STATE COLLEGE – No. 11 Penn State withstood a determined effort by Michigan State and beat the Spartans 35-16 to complete a 10-win regular season Saturday night at Beaver Stadium.
The Nittany Lions (6-2 Big Ten, 9-2) had a 21-3 lead before Michigan State (3-6, 5-7) cut it to 21-16 on Payton Thorne’s 2-yard keeper with 10:52 left.
Penn State responded with an 11-play, 75-yard drive, which ended with Sean Clifford’s 12-yard pass to running back Nick Singleton and which took more than 6.5 minutes off the clock.
Less than a minute later, Kalen King intercepted Thorne’s pass at the Spartans’ 35. On the next play, Clifford found KeAndre Lambert-Smith for a touchdown with 3:56 to go.
The Lions posted their first 10-win season in three years and their fourth in seven years, accomplishing that for the first time since 1993-99. They also strengthened their case for a New Year’s Six bowl berth and regained the Land Grant Trophy.
Clifford completed 19-of-23 passes for 202 yards and four touchdowns in his final home game.
Lambert-Smith caught five passes for 83 yards and one touchdown and threw a scoring pass to tight end Theo Johnson in the second quarter.
Kaytron Allen ran 21 times for 78 yards and Singleton, the former Gov. Mifflin star, had 78 yards on 17 carries.
Penn State built a 14-3 halftime lead that could have been larger if not for Jake Pinegar’s two missed field goals from 38 and 27 yards.
In the first quarter, Clifford threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Johnson in the face of an all-out blitz on third down. Early in the second quarter, after a 16-yard pass to Singleton, Clifford threw a lateral to Lambert-Smith, who threw a strike to the wide-open Johnson for a 48-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
After Pinegar missed a field goal for the second time, Michigan State drove from its 20 in the final 90 seconds of the half to the Penn State 34. From there, freshman Jack Stone drilled a 51-yard field goal as time expired to make it 14-3 at the half.
The Lions dominated the half, outgaining the Spartans 245-128 and holding them to 8 rushing yards. But they were unable to put them away.