2010 Michigan State Spartans Football

Big Ten football fans

Michigan State Spartans @ Penn State Nittany Lions Football Recap

Michigan State 28, Penn State 22



Michigan State became the surprise top 10 team of the 2010 season, entering the annual rivalry game with Penn State with a 10-1 record.  This has been MSU’s finest season in a generation, and the Spartans capped off a magical season with their first win over Penn State in Happy Valley since the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten.  With the win, Michigan State finishes in a three-way tie for the Big Ten title. 

Unfortunately, the Spartans’ best season in at least 20 years will not end in a high-profile BCS bowl game, but most likely the Capitol One Bowl in Orlando.  The Big Ten, in the case of a three-way tie, uses the BCS rankings to break the tie.  MSU sits behind both Wisconsin and Ohio State, both also 11-1, in the BCS, and is unlikely to jump either in the final standings. 

Michigan State merchandise Despite beating Wisconsin head to head, the Spartans will almost certainly watch the Badgers play in the Rose Bowl on January 1 st.  Ohio State, with its massive traveling hoard and certain mega-television ratings will most likely be selected by another BCS bowl, leaving Michigan State the victim of the no-more-than-two-teams-from-any-given-conference-in-the-BCS rule.

That is out of the Spartans’ control, of course.  Regardless of which bowl game in which Michigan State ends up playing, this has been a season for the ages in East Lansing, and the win over Penn State puts an exclamation point on it.  Michigan State, which for so many years has found ways to lose games they should win, has found ways to win games they should lose this season.  From the improbable overtime fake field goal against Notre Dame, to the fake punt that led to the go-ahead score at Northwestern, to the 15-point fourth quarter deficit the Spartans overcame to beat Purdue, Michigan State has seemingly changed its longstanding identity under head coach Mark Dantonio. 

No such theatrics were needed to beat the Nittany Lions, however.  Michigan State was in command from the beginning.  Behind the play of its workhorse running back Edwin Baker and steely quarterback Kirk Cousins, Michigan State’s offense was steady and sufficient, if not spectacular.  The Spartans’ balanced attack finished with 168 passing yards and 163 rushing yards and scored 7 points in each quarter of the game.  Baker finished with 118 rushing yards and a touchdown, while Cousins passed for 152 yards on a 17 for 22 effort and two passing touchdowns.  However, the biggest touchdown may have come from quarterback-turned-wide receiver Keith Nichols, who came in at the QB position for Cousins on a critical 3 rd down play in the fourth quarter.  Nichols took the snap, rolled right, and found tight end Charlie Gantt in the back of the end zone for Michigan State’s final score of the game, putting MSU up 28-10 with about eight and a half minutes to go.  The Spartans would need the points, as Penn State came roaring back on the next two possessions to cut the lead to 28-22. 


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Michigan State had the chance to seal the game with an interception in the end zone, up 12 with just over a minute to go in the game, but Trenton Robinson foolishly decided to run the ball out of the end zone instead of taking a knee.  Wide receiver Derek Moye stripped the ball, giving quarterback Matthew McGloin the ball right back.  McGloin connected with Moye for a touchdown on the next play, causing considerable anxiety among the Spartan faithful, but Michigan State recovered the subsequent onside kick to seal the win and cap off the remarkable 11-1 season.

Michigan State finished the season with an 11-1 record, 7-1 in conference play, and a Big Ten co-championship along with Ohio State and Wisconsin.  The Spartans are likely to be invited to the Capitol One Bowl in Orlando on January 1 st when bowl invitations are handed out and will face an SEC opponent.  Penn State finished the season at 7-5, 4-4 in the Big Ten, tied for fourth with Illinois and Iowa.  The Nittany Lions could land in the Outback Bowl, the Gator Bowl, or the Insight Bowl.

By John Cary
DFN Sports Staff Writer


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