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Penn State Hosts Michigan State on Homecoming Saturday
(Photo by Paul Burdick. Check out more of Burdick’s work here)
Television coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. on BTN.
The Nittany Lions(4-1 overall, 1-1 Big Ten) look to return the Land Grant Trophy to its shelves. Penn State took possession of the trophy in 2016 with a 45-12 victory which also clinched the Big Ten East Division title, but its fellow pioneering land-grant institution reclaimed it with a last-second field goal last season.
In their last outing, the Nittany Lions’ 16-game home winning streak came to an end with a heartbreaking, one-point loss to Ohio State, so they will look to start a new one with the help of the Homecoming crowd. Penn State has won its last three Homecoming games and 11 of its last 13.
The ground game has led Penn State’s offense this season, averaging 261.2 yards per contest to rank second in the Big Ten and 12th in FBS. Both running back Miles Sanders and quarterback Trace McSorley are top-10 rushers in the Big Ten, with McSorley rushing for 175 yards against Ohio State as part of a school-record 461-yards total offense effort. Michigan State presents an intriguing match-up though, as it leads the nation in rushing defense allowing just 33.8 yards per game this year, and its defense ranks fourth overall in the Big Ten. However, the Spartans are surrendering a league-worst 305.2 yards per game through the air, and McSorley’s two best regular-season, single-game passing yard totals came against Michigan State in 2017 (381 yds.) and 2016 (376 yds).
The Spartans (3-2 overall, 1-1 Big Ten) also benefit from strong quarterback play, though, with Brian Lewerke, who ranks second in the Big Ten in passing yardage with 265.2 yards per game. Lewerke completed 33-of-56 pass attempts for 400 yards and two touchdowns with one interception in last year’s win over Penn State.
Michigan State leads FBS by a wide margin in rushing defense, yielding just 33.8 yards per game on the ground (San Diego State is second at 61.8 yards rushing per game), and the Spartans held Northwestern to just 8 yards rushing last week. However, Michigan State is allowing 305.2 yards passing per game, which ranks last in the Big Ten and in seventh from the bottom nationally. Overall, the defense ranks 28th in FBS and fourth in the Big Ten allowing 339.0 yards per game.
The Spartans have taken advantage of teams that have become too greedy in the air, intercepting nine passes to rank second in the Big Ten and seventh in the FBS.
Senior running back LJ Scott, who has led the Spartans in rushing each of the past three seasons, has not played since sustaining an injury in the second game of the season.
NOTES – The Nittany Lions own a 71-22-5 record in 98 games in front of the alumni crowd since their 14-7 victory over Dartmouth in the first Homecoming game on Oct. 9, 1920 … Last season, the Nittany Lions defeated Rutgers, 35-6, for their third-straight Homecoming win … Penn State has won six out of its last seven Homecoming tilts, defeating Rutgers (2017), Maryland (2016), Indiana (2015), Michigan (2013), Northwestern (2012) and Purdue (2011) … The Nittany Lions have claimed 11 of their last 13 contests in front of the alumni crowd … This is the fourth time Penn State will square off against Michigan State in a Homecoming game. The Nittany Lions lost to the Spartans in 1946 (19-16), tied them in 1948 (14-14) and lost in 1951 (32-21) … Penn State has a 17-14 record after a bye week since starting Big Ten competition in 1993 … Penn State has won its last two games following a bye week, including a thrilling win over No. 2 Ohio State in 2016 and a Penn State White Out rout of Michigan last season … The Nittany Lions’ last four losses have been by a total of eight points (2016 USC – 3 points, 2017 Ohio State – 1 point, 2017 Michigan State – 3 points, 2018 Ohio State – 1 point), which is the smallest margin of defeat over four losses in program history … The losses to USC and Michigan State came on field goals as time expired, while Ohio State took leads with 1:48 remaining (2017) and 2:03 remaining (2018) … Penn State last lost a game by more than three points on Sept. 24, 2016, at Michigan (49-10) … McSorley is 582 yards shy of 900 career passing yards … Miles Sanders is 87 yards shy of 1,000 career rushing cards … Penn State has scored 20 or more points in a school-record 28 consecutive games, which is the second-longest active streak in the FBS and the second-longest streak in Big Ten history. It trails the 46-game stretch by Ohio State (2012-15) … McSorley has thrown a touchdown pass in 33 consecutive games, dating to the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl, extending his school record. It is the longest active streak in FBS and the fifth-longest in Autonomy Five history … Penn State has rushed for 200 yards in eight consecutive games, dating back to last season’s Nebraska game on November 18, 2018. It’s the longest streak since an eight-game streak in 1973 … Penn State leads FBS in scoring offense in the second half, averaging 31.0 points. Georgia Tech is second averaging 24.17 points … Penn State also leads FBS in fourth-quarter scoring, averaging 19.40 points. Houston is second averaging 14.6 points … For the season, Penn State is outscoring opponents 155-55 in the second half. The plus-20.0 points per game margin in the second half leads FBS, as does its plus-11.2 advantage in the fourth quarter … Penn State is averaging 510.0 yards per game on offense to rank 14th in FBS and second in the Big Ten … Penn State is one of nine FBS teams that has scored on each trip to the red zone this season … Penn State has scored on 25-straight trips into the red zone, including 23 touchdowns and on 51 of its last 52 red zone trips with 46 touchdowns … Penn State’s 92.86 percent scoring rate score over the last two seasons is ninth in FBS … Penn State leads FBS in red zone touchdown rate over the last two years, reaching the end zone on 82.14 percent of red zone trips … Penn State is averaging 49.6 points per game to lead the Big Ten and rank fifth in FBS in scoring.
INDIANA GAME TIME SET
The No. 8-ranked Nittany Lions travel to Indiana Oct. 20 in a contest that will kick at 3:30 p.m. The game will air on either ABC or ESPN. In addition, the game will also be available on the Penn State Sports Network (2 p.m. airtime) and GoPSUsports.com.
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