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Michigan St.-PSU notebook

Unsportsmanlike penalties anger Franklin

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Penn State had a lot to feel good about from its win over Michigan State, but coach James Franklin was angry at his team for committing three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in the fourth quarter.

The worst of those penalties was called against defensive tackle Antonio Shelton, who reportedly was seen spitting at a Michigan State player. He was ejected for that and apologized on Twitter after the game.

“I would like to apologize for my actions during tonight’s game,” Shelton wrote. “That was extremely selfish behavior. I misrepresented my coach, my school and my team. That’s not who we are and that’s not who I am. I represent more than myself, this won’t happen again.”

Safeties Lamont Wade and Jaquan Brisker also received unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, the latter after he intercepted a pass late in the game.

Franklin explained how he was very upset with the players’ conduct on the penalties and that the issue was addressed in the locker room after the game.

“That’s not who we are, and that’s now who we will be,” Franklin said.

“I’m not happy at all with any of those things,” he added. “We just had a very direct conversation in the locker room about those things. … It was addressed very clear, very direct, and we’ll do it again (today).”

Cain, Reid banged up

Running back Noah Cain got hit first career start Saturday and played the first two series, but he did not return to the game after suffering an undisclosed injury. Cain was seen limping a bit on the sideline. He finished with six carries for 21 yards.

Cornerback John Reid got dinged up in the second quarter and didn’t return. His replacement, Trent Gordon, also suffered an injury that ended his day.

The cornerback injuries led to a good bit of playing time for true freshman Keaton Ellis, who also recovered a fumble after a blocked field goal.

“We had a bunch of injuries,” Franklin said. “I don’t think they’re injuries that are going to be long term injuries, but they held guys out.”

The coach noted he does expect those players back for the Minnesota game in two weeks.

What was Clifford thinking?

First-year starting quarterback Sean Clifford came into the game with 16 touchdowns and only two interceptions, and he has taken very good care of the ball.

But one throw Saturday was, just … ugh!

He rolled to his left midway through the third quarter, threw back across his body in the rain and fired a wounded duck pass to no one in particular that was picked off at the Michigan State 31.

Clifford said it was probably the worst play he’s ever had, even going back to pee-wee football. He threw four touchdowns on the day, but he still was upset with how he played because of that throw.

“That was completely on me, completely my fault, I take all the responsibility for that pick,” Clifford said. “I lost my mind on that play. It really, just thinking about it, makes me really angry.”

Franklin was angry about the play, as well.

“The interception that we had is not how we do things,” the coach said. “That’s not how we operate. So that one bothered me probably more so because I have such high expectations for him. … That’s now who we are. that’s not good football.”

Tough day for special teams

The Lions made numerous mistakes on special teams, including Jake Pinegar missing his first PAT of the season in the second quarter.

Micah Parsons jumped offsides when Michigan State was punting on fourth-and-2, extending the Spartans’ drive. KJ Hamler dropped the ball on the game’s opening kickoff. Hamler returned a punt for a 48-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, but it was negated by a running into the kicker penalty on Jesse Luketa in the end zone. Jordan Stout also had one kickoff go out of bounds.

Penn State had three penalties on special teams, giving them 10 for the season. Hamler had a 100-yard kickoff return for a TD called back because of holding last week against Michigan.

“We’ve got to eliminate the penalties,” Franklin said. “We’ve got too many penalties on special teams that eliminate big plays.”

Spartans abysmal in key home game

Michigan State fans booed the home team going off the field at halftime following a lackluster start, and the Spartans never got much going in the second half of another very disappointing loss.

Mark Dantonio’s team was coming off a bye week, so many people believed it had a good chance at upsetting Penn State. But the Spartans looked unprepared from the get go as they fell behind early and never mounted any kind of comeback.

One comment Dantonio made in the postgame brought heavy criticism his way.

“The beauty is we’re not 2-7, we’re 4-4,” he said.

Many people viewed that as Dantonio making it seem like 4-4 isn’t that bad. The Spartans opened the season ranked No. 18 but have dropped three in a row against Ohio State (34-10), Wisconsin (38-0) and Penn State (28-7) by a combined score of 96-17.

“As difficult as everybody wants to say out there, you can’t abandon ship right now. You can’t do that,” Dantonio said. “That does not work, I know that. You have to remain positive.”

“Nobody likes to lose,” said running back Elijah Collins, who had 53 yards rushing on 17 carries. “So when you string some loses together like this, it’s tough. But at the end of the day, we have to come out of this tougher and make plays.”

Oh, the Land Grant Trophy

It might be the worst trophy in all of college sports, but it does once again belong to Penn State after the Lions snapped a two-game losing streak against Michigan State.

— Compiled by Cory Giger

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