Michigan State 30, Penn State 27: Nittany Lions Fall Short in Regular Season Finale

By Joel Neuschwander on November 27, 2021 at 7:52 pm
Nov 27, 2021; East Lansing, Michigan, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions wide receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith (13) runs after a catch during the second quarter against the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium.
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
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The 2021 Penn State football regular season is in the books, and the Nittany Lions capped off a memorable, if disappointing, campaign with a 30-27 loss to Michigan State in snow-covered East Lansing.

special teams miscues

Jordan Stout's punting has given the Nittany Lions a lift all year long, but his performance in the kicking game has been a roller coaster. Stout had settled into a groove the past couple of weeks, but familiar woes resurfaced Saturday.

Stout missed a 27-yard field goal that would've knotted up the score late in the first half, and had an extra-point attempt hit the upright. The missed extra point was Stout's first since Penn State's season opener at Wisconsin, but he finishes the regular season just 16-of-23 on field goals, missing one in seven out of the ten games he attempted at least one.

Of course, four missed total points via kicks in a three-point game is rather notable.

third down struggles

Penn State's offense had trouble coming through when it mattered, finishing just 5-of-13 on third down — many of those in short-yardage situations.

The Nittany Lions did convert two of three fourth downs, but it was the one they didn't that came back to haunt them — Keyvone Lee was stopped on a fourth-and-one on the Spartan 16, putting an end to a promising drive that could've put the blue and white ahead.

crash landing

A regular season that once looked like it could be one for the ages ended with a 2-5 finish. Whatever the reason — the lack of a run game, questionable coaching decisions, and Sean Clifford's health among them — Penn State will be remembered for its utter collapse down the stretch, fair or not.

James Franklin is in it for the long haul in Happy Valley, but with an 11-10 record since the beginning of 2020, the doubt is far from gone. At 7-5, the Nittany Lions now await their bowl destination.

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