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Spartans overpower Lions on Senior Day

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Michigan State returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and never looked back, handing Penn State a 34-10 loss on Senior Day in Happy Valley.

Simply put, Michigan State was too much for Penn State to handle.

The No. 10 Spartans outmatched the Nittany Lions in all facets of the game in a 34-10 victory on Senior Day, Saturday at Beaver Stadium.

“That’s a very good football program,” coach James Franklin said. “They’ve done a nice job. I’ve got to give them credit.”

The dominance started with special teams.

On the opening kickoff, Sam Ficken hit a low kick without much hang time and Spartans return man R.J. Shelton went 90 yards for a touchdown to open the scoring. After the game, Ficken took full responsibility for the play that got the game off on the wrong foot for the Lions.

From the opening score, the Spartans (10-2, 7-1 Big Ten) held the Nittany Lions (6-6, 2-6 Big Ten) to three points through almost 45 minutes of play.

Lions quarterback Christian Hackenberg was 21-of-45 for 195 yards on the day with an interception that receiver Chris Godwin seemingly caught in the end zone before it went out of his hands and into the hands of Spartans defensive back Trae Waynes.

“That’s tough,” Hackenberg said. “It’s just a part of the game. You move on from it. Chris is going to make that play for us down the road. [Michigan State is] a very good defensive football team. ...For us to be able to have some success against a team like that was awesome. We still lost which hurts, but that’s a great football team right there.”

Hackenberg also had a fumble caused when Spartans linebacker Martin Rush hit him with his arm in the air and fellow linebacker Taiwan Jones recovered the ball.

The Spartans defense also held running back Akeel Lynch to just 52 yards on 14 carries, although the redshirt sophomore did have a 3-yard scamper with 1:37 left in the third quarter for the Lions’ only touchdown of the day to make the score 27-10 at the time.

“We tried to stick with the running game all day long and not abort it like we’ve done in the past,” Franklin said. “We weren’t able to consistently do that.”

A usually solid Lions defense also allowed 34 points against the Spartans and although one of those scores came late with the game out of hand, the final tally is the most the unit has allowed all season.

While the unit managed to hold the Spartans to just 13 points in the first half, quarterback Connor Cook and running back Jeremy Langford were too much for the unit to handle in the second half.

Cook was 13-of-25 for 180 yards and an interception that came when Cooks arm was hit as he was throwing and the ball popped right into the hands of Lions defensive lineman Anthony Zettel.

The quarterback also had a 10-yard touchdown toss to Tony Lippett in the third quarter to put the game out of reach. The receiver finished with four catches for 53 yards in the contest.

Langford chipped in 30 carries for 122 yards and two touchdowns on the ground after halftime.

“He’s a pretty good back,” Lions senior linebacker Mike Hull said. “He waits for his blocks to develop and runs behind those guys pretty well. I think lot of it has to do with their offensive line.”

Kicker Michael Geiger also hit two field goals in the first quarter from 36 and 39 yards, respectively.

Although the defense was without regulars Jason Cabinda and Brandon Bell, Hull said the team had to do the best with what it had.

He added that the seniors all wanted to go out on a good note and play as hard as they could.

“I think we did that,” Hull said of leaving it all on the field. “Sometimes the ball doesn’t go your way and that was one of those days today.”

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