By Noah Trister, AP Sports Writer
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Sean Clifford threw four touchdown passes — three to Pat Freiermuth — and No. 6 Penn State had little trouble shutting down Michigan State’s anemic offense in a 28-7 victory Saturday.
The Nittany Lions (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten) avenged close losses to Michigan State from each of the past two seasons. The Spartans (4-4, 2-3) wrapped up a dreadful stretch in which they lost to Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State by a combined score of 100-17.
Penn State now moves on to a surprising matchup of undefeated teams on Nov. 9 at Minnesota. The Nittany Lions had lost five of their previous six against Michigan State.
“It’s hard to win week after week, consistently, in this conference, especially on this side of the conference,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “We won the field position battle, we won the turnover battle.”
Clifford’s first touchdown pass to Freiermuth, a 16-yarder, opened the scoring in the first quarter, and those same two players gave Penn State a 13-0 lead with a 19-yard strike in the second. KJ Hamler’s 27-yard TD catch with 1:20 left in the half — plus a successful 2-point conversion — made it 21-0.
A fumbled punt by Michigan State set up Clifford’s 6-yard touchdown toss to Freiermuth in the third quarter. Then the Spartans finally scored for the first time in 2 hours, 31 minutes, 2 seconds. Brian Lewerke found Cody White for a 49-yard pass, and Anthony Williams scored on a 4-yard run.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions haven’t won the Land Grant Trophy that often lately, but they had an easy time Saturday. Last weekend, Penn State nearly let a 21-point lead slip away in a win over Michigan. The Nittany Lions had no problems holding on to their big advantage against the Spartans.
Michigan State: The Spartans might not be as bad as these past three opponents made them look, but they’re struggling just to reach a bowl, and the offense is showing no signs of being able to function effectively against good teams.
“Just could never get untracked,” coach Mark Dantonio said. “We need to do better, have to do better.”
No. 5 Oklahoma’s loss to unranked Kansas State gives Penn State a chance to move up.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions are off next weekend before traveling to play Minnesota.
Michigan State: The Spartans also have an open date — their second in three weeks. They host Illinois on Nov. 9.