MSU coach Mark Dantonio recaps the Spartans’ 45-12 loss at Penn State. Video by Chris Solari/DFP

QB looked crisp in under 2 quarters of play, before exiting after big hit; He heads into off-season with big expectations from team

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Damion Terry spent four years waiting for his shot to start at quarterback for Michigan State.

He finally got his chance Saturday. In his home state. Against a Penn State team that never offered him a scholarship.

Terry’s teammates were rallying around him as they marched down the field three times in the Spartans’ first three drives. It didn’t take long until they were surrounding him again on the sideline, consoling him about what could have been.

With one hit to the head, the redshirt junior’s day ended late in the first half. It didn’t erase some of the things he showed, however, in directing three scoring drives in a 45-12 loss to the No. 8 Nittany Lions.

“I think he hasn’t really been given his fair chance to really be the guy on game days,” tight end Josiah Price said of Terry, who went 7-for-12 for 101 yards passing and 13 yards on four carries in less than two quarters. “He’s kind of a gamer type of guy. … I was really happy to see Damion playing well. And then, likewise, it was extremely sad to kind of go out and not being able to finish that game that he kind of started.”

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Terry was knocked out by a helmet-to-helmet hit midway through the second quarter after getting his first career start at quarterback. Fifth-year Tyler O’Connor took over for the rest of the game.

“I was all for and OK with Damion starting,” said O’Connor, who was sacked four times after replacing Terry. “Coach (Mark Dantonio) talked to me about it and said, ‘He deserves this opportunity. He’s worked hard for four years, it’s his only opportunity to start in this stadium being from Pennsylvania.’ So I was more than OK with it – I was his biggest coach that I could’ve been.”

Lansing State Journal sports columnist Graham Couch and Detroit Free Press / LSJ MSU beat writer Chris Solari break down MSU’s loss in Happy Valley and discuss what’s next for the program.
Graham Couch / Lansing State Journal

Terry and O’Connor both came out for MSU’s first drive. O’Connor quickly dashed right and lined up at receiver for the first play – almost a tribute to Terry, who has been used as a wideout in certain formations over the past three years.

Terry handed the ball to R.J. Shelton for a 9-yard run on that play, and then O’Connor returned to the bench and put on a headset after starting nine of the 12 games in his final season.

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“We wanted to start Damion Terry for a number of reasons,” Dantonio said. “He is a younger player, and we wanted to give him the chance to be the starter in the game. It was a tough decision, but I think that it was warranted based on our season and based on his progress. I thought that he played very well until he got hurt.”

The Erie, Pennsylvania, product looked sharp on some throws and shaky on others. He hit Shelton for 39 yards to get into Penn State territory on MSU’s first drive, and zipped another to Monty Madaris to get to the Nittany Lions’ 9.

But then Terry overthrew Shelton in the end zone, got dropped on a designed run for a 2-yard loss, then panicked on a corner blitz and got rid of the ball too quickly on a slant to Donnie Corley. MSU settled for Michael Geiger’s first of four field goals with 8:13 left in the opening quarter.