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PENN STATE: Miller Shows Confidence

September 30, 2018
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PENN STATE: Miller Shows Confidence

STATE COLLEGE — Penn State and Ohio State have had their share of nip-and-tuck battles over the years, but the war of words doesn’t usually get played out before the kickoff.

It started quite a bit before that Saturday.

During an interview with ESPN that aired during the network’s popular GameDay program, Nittany Lions defensive end Shareef Miller made a comment that drew some attention from the Buckeyes, namely their star quarterback Dwayne Haskins.

Asked how the Nittany Lions planned to corral the quarterback who entered the game having thrown 16 touchdown passes against just one interception this season, Miller said, “Just hit him.”

Then, he went on.

“A couple of guys on our team played with him,” Miller said. “They told me, if you hit him a lot of times, he’s going to fold.”

Haskins evidently saw the comment and responded via his Twitter account.

“You poking the wrong lion buddy...#Shhh,” Haskins wrote.

The words spilled over onto the field. With 12:48 left in the second quarter, and after Haskins was picked off by Lions safety Garrett Taylor, Haskins and Miller were both flagged for unsportsmanlike fouls for a post-play tussle.

Haskins likely took issue with the insinuation that he would fold, considering the idea of hitting him had been a popular topic of conversation all week leading up to the White Out game.

Entering the game Saturday, Ohio State quarterbacks had been sacked just six times, and excluding a first-half challenge from TCU on Sept. 15, Haskins and the Buckeyes offense have barely broken a sweat.

“We’re going to have to make him uncomfortable in the pocket and get to him,” head coach James Franklin said. “Some of that will have to be through pressure, but some of that’s going to have to be with four down.”

Franklin called the Buckeyes offensive line the best group he has seen at Ohio State since he took over as Penn State’s coach before the 2014 season, which has made the task of getting to Haskins a near impossibility so far this season.

Penn State’s defense seemed to back up Miller’s claim, at least in the first half. Haskins completed just 7 of 16 passes for 62 yards and one touchdown — a 26-yard screen pass to J.K. Dobbins late in the half — plus an interception.

Great 8

Penn State running back Miles Sanders wore the No. 8 on Saturday night, a uniform switch for the junior designed to honor an injured teammate.

Senior Mark Allen had worn 8 before suffering a season-ending injury during the week leading up to the win over Illinois.

Earlier in the week, Sanders — who typically wears number 24 — raved about the impact Allen had on Penn State’s remaining running backs, saying his infectious attitude is what “brought joy” to the corps. He said the offense as a whole has taken inspiration from how Allen handled the news that his playing career with the Nittany Lions is over.

“He’s still so positive,” tackle Ryan Bates said. “He’ll still be around. It’ll still be the same hype-up, high-energy Mark. But yeah, obviously it’s a terrible thing what happened.”

In somewhat related news, defensive end Shaka Toney cast aside his typical No. 18 to wear No. 97 in honor of Ryan Buchholz, who had to retire before the season because of injury.

Day to reload

Of course, part of the excitement around the annual White Out game at Beaver Stadium centers on the impact it has on recruits.

This weekend, nearly 200 potential future Nittany Lions reportedly descended on campus to check out the atmosphere surrounding what many have been called the biggest Penn State home game in decades.

“I remember talking to some of the guys in the past, I think it was Jesse James one day said to me, ‘If you come to the White Out, you’re committing,’ Franklin said. “It’s like there’s no other option. You just get caught up in the energy and the enthusiasm and the excitement. Obviously, it’s an impactful day for us in terms of our future on the recruiting front.”

However, that does come with challenges.

Franklin pointed out that, because of special days like this, recruiting departments have had to expand greatly in number, the days when one recruiting coordinator can properly handle that many prospective student-athletes at one time obviously going the way of the triple option. He also said that while the potential is at its greatest to show the university and the program in the greatest possible of lights on days like this, resources are spread thin, from the coaches to the recruiting staff down to the parking attendants.

“I think as a football coach, my ultimate job is to make sure that our guys get great educations and are learning habits and lessons that they’re going to be able to take with them for the next 50 years of their lives,” Franklin said. “It’s also to make sure that they have a great football experience. I understand and am aware of the impact of what Penn State football also does for the community and can do for the university when handled the right way.”

Nittany notes

The Nittany Lions had a potential impact defensive lineman available for the first time this season, and a new one evidently at the ready. Defensive end Shane Simmons, who missed the first four games with a foot injury, went through warmups for the first time this season. Also, backup offensive guard C.J. Thorpe worked with the defensive tackles in warmups. That move may be out of necessity, as backup tackle Ellison Jordan missed his second consecutive game because of injury. ... Backup quarterback Tommy Stevens made his return to the field in the first half, and it wasn’t particularly glorious. He rushed three times for minus-12 yards, losing 13 yards on a lateral that appeared destined to be a throw. ... Former Penn State quarterback Kerry Collins served as the game’s honorary captain and was honored for his upcoming induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Contact the writer:

dcollins@timesshamrock.com;

570-348-9125;

@psubst on Twitter

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