Saturday, November 19, 2005

Game 11: Penn State 31, Michigan State 22

It was an ugly affair but the Nittany Lions did it. For the first time in 11 years, Penn State is the Big Ten champion. While the Lions technically share the title with Ohio State, we all know what happened on October 8th in Happy Valley. Penn State has earned its first BCS bowl bid and Joe Paterno is a top candidate for Coach of the Year. But the Nittany Lions still have a shot at the ultimate prize- a national championship. And after Miami's untimely loss to Georgia Tech, Penn State's road to Pasadena just got a little easier.

The offense dropped passes, the defense wasn't up to par and the punting was spotty at times but Penn State was able to get past Michigan State's 9-1 record against Top 10 teams and 6-0 record at home. Michael Robinson played very well, fumbling the only once and it was late in the game after it had long been decided. Unfortunately, Deon Butler, Ethan Kilmer, Justin King and Jordan Norwood dropped some easy passes that could have helped Penn State to make it look a little prettier on the scoreboard. Tony Hunt became the first Penn State tailback since Larry Johnson in 2002 to rush for 1,00 yards in a season. Michigan State's offense was very much like the Spartan team itself- bipolar. At times, the Spartans looked unstoppable and tore up the Penn State defense into a similar fashion as Northwestern. Michigan State took advantage of the open field and he gained a lot of ground running the ball himself just like Brett Basaenez. Javon Ringer looks like a future star for the Spartans. Unfortunately for Michigan State, the banged up offensive line just didn't give him many opportunities to make plays.

The Penn State defense did what it had to to win this game. They didn't dominate the Spartans but came up with the important plays, including four interceptions, three of them by Alan Zemaitis. The Nittany Lions came up with a big special teams play when Donnie Johnson blocked a Brandon Fields punt that was recovered by Matt Hahn for a touchdown. Donnie Johnson recorded the other Penn State interception. Johnson has looked very good in the playing time that he has received since Justin King was switched over to offense. It should be an interesting battle between Johnson and Tony Davis for the other starting cornerback spot next season (Justin King already has one locked up). No matter who starts, the Nittany Lions have a bright future at CB even with the losses of Zemaitis and Anwar Phillips.

Congratulations to Penn State on a great season. As a fan, this season has been a lot of fun and has certainly been successful in bringin Penn State back. The 2002 season was the product of great senior talent. This season it was the freshmen who made the difference. This isn't a one and done deal. The Nittany Lions are back for real.


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