Sean Clifford tosses 4 TDs as Penn State beats Michigan State
Sean Clifford threw four touchdown passes, including a pair of TD strikes late in the fourth quarter, as No. 11 Penn State pulled away from visiting Michigan State 35-16 on Saturday in University Park, Pa.
Clifford finished 19 of 24 for 202 yards without a turnover for Penn State (10-2, 7-2), which finished in third place in the Big Ten East standings. KeAndre Lambert-Smith (five catches, 83 yards) had a receiving touchdown and a passing score, while Theo Johnson hauled in two TD catches for the Nittany Lions.
Payton Thorne passed for a touchdown and ran for another for Michigan State (5-7, 3-6), which wound up fifth in the seven-team East Division. Thorne finished 24 of 43 for 229 yards for the Spartans, who committed three turnovers and were outgained 410-254.
After back-to-back touchdowns by the Spartans, the Nittany Lions led 21-16 before Clifford hooked up with Nicholas Singleton for a 12-yard catch-and-run to the end zone with 4:31 left. Kalen King intercepted Thorne less than a minute later, and Clifford found Lambert-Smith for a 35-yard TD bomb on the next play.
The game got off to an ugly start, as Michigan State’s Jayden Reed fumbled on the third play from scrimmage and then Penn State’s Jake Pinegar missed a 37-yard field goal.
Clifford finally opened the scoring in the final minute of the first quarter, finding Johnson wide-open for an 11-yard score.
Following a Spartans punt, the Nittany Lions doubled their advantage on a well-executed trick play. Clifford took the snap and passed into the flat to Lambert-Smith, who caught the backward pass and launched a perfect throw downfield to Johnson for a 48-yard score.
Jack Stone’s 51-yarder on the final play of the first half brought Michigan State within 14-3 at the break, but Penn State increased its cushion on Clifford’s well-placed 14-yard TD pass to Tyler Warren midway through the third quarter.
Facing a 21-3 deficit, the Spartans converted a fourth-and-2 on the ensuing possession and later found the end zone on Thorne’s 9-yard TD pass to Maliq Carr.
On its next trip, Michigan State converted third downs of 7, 18 and 10 yards before Thorne’s quarterback keeper resulted in a 2-yard TD with 10:52 to go.
–Field Level Media