Penn State defensive tackle Antonio Shelton was suspended by the program for one game — and received a public reprimand from the Big Ten — for spitting at a Michigan State player Saturday.
Head coach James Franklin announced Shelton’s suspension after practice Tuesday, with the Big Ten issuing the public reprimand minutes after his announcement.
“Based on the activities in the fourth quarter with Antonio Shelton, he’s been suspended,” Franklin said. “We’ll move on from there.”
The Big Ten’s public reprimand for violating the conference’s sportsmanship policy included the fact “he spit at an opposing player,” and the conference also voiced support over the program’s decision to suspend Shelton. The redshirt junior will miss the Nittany Lions’ next game, a Nov. 9 contest on the road against unbeaten Minnesota.
In Penn State’s 28-7 win over Michigan State on Saturday, Shelton was seen exchanging words with center Matt Allen near the 7:30 mark of the fourth quarter. He appeared to spit in Allen’s direction, and an official instantly called an unsportsmanlike conduct and ejected him from the game.
The ejection would have still allowed for Shelton to play in the next contest — but Franklin took it upon himself to suspend the defensive tackle. The Big Ten simply supported the move.
Shelton apologized on Twitter immediately following Saturday’s victory.
“I would like to apologize for my actions during tonight’s game,” he wrote Saturday night. “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.”
Shelton’s penalty was one of three unsportsmanlike conducts on the Nittany Lions in the fourth quarter. The first was called on safety Lamont Wade, and the third came against safety Jaquan Brisker after he celebrated an interception by miming shooting an arrow. And Franklin was none too pleased with his team’s behavior.
“I’m not happy at all with any of those things,” Franklin said Saturday night. “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.”
Shelton has played in 27 career games and has started each of Penn State’s eight games this season alongside fellow DT Rob Windsor. Shelton has nine tackles, 2.5 tackles-for-loss and a half-sack on the year.
Without him against the Golden Gophers, sophomore PJ Mustipher and redshirt sophomore Fred Hansard will likely replace him. Both are more than capable; despite not starting, both players actually have more production than the veteran space-eater.
Hansard boasts nine stops and 3.5 tackles-for-loss, while Mustipher is second among all interior linemen — behind Windsor — with 21 tackles and 3.5 stuffs in the backfield.
“Our confidence is high in him,” Franklin said, referring to Mustipher. “We viewed him basically as a starter for us anyway. We think Rob can handle more reps; we think PJ can handle more reps — and I think that’s how it’ll play out.”
This will be the first game Shelton does not see the field for the blue-and-white since Dec. 30, 2017, when the Nittany Lions beat Washington in the Fiesta Bowl.
Penn State is on bye this week, before taking on Minnesota at noon Nov. 9 at TCF Bank Stadium. It’s the first time since 2008 that Penn State is 8-0; it’s the first time since 1941 that Minnesota is 8-0.