Spartan Football Dominates Penn State In Regular-Season Finale, 41-10
Nov. 22, 2003
By MIKE HOUSEHOLDER
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Jeff Smoker threw for 357 yards and four touchdowns, leading Michigan State to a 41-10 victory over Penn State on Saturday and ending the worst season in Joe Paterno's 38 years as coach of the Nittany Lions.
Penn State (3-9, 1-7 Big Ten) lost nine games for the first time in school history and is only the fourth losing team in Paterno's career.
Smoker, in his final home game, received a loud ovation before the kickoff and then picked apart the No. 2 pass defense in the nation.
Smoker completed 29-of-50 passes with one interception, and became the first Michigan State quarterback to top 3,000 yards passing in a season.
The Spartans (8-4, 5-3) snapped a three-game losing streak and clinched a tie for fourth place in the Big Ten.
The loss will do nothing to dissuade those who have called for Paterno's departure this season. Some Penn State fans believe it's time for the 76-year-old coach to retire.
That, Paterno again said this week, is out of the question.
The Spartans, who won just four games in 2002, completed their turnaround under new coach John L. Smith, whose spread offense confused the Nittany Lions.
Smoker's fourth scoring pass, a 5-yarder to Jason Randall in the back of the end zone, made it 35-3 with 13 minutes to go.
Michigan State went ahead 28-3 seven minutes earlier on a 17-yard TD pass from Smoker to Jerramy Scott.
The drive that resulted in the Scott TD was kept alive when backup quarterback Drew Stanton ran 29 yards on a fake punt on fourth-and-4 from the Spartans 43.
Penn State quarterback Zack Mills was benched in favor of Michael Robinson at the beginning of the fourth quarter after completing 11-of-24 for 114 yards.
Robinson threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Phillips late in the game.
By halftime, Smoker - a Pennsylvania native and one-time focus of Paterno's recruiting efforts - had 267 yards passing and two TDs.
Smoker's second scoring pass, a 14-yard strike to Eric Knott with three minutes to go in the second quarter, made it 21-3.
Michigan State took a 14-3 lead at 9:39 of the second when Tyrell Dortch scored on a 14-yard run. Dortch raced through a hole on the right side of the Nittany Lion defense on a counter draw on third-and-3.
Smoker's 80-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Brown gave the Spartans a 7-3 lead with three minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Brown made the catch only 5 yards from scrimmage on a comeback route, eluded cornerback Rich Gardner, ran through the arms of cornerback Anwar Phillips and raced down the sideline for Michigan State's longest play from scrimmage this season.
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