Brian Lewerke found Felton Davis for a 25-yard touchdown pass with 19 seconds left as Michigan State stunned No. 8 Penn State 21-17 to eliminate the Nittany Lions from College Football Playoff contention.
The Spartans never led during the game but got the ball back from Penn State with 1:19 to go and one timeout. Michigan State worked its way down the field and faced a third down with two yards to go at the Penn State 25 when Lewerke saw Davis one-on-one in coverage down the left sideline. Lewerke threw it to Davis’ back shoulder as the receiver stopped for the ball and dove into the end zone.
We shouldn’t have been surprised that Michigan State went for the end zone in that situation instead of playing for a game-tying field goal. The Spartans lined up for a game-tying field goal with 5:19 left in the fourth quarter and ran a fake. The pass fell incomplete. The play, coach Mark Dantonio said, was called “Little Giants Two.”
“We weren’t going to play to lose,” Dantonio said. “We weren’t going to play to tie.”
Maybe the aggressiveness was a product of a loss the week before. Michigan State suffered its second loss of the season a week ago in a home defeat to Northwestern. But Dantonio wasn’t going all-out with the aggressiveness either. He chose to punt with 1:46 to go from his own 35. The decision was made because Michigan State had all three timeouts remaining and it worked out. Penn State didn’t get a first down and QB Trace McSorley even ran out of bounds to save Michigan State from using its last timeout.
Michigan State in, Penn State out in the East
Like Michigan State, Penn State lost its most recent game as well. The Nittany Lions fell to Ohio State 27-26 at home in Week 5. The two straight conference losses also effectively eliminate Penn State from the Big Ten East title race. Barring chaos, a two-loss team isn’t gong to win the division. And with losses to the Spartans and Buckeyes, Penn State isn’t winning many tiebreakers.
It’s also not winning any close games either. The Nittany Lions have been leading late in the game in each of their last five losses.
Michigan State, meanwhile, controls its own destiny in the East. It’s hard to see a team that’s lost to Arizona State and Northwestern beating both Michigan and Ohio State but crazier things have happened. Just look at the way the fourth quarter unfolded on Saturday.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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