EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Joe Paterno enjoys Penn State's rivalry with Michigan State -- he just wishes the games weren't quite so exciting.
Once again, the game for the Land Grant Trophy was an offensive showcase, with Penn State rallying for a 42-37 win to extend Paterno's major-college victory record to 327.
"I'm never comfortable in games like this," Paterno said. "It's just not my style to win games where we give up 37 points. We played lousy defense in the first half, and I let them know about it. We picked it up after halftime."
Penn State trailed 31-14 in the second quarter, but scored 28 straight points behind freshman quarterback Zack Mills.
"I just came in the game and tried to make some plays," said Mills, who replaced starter Matt Senneca after one quarter. "I love situations like that, because you are so far behind that there isn't any pressure on you."
Paterno said the rainy, windy conditions helped make his decision.
"I just thought we should see what would happen," he said. "Zack throws a tighter spiral, and that's good on a windy day."
Mills, who has replaced Senneca in several games this year, threw for 240 yards in his three quarters and ran for a touchdown.
"Zack did a great job, just like he has all year for us," said Eric McCoo, who ran for three short-yardage touchdowns for Penn State. "That doesn't mean that Matt wouldn't have done it, but Zack got the opportunity and played a great game."
The win kept Penn State's bowl hopes alive, with the Nittany Lions (5-5, 4-4 Big Ten) needing a victory next week at Virginia to become bowl eligible.
"We're not thinking about a bowl yet," Paterno said. "We've still got to beat a tough Virginia team."
The Spartans (5-5, 3-5) lost for the third time in a row since their emotional 26-24 win over Michigan. They need a win over Missouri next week to avoid missing out on postseason play for the second year in a row.
"It was a very, very disappointing loss," Spartans coach Bobby Williams said. "Now our whole season comes down to one game. We're down to that, and we'll be looking forward to next week."
Even after losing the advantage, Michigan State had a chance to regain the lead, facing third-and-7 at the Penn State 14 with just over 2 minutes to play.
But Bruce Branch knocked a third-down pass away from Charles Rogers at the goal line, and on fourth-and-7 linebacker Deryck Toles stopped Rogers 2 yards short of the first down.
"They ran a shallow crossing route, because they knew we would be playing back," Toles said. "It was designed for Rogers to catch the ball short of the sticks and run for the first down, but we had been studying them all week and we knew they liked that play. I saw it all the way, I made the hit and I wasn't going to let go."
After pulling to 31-21 late in the first half, Penn State outscored Michigan State 21-0 in the third quarter.
"They really went after us," Williams said. "They hit some big plays against us in the first half and again in the third quarter. We got away from man defense and went to more zone, but they still hit a couple long passes."
The Nittany Lions began the run with Mills' 64-yard touchdown pass to R.J. Luke. A 38-yard pass to Bryant Johnson and a pass interference penalty drawn by Johnson set up scoring runs for McCoo of 2 and 1 yards in the quarter.
"If this is like basketball, you have to give Bryant assists on those two touchdowns," said McCoo, whose three touchdowns totaled just 5 yards. "He got the ball down there and I just had to punch it in."
Michigan State's defensive collapse overshadowed outstanding performances by T.J. Duckett and Rogers. Duckett rushed for 126 yards while Rogers had eight catches for 191 yards and two touchdowns.
"That Rogers is one big-time receiver," Paterno said. "We wanted him in high school and today you can see why."