PSU-Michigan State notebook
Where does PSU go from here?
EAST LANSING, Mich. — The College Football Playoff hopes are now gone with a second loss, but with three very winnable games left, Penn State is still in position to finish 10-2.
At the beginning of most seasons, 10-2 would be fantastic. But after being ranked No. 2 a week ago and losing two heartbreakers in a row, 10-2 would have a much different feel.
Asked about the team’s goals here on out, receiver DaeSean Hamilton said, “10 wins,” then added some poignant comments.
“Obviously guys just having heart, that’s really all it is,” Hamilton said. “There’s been plenty of seasons since I’ve been here where we were nowhere near playoff contention or national championship talk. A lot of the guys on this team now were on the team then, so it really just goes back to like Coach (James) Franklin was talking about, going back to our roots and winning each game and winning one game at a time.
“At stake is guys playing with heart and dignity and putting ourselves in good position for a good bowl game at the end of the year.”
Barkley’s Heisman hopes take big hit
Saturday might have just been the day Saquon Barkley lost the Heisman Trophy. The frontrunner for much of the season, he was held under 100 yards rushing for the sixth time in nine games, and his overall stats are starting to really drop off. He also failed to score, ending his streak of 15 straight games with a touchdown, which was the longest in the nation.
“It’s Michigan State. I think they were the No. 1 rush team in the Big Ten, I think, hadn’t let up a 100-yard rusher,” Barkley said. “They’re well coached, they’re hard nosed, they fly to the ball, they tackle pretty well.”
One question for down the road is whether Barkley will play in PSU’s bowl game. He wasn’t asked directly Saturday, but the projected NFL first-round pick could decide to skip the bowl game since the Nittany Lions might fall to a lesser game.
Barkley caught three passes for 33 yards. He also showed off his throwing arm when he took a wildcat snap and threw a 20-yard pass over the middle to tight end Mike Gesicki.
Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield almost certainly has surged into the Heisman frontrunner spot after the Sooners’ 62-52 win over rival Oklahoma State. Mayfield was 24-of-36 for 598 yards, five TDs and two interceptions in the shootout.
Barkley has been universally praised all season, with many calling him the best player in college football. But now there’s likely to be some criticism of him after PSU’s severe struggles in the running game.
How does Barkley plan on handling all the outside noise?
“I don’t really care for the positive things or the negative stuff that’s said about me,” he said. “The way you avoid that is just staying true to who you are and not letting media or letting analysts or let sportswriters or whatever dictate how you play or dictate how you work.
“At the end of the day, if you come out every single day and you know you’re pushing yourself and you know you’re working your butt off and you’re pushing your teammates, everything will take care of itself.”
Franklin forces Farmer to shake hands
There was video after the game that went viral showing Franklin sprinting down the sideline and yelling at linebacker Koa Farmer to go back and shake hands with the Michigan State players.
“I saw a few of our players running off the field and not going to shake hands,” Franklin said. “We are going to win with class, and we are going to lose with class. We are going to shake people’s hands and give them credit because they deserved it.”
Farmer didn’t shy away from his role in the situation and apologized afterward.
“That’s my bad,” he said. “They were just storming the field, kind of like Ohio State did it. I don’t know, I was mad. Obviously that’s not how we do things here at Penn State.”
Farmer also was asked what it says about Franklin’s leadership to have him run down the sideline and tell him what he did.
“Coach Franklin, he’s a great man,” Farmer said. “It’s not all about the game of football with him. It’s character, class, that’s how we do things at Penn State. That’s what he does, that’s what he pushes for.”
Givens moves to defensive end
Kevin Givens was the natural choice to move over and play defensive end with Ryan Buchholz injured, and that’s what the PSU coaches decided to do Saturday. The Altoona product, who weighs 287 pounds, moved from his tackle spot to end and finished with four tackles (one solo).
“I missed a lot of plays. I don’t think I played very well,” Givens said. “I had a lot of mental errors. I could have did better.”
Givens said he only started working at end this week because of Buchholz’s injury last week. He played the position in high school.
“I just had to practice a little bit,” he said. “It’s nothing new, I just had to get more reps during practice.”
Spartans pick up big win
Michigan State endured a tough season a year ago, finishing 3-9 overall and 1-8 in the Big Ten, including a 45-12 loss at Penn State.
Coach Mark Dantonio’s team has had an impressive bounce-back year, with wins over Michigan and now PSU for a 7-2 record, 5-1 in the league.
“Unbelievable football game,” Dantonio said. “It took seven hours to get our seventh win, so I felt there were some great, great performances out there. … I think the key defensively was that we did shut down the run, so it made it difficult for them to run the football.
“McSorley creates, as you can see, very difficult to stop, so you hold your breath every series they got the ball. We were up to task, I thought, played pretty well, especially the first half and that second, I’m just going to call it the intermission. After the intermission, played very well that seven minutes.”
Brian Lewerke had a huge day for the Spartans, throwing for 400 yards with two TDs.
“I felt great,” Lewerke said. “I felt good throwing the ball. Their defense had a good amount of holes in it. They run exotic defenses, they blitz a lot, brought a lot of guys. It left a lot of holes down field and I was able to take advantage of it.”
As for this season’s improvement, Lewerke said, “Coming off a 3-9 season, we have the guys we want here, we have a lot of confidence in each other. Knowing that each and every one of the people on the field can make plays and can contribute, even the guys on the sidelines can make noise and pump all the other guys up. It’s just a confidence thing. We just believe in each other.”