Storm drains PSU’s hopes
Nittany Lions fall to the Spartans after lengthy delay
EAST LANSING, Mich. — One of the strangest games in Penn State football history unfolded Saturday when the contest at Michigan State was delayed by weather for more than three hours in the second quarter.
“I like to say we have a plan for whatever may come,” PSU coach James Franklin said. “I didn’t have anything in my head coaching manual about how to handle a 3 hour and 23-minute delay.”
It wasn’t just a bizarre day for the Nittany Lions. It turned out to be a hugely disappointing one as they suffered their second straight loss, 27-24, when the Spartans kicked a field goal on the final play to win.
It’s believed to be the first time in PSU history that a game was delayed by poor weather after it had already begun. There have been games delayed at the start by bad weather.
With heavy rain in the forecast and lightning strikes near Spartan Stadium, the game was delayed at 1:15 p.m. All fans had to exit the stadium, as per NCAA safety protocol, and both teams went into their locker rooms.
Where they stayed. For a long, long time.
“I just laid down, kind of kicked my feet up, kind of relaxed,” Lions running back Saquon Barkley said.
Penn State posted a video to social media showing running back Mark Allen tossing grapes into Barkley’s mouth from a few feet away during the delay.
“I just listened to music and watched TV,” said defensive end Kevin Givens, an Altoona Area High School product.
Pizza was brought in for the players, and some staffers went to a nearby Chick-fil-A for sandwiches. Michigan State also opened up its visiting media room so the PSU players could go in there instead of everyone being crowded in the locker room all day.
Uncertainty ruled the afternoon for the teams and fans, as it first was announced the game would resume at 4 p.m. That later changed to 4:15, then to 5:30, which would have been more than a four-hour delay.
But the skies cleared a little early, and a ruling was made to resume at 4:38. That decision was announced just a few minutes before 4 o’clock.
Officials from both schools were in frequent contact with Big Ten officials so everyone could stay on the same page with the start time. However, the decision to resume at 4:38 came as a surprise to the PSU players.
“It was like out of nowhere,” Barkley said. “Apparently we heard the game was going to be like 5:30, and out of nowhere it’s like 25 minutes, 30 minutes. And we’re like, ‘Oh.’
“I thought we handled that pretty well as a team. We had a lot of energy in the locker room, a lot of energy coming out, too.”
Despite the lengthy delay, Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said there was no discussion of postponing the game. Play resumed, and both teams had some issues with sloppy play for several minutes.
Most of the 71,605 fans went home, with about 15,000-20,000 sticking around until the game resumed.
Coaches for both teams agreed to have a full 20-minute halftime despite only resuming play about 20 minutes earlier. No one on the PSU side used the delay as an excuse for losing.
“As much time as we were in the locker room, they were in the locker room, too,” Barkley said. “So that’s really no excuse. At the end of the day, we’ve got to find a way to make more plays than them.”