Dan Murphy, ESPN Staff Writer 401d

Lightning at Spartan Stadium delays Michigan State-Penn State by 3.5 hours

College Football, Penn State Nittany Lions, Michigan State Spartans

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Lightning strikes emptied Spartan Stadium and caused a three-and-a-half-hour weather delay of the top-25 matchup between Michigan State and Penn State.

The game resumed at 4:38 p.m. ET.

Thunderstorms reached the East Lansing area midway through the second quarter. A lightning strike at 1:15 p.m. forced officials to pause the game with 7:58 left to play in the half.

No. 7 Penn State led No. 24 Michigan State 14-7 at the start of the delay.

The stadium was evacuated, and the less-than-capacity crowd on the cold, wet day was sent to nearby campus buildings to wait out the storm. More lightning was visible from the stadium in the hour that followed the initial delay.

Athletic directors Mark Hollis and Sandy Barbour, along with representatives from both teams, met each hour through the delay to determine how to proceed. They did not consider postponing the game until a later date. They agreed to have a full halftime break after both coaches requested that time to regroup and return to a normal pattern.

Michigan State players and coaches passed the time in part by watching their Big Ten brethren play in fairer weather. The Wisconsin and Ohio State games were both on in the Spartan locker room. The players had a chance to eat and relax in a stadium lounge that the team often uses to host recruits and other guests during games.

Penn State players made use of the postgame media room to try to stretch out and stay loose during the extended break. They also had some fun with Skittles:

Fans took harbor in a pair of nearby campus buildings -- the ice hockey arena and a classroom building in which they were showing tapes of old Michigan State games. Ushers said it took several sweeps of the stadium to clear the fans in ponchos and all-weather gear from their seats.

When gates reopened at 4:05 p.m., there was a line waiting to get back into the stadium. Other workers around the stadium huddled during the long break in bathrooms and the Lost & Found area, which are both heated.

The break allowed the concession stands to restock on hot chocolate, which had completely sold out at the time of the original lightning delay.

Michigan State's policy is to let fans know when lightning strikes anywhere within 20 miles of the stadium and to clear the stadium and stop play when it strikes within 15 miles of the stadium. That protocol is more strict than the NCAA mandate that says play must stop if lightning is within 8 miles of a game site.

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