Not a lot of people expected No. 24 Michigan State team to take down the defending Big Ten champion Penn State Nittany Lions. Seven hours after kickoff — thanks to a three and a half hour weather delay — the young Spartans are celebrating an incredible, white-knuckled victory on the toes of a game-winning field goal.
With this victory and an Ohio State loss, the Spartans are suddenly in position to chase down the Big Ten.
For those who stuck around, this game was well worth the wait as it said a lot about the Spartans, who continue to prove last season was a mere fluke. After only winning three games last season, this team now controls their own destiny in the Big Ten East Division. Here are three things we learned from this game:
THE DEFENSE CAME TO PLAY
Entering this game, Penn State had scored 30+ in seven of its first eight games. The Michigan State defense held this high-powered offense to only 24 points and picked off Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley three times. The secondary held McSorley to only a 54 percent completion rate and the run defense limited Saquon Barkley to only 63 yards rushing.
You had to assume entering the game, between the rain and the tough Penn State defense, points would be hard to come by so it was huge for the defense to limit the damage.
THEY AREN’T AFRAID OF THE MOMENT
Michigan State is one of the youngest teams in the NCAA this season, which is partially why they weren’t expected to do much this season. They trailed three different times this game, something plenty of young teams wouldn’t be able to overcome. Not only did they respond every time, redshirt freshman kicker Matthew Coughlin kicked a game-winning field goal with the weight of the world on his shoulders.
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This all took place after the brutal triple overtime loss last weekend at Northwestern that could’ve sucked the life out of them. Between the win in Ann Arbor and now the win against Penn State, this young Spartans team has proven it is able to rise to the occasion.
THE BIG TEN TITLE IS THERE FOR THE TAKING
With this victory and a blowout loss from Ohio State on Saturday, Michigan State now sits in a tie atop the Big Ten East Division with the Buckeyes, setting up a virtual division-clinching showdown in Columbus next weekend. The Spartans now in the driver’s seat and if they can beat Ohio State next week, they can really put their foot down on the division with the tiebreakers against the teams below them.
Although it may sound crazy to suggest Michigan State could just march into Columbus and beat the Buckeyes, they weren’t expected to beat Penn State and they were a two-touchdown underdog against Michigan, and they stunned both of them. On top of that, Ohio State looks very exposed after seeing Iowa hang 55 on them. It remains to be seen how the Buckeyes will respond next weekend.
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Michigan State is quickly becoming one of the more intriguing stories of the 2017 season. After their 3-9 disaster last season and everything that followed it in the offseason, nobody gave them a chance this season. Not only have they established themselves as a serious competitor, they are quickly making themselves a Big Ten front-runner.
UP NEXT: It doesn’t get any easier for Michigan State (7-2, 5-1 Big Ten). They now hit the road and trek down to Columbus for a date with the Ohio State Buckeyes (7-2, 5-1 Big Ten), who will be coming off a 55-25 shellacking defeat at the hands of Iowa.
The last time MSU played on the road at OSU, they walked off the Buckeyes in similar fashion to their victory on Saturday against the Nittany Lions, with a game-winning field goal as time expired.