Dan Murphy, ESPN Staff Writer 18d

Michigan State's last-second field goal sinks Penn State's playoff hopes

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Lightning strikes extended Penn State's postseason dreams by a few hours on the first Saturday of November. But ultimately, not even Mother Nature could save the Nittany Lions from the tail end of a three-game East Division maelstrom.

When the storm settled, No. 7 Penn State had given away a fourth-quarter lead in heartbreaking fashion for the second week in a row. A week after J.T. Barrett's perfect final quarter derailed a perfect season, Michigan State's Matt Coghlin added his name to Spartans lore with a 34-yard field goal as time expired to beat the Nittany Lions 27-24.

Penn State's chances to win back-to-back Big Ten titles are now on life support, and Saquon Barkley's Heisman hopes might have flatlined.

Barkley rushed for zero yards on six attempts in the first half, and for maybe the first time all season, he was held at bay on kick returns and in the passing attack. The Spartans came into Saturday's game allowing fewer than 90 rushing yards per game, and once again, they rendered that part of an opponent's offense inconsequential. Barkley had 14 carries for 63 yards, caught three passes for 33 yards and recorded two kick returns for 15 yards.

Coach James Franklin, who has helped pull Penn State back into the national conversation the past two seasons, has now had 10 opportunities to beat a ranked opponent on the road in his head-coaching career. His teams have lost all 10 of them.

Meanwhile, don't look now, but the Spartans, who were all but written off as also-rans in a crowded division coming into the season, are 7-2 with only one loss in conference play. They travel to Columbus next weekend for a game against Ohio State. The winner of that game will move into the driver's seat of the Big Ten East race as the championship game in Indianapolis grows larger on the horizon.

Michigan State sophomore quarterback Brian Lewerke established himself as a modern-day mailman with a career day. It might take twice as long as it should, but through rain and stormy skies, he's going to deliver. The first-year starter threw for 400 yards and two touchdowns despite the unfriendly conditions.

Junior Felton Davis remained Lewerke's top target Saturday, raking in a career-high 12 catches for 181 yards and a score. Davis' best catch of the game came just minutes after both teams returned to the field.

Lewerke faked two handoffs before setting his feet and firing to the front corner of the end zone at Spartan Stadium. Davis left his feet and hauled in a pass that, at the time, tied the game midway through the second quarter. It also brought a depleted and soggy crowd back to its feet and made that long, cold wait a little easier to justify.

The delay officially lasted 3 hours, 22 minutes. In that time, administrators from both schools peered at radar screens showing a long string of thunderstorms rolling through central Michigan. Penn State's forecast remains gloomy. For Michigan State, as Coghlin slid belly-first across a rain-slicked field and his teammates rushed to meet him, skies and opportunities opened up in grand fashion as Saturday afternoon became Saturday night.

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