UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Injuries and attrition be damned. Michigan State football pulled off another shocking upset of Penn State.
Brian Lewerke directed a 76-yard TD drive in the final 1:19, passing MSU down the field as one receiver after another got hurt.
On third-and-2, Lewerke hit Fellton Davis III for a 25-yard TD pass with 19 seconds left that gave the Spartans a second straight shocking upset of No. 8 Penn State, and a 21-17 victory on Saturday at Beaver Stadium.
MSU improves to 4-2 and 2-1 in the Big Ten. Next up for the Spartans is rival No. 13 Michigan, a noon kickoff on Saturday at Spartan Stadium (Fox).
Lewerke finished 24 of 52 for 259 yards and two TDs.
The Spartans defeated then-No. 2 Penn State last year at Spartan Stadium, 27-24, on a last-second field goal.
MSU busted out two first-half trick plays that worked to perfection.
Connor Heyward ran a fake punt as the upback and ran the ball 26 yards for a drive-saving first down.
Two plays later, the sophomore took a handoff from Lewerke, rolled to his right, pulled up and lofted a deep spiral that WR Cam Chambers ran under for a 36-yard catch to put the Spartans at the Nittany Lions' 1.
La’Darius Jefferson eventually pushed the the ball in for a touchdown, helped by a drive-aided penalty by Penn State after it had stopped MSU three times.
Third trick doesn’t work
A fake field goal throw from Lewerke to Raequan Williams looked like it was going to work, but Penn State’s Garrett Taylor soared in and broke up the pass.
After Nittany Lions kicker Jake Pinegar gave them the lead with 9:21 to play, MSU (3-3, 1-2 Big Ten) started moving the ball on the ground with La’Darius Jefferson, whose 27-yard burst took the Spartans into Penn State territory.
The drive stalled at the 22 yard line, and Matt Coghlin came on for what appeared to be a 40-yard, game-tying field-goal attempt. The sophomore had made 16 straight attempts.
But holder Lewerke picked up the snap, Coghlin ran to his right like he did on the fake attempt at Indiana. Instead, Lewerke threw deep for defensive end Williams. But the pass got knocked away.
MSU got the ball back with 4:09 left but the drive stalled and Dantonio opted to punt and play defense.
It would prove to be a wise move.
It was all Lewerke and his remaining pass catchers on the last drive.
He hit Heyward on a screen for 11 yards, then two big passes to Laress Nelson got MSU into Penn State territory.
Davis got hurt on one incompletion but returned. He broke deep, adjusted his route and caught the ball at the two. The senior shook a defender and sneaked over the goal line as MSU’s sideline piled onto the field.
Davis finished with eight catches for 100 yards and two scores.
Dantonio said earlier this week Michigan State’s goal to run the ball 40 time a game often turned into victories.
The banged-up Spartans — even without starting running back LJ Scott and two offensive linemen and most of its receiving corps — did almost that. They got 123 yards on 36 carries, led by La’Darius Jefferson’s 60 yards on 15 carries.
MSU also was without LG David Beedle and RG Kevin Jarvis, who also did not make the trip. The WR position is in even worse shape: Darrell Stewart Jr., Cody White and Jalen Nailor did not travel, while Cam Chambers injured his thumb in the first quarter on a catch. He came back after halftime, but a Lewerke pass bounced off his heavily bandaged hand and was picked off by Penn State’s Garrett Taylor.
Assistant coach Mark Staten loves to switch and swap MSU's offensive line, but the injuries hand-tied his rotation. The Spartans used the same line the entire first half: Cole Chewins at left tackle, Tyler HIgby at left guard, Matt Allen at center, Blake Bueter at right guard and Jordan Reid at right tackle.
Contact Chris Solari: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari.