With Penn State’s (7-4-2, 2-1-1 Big Ten) last win on Sept. 21, the team was determined to break its dry spell against conference rival Michigan State (5-7-1, 1-2-0 Big Ten).
The Nittany Lions came out strong, scoring a goal early in the first half and maintaining that energy for a 2-1 win on Sunday. Although the Spartans dominated the second half, they were unable to convert their opportunities into goals to top the Lions.
“The first half we had some really terrific plays, some good combinations, and good ball rotations. Second half, if the wind calmed down it would have been a great day,” coach Bob Warming said.
Twenty minutes into the first half, forward Daniel Burnham gave Penn State the early lead with a goal off a rebound from Julian Cardona’s shot. The team maintained the intensity and kept the ball in the attacking half for most of the first half.
The second half started out looking unpromising for Michigan State as they scored an own goal to give Penn State a 2-0 lead. In the early minutes of the second half, Spartan sweeper Ryan Keener headed the ball straight to the back of the net off a Penn State corner kick. After the critical error, however, Michigan State regrouped quickly and dominated offensively until the last minutes of the game.
As Michigan State picked up the pace in the second half, Penn State’s defense struggled to keep up. Michigan State had only three shots on goal in the first half but nearly doubled that number in the second.
The Spartans penetrated the defense and finally put numbers on the board with 35 minutes left in the second half. Off a through ball from the midfield, Spartan Adam Montague slipped one past keeper Andrew Wolverton to bring the score to 2-1.
“We let down a little bit, but once we got it under control again, we did OK with the pressure and just realized that we had to close it out and that’s what we did,” Burnham said.
Penn State’s frustration became visible as the Spartans drew six fouls from the Lions in the second half alone. From the first whistle to the last, both teams played with intensity with a grand total of 25 fouls. The pace and tone of the game was set when Penn State was hit with its first yellow card on Shane Campbell 30 minutes into the first half. In the second half, Cardona and midfielder Jacob Barron drew yellow cards to bring the total number of fouls for the game to 12.
The Lions’ offense continued to retaliate in the final minutes of the game as Burnham took one last shot on goal with just over five minutes left, one of only three shots on goal in the second half. They were unable to capitalize but for the rest of the half they kept the pressure up on the Spartans by keeping the ball in their attacking half.
Spartan goalkeeper Zach Bennett is a freshman who has allowed only three goals in the three games that he has played so far. Coach Bob Warming recognized Penn State’s offensive effort.
“Two goals is great,” Warming said. “All credit to Michigan State, they have not been shut out in a game this year. It was going to take two goals to win.”