No. 12 Michigan State football team looking to bounce back and try for 10th win against Penn State
By DANA GAURUDER
Michigan State quarterback Payton Thorne relived his team’s outing at Ohio State three times on film. The team’s nightmarish performance will be hard to forget.
“It was tough to watch and see the things that happened,” he said of the 56-7 road loss to the Buckeyes. “It was really frustrating to watch that game. A lot of stuff to learn from. You can keep that memory stored for a long time.”
The 12th-ranked Spartans saw their hopes for a College Football Playoff berth and a Big Ten championship dismantled in Columbus. They’ll be seeking a quick turnaround when they host Penn State today.
The Spartans (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten), who won their first eight games, trailed 49-0 at halftime last week and were held below 20 points for the first time this season. Coach Mel Tucker believes his team will respond with a spirited effort.
“We have a lot to play for on Saturday,” said Tucker, who landed a 10-year, $95 million deal this week. “We have a significant amount of seniors, some of whom have been here six years. We want to make it a special day for them. We have an opportunity to win 10 games and to go undefeated in the Wood Shed (Spartan Stadium) in front of our fans.”
Michigan State wasn’t expected to be a contender this season but that hasn’t made its late-season sag any less painful.
“We didn’t expect to win four games,” Thorne said. “That wasn’t our plan. Our plan was to win and win now. We’ve won nine games this year and we’re looking to win 10 on Saturday and send our seniors out the right way.”
Penn State (7-4, 4-4) is coming off a 28-0 blanking of Rutgers in its home finale. The Nittany Lions had lost four of their last five games.
Penn State will try to exploit a Spartans pass defense that has allowed an average of 339.9 yards per game.
“The numbers do matter,” Nittany Lions coach James Franklin said. “But you have to play your game plan and you have to stay balanced because if you try to become something on Saturday that you haven’t been throughout the season, then you’re going to get out of whack.”
Michigan State junior running back Kenneth Walker III has been named one of three finalists for both for the Maxwell Award and the Doak Walker Award.
Walker ranks second in the FBS in rushing, averaging 136.2 yards per game, but was held to 25 rushing yards on six carries last week at Ohio State. He suffered an undisclosed injury and his status for today’s game was questionable.