to the Nittany Lions' playoff and Big Ten title hopes.
Penn State's playoff hopes were hanging by a thread after the Nittany Lions blew a 15-point lead to Ohio State on the road last week. As the Buckeyes were busy getting demolished by Iowa on Saturday, Michigan State ended up being the team to take advantage, erasing the Lions' playoff dreams while jumping to the top of the Big Ten East at 5-1 in conference play.
The game got off to an energetic start with both defenses struggling to stop the pass, at least after Trace McSorley was intercepted on Penn State's first drive. McSorley led Penn State 92 yards in seven plays, including a 20-yard Saquon Barkley pass to Mike Gesicki. Brian Lewerke led Michigan State 52 yards in four plays with the help of a questionable pass interference penalty, to tie the game. Penn State again went right down the field, with McSorley finding Saeed Blacknall for a 27-yard touchdown on fourth-and-eight late in the first quarter.
Penn State went into the weather delay holding a 14-7 lead, but the Lions found themselves in a funk afterward. For the second week in a row, Barkley was bottled up with no room to run behind a struggling Penn State offensive line, as his Heisman campaign was dealt another severe setback with 63 yards on the ground. McSorley and his receivers couldn't get on the same page early after the delay, and Lewerke hit big pass after big pass, showing a knack for converting long third downs against a Penn State pass defense that has collapsed the past two games.
With the score tied in the third quarter, Lewerke hit a 36-yard pass to Felton Davis on a third-and-18 and a 26-yard pass to Hunter Rison on a third-and-11, setting up an L.J. Scott touchdown run to take the lead.
Penn State responded with a field goal and a 70-yard DeAndre Thompkins touchdown catch. After the Spartans tied with a field goal, the two teams exchanged interceptions -- including a circus grab by the Lions' Armani Oruwariye in Penn State territory on the sideline -- before two pivotal plays late that went against the Lions.
Facing fourth-and-three at the Michigan State 31-yard line in poor weather conditions, Penn State went for it. McSorley fired a slant to Thompkins, but the ball bounced off his hands for a drop that gave the ball to the Spartans.
Pass was there, Thompkins just let it slip through his hands. pic.twitter.com/6wLIgjhnil- Nate Bauer (@NateBauerBWI) November 4, 2017
The next pivotal play came with Michigan State draining the clock and facing third-and-four at the Penn State 37. Lewerke's pass was broken up, but Penn State safety Marcus Allen hit him late, drawing a deserved roughing the passer penalty.
Here's another look at the Marcus Allen roughing the passer. pic.twitter.com/zaszrerVrP- BlueWhiteIllustrated (@BWIonRivals) November 4, 2017
A drop gave Michigan State the ball, and a bad penalty extended its drive. Three plays later, Coghlin lined up and made his second field goal of the fourth quarter to lift the Spartans to victory.
McSorley threw for 381 yards and three TDs but was intercepted three times. Lewerke hit 33 of 56 passes for 400 yards, two TDs and an INT, and the Spartans converted 10 of 18 third downs.
Entering this season, Penn State, Ohio State and, to a lesser degree, Michigan got all the hype in the Big Ten East. The Spartans had finished in the AP top six three years in a row from 2013-15, but they fell to 3-9 last year in a season full of misfortune. Now, they've bounced back from an overtime loss to Northwestern and are 2-0 against the Big Ten East heavyweights, 6-2 overall and 5-1 during a run of six straight games decided by one possession.
The dramatic Ohio State-Penn State game in Columbus was thought to be the Big Ten's game of the year, a playoff elimination game to decide the Big Ten East. Michigan State had different plans. The Spartans now go to Columbus next week with a chance to play for a division title that nobody thought they could win.