For three hours and 23 minutes, Spartan Stadium’s silver bleachers were empty and drenched.
Fans spent the delay under cover in either Munn Ice Arena or lecture halls across Michigan State’s campus, watching college football on projector screens. Steelers running back and Spartans legend Le’Veon Bell took photos with well-wishers to kill time in the press box, where some writers fired up Netflix.
During those 203 minutes, everyone in East Lansing was restless — including the Nittany Lions.
Still, No. 24 Michigan State dealt with the same less-than-ideal situation and capitalized, using that advantage to help upset No. 7 Penn State 27-24 on Saturday night.
“It’s just difficult because you go from playing a game and you relax,” star running back Saquon Barkley said. “But that’s no excuse at all.”
What was supposed to be scattered showers turned into the what felt like the longest delay in college football history.
The “extreme weather” delay was for lightning in the area. Over the course of 203 minutes, three — maybe four — bolts were visible from press box.
When play was halted at 1:15 p.m., it became apparent that the delay would be lengthy. First, it was announced the game would resume at 4 p.m. That changed to 4:15, then 5:30, then down 4:38 p.m.
That final change kind of threw the Nittany Lions for a loop. Redshirt junior linebacker Koa Farmer called the alteration “weird.”
“It’s Mother Nature,” Farmer said with a half-hearted smile. “There’s nothing really you can do.”
Inside the visitors’ locker room, Penn State tried to keep its poise. The Nittany Lions were up 14-7 with 7:58 left in the second quarter. They had a lead against a ranked Big Ten opponent on the road. Even though Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke picked apart the Nittany Lion secondary before the delay, Penn State was still on solid footing.
So, they met with position coaches and talked X’s and O’s. They ate and hydrated. A Penn State staffer actually ran out to get Chick-Fil-A for the team.
Despite a video of Saquon Barkley catching grapes in his mouth, tossed by jokester Mark Allen, senior wideout DaeSean Hamilton said there wasn’t any goofing off going on. Nothing that would be detrimental to the team.
But later, he saw what everyone else saw: The Spartans came out of the lengthy delay ready to go. Penn State, on the other hand? Not as much.
“They were clicking on all cylinders as soon as we came back from the delay,” Hamilton said of Michigan State. “At some points, it looked like they were playing harder than we were. It’s not a knock on our team. We’re tough guys, as well. But they had an edge to them. They had a chip on their shoulder. They wanted it a little more than we did.”
Eleven plays after the teams resumed play at a soggy Spartan Stadium, Michigan State knotted the score at 14 all with a 33-yard strike from Lewerke to Felton Davis. From then on, with the weather hindering Penn State’s passing attack, it was clear that Michigan State had an edge.
And to the Spartans’ credit, they rode it to a season-changing win. Meanwhile, Penn State was left to pick up the pieces after its second loss in as many weeks.
Like Barkley, his teammates and James Franklin didn’t make excuses when asked about the weather delay. But it did affect Penn State negatively.
There’s no doubt about that.
“The weather situation, I’ve been doing this 23 years and it’s something I’ve never been a part of,” Franklin said. “I probably don’t need to talk about it any more than that because it’s an excuse.”
Added quarterback Trace McSorley: “I’m not going to sit here and make excuses for the delay. You have to play under any circumstance. Whether it’s rain, snow, 130 degrees out, minus-20, it doesn’t matter. If they’re putting that ball in play, you have to produce.”