Penn State coach James Franklin was not at all pleased with his team’s three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in the final quarter his team’s Saturday game against Michigan State.
On the second penalty, midway through the fourth, defensive tackle Antonio Shelton was ejected after he appeared to spit while exchanging words with Michigan State center Matt Allen. (He will still be able to play in the first half of the next game.) The Nittany Lions won 28-7, but Franklin told reporters the flags were addressed with his team immediately following the victory.
“I’m not happy at all with any of those things,” Franklin said. “We just had a very direct conversation in the locker room about those things. It was an emotional game — I’m not going to get into details with you guys during the whole game — I’m not going to make excuses. We’re going to own it all.
“That’s not who we are, and that’s not who we will be, and it was addressed today. And it will be addressed Sunday after we watched the tape and the team meeting.”
Safety Lamont Wade was called for the first unsportsmanlike conduct, after linebacker Ellis Brooks recovered a Michigan State fumble at the start of the quarter. The second came from Shelton, following an incompletion. And the third was on safety Jaquan Brisker, after he intercepted a pass and celebrated by miming shooting an arrow.
When Brisker walked back to the sideline, Franklin covered his mouth while shouting at the safety.
When asked how Franklin addressed the penalties in the locker room, quarterback Sean Clifford called it “family business” and declined to go into detail. “But,” he added, “we have a very emotional team and the bottom line is I love — and I know all these guys love — every single guy on our team.”
Cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields said “little things transpired” on the field that led to those unsportsmanlike conducts. Ultimately, he said, he just hopes fans understand they’re human.
“I don’t want to speak on it too much, but this is an emotional game played by emotional people,” he said. “So I think everyone has to remember that we’re human at the end of the day, and tempers are going to flare. You don’t have to be perfect, or try to be something you’re not; everybody just has to control their emotions.”
In the final quarter alone, Penn State was called for five total penalties for 65 yards. In the previous three quarters, Penn State had four flags for 39 yards.
Franklin said he knows — and understands — fans aren’t going to like to see that from the program. And he said this team is better than that, and they’ll discuss it again Sunday.
“It was addressed. Very clear, very direct — and we’ll do it again Sunday. That’s not who we are,” Franklin said. “And I think the people that covered us for six years — I can be criticized for a lot of things; I don’t think that’s one. We’ve played a disciplined style of football around here. I take a lot of pride in the 700,000 fans and alumni that we represent.”