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Shaka Toney makes a valuable contribution on Penn State’s special teams

Toney, who said he hasn't played on special teams before, blocked a 46-yard field goal attempt that set up a touchdown drive in the Nittany Lions' 28-7 victory.

Penn State's Jan Johnson, right, hits Michigan State's Darrell Stewart (25) in the end zone on an attempted pass reception.
Penn State's Jan Johnson, right, hits Michigan State's Darrell Stewart (25) in the end zone on an attempted pass reception.Read moreAl Goldis / AP

EAST LANSING, Mich. – For a guy who said he never played on special teams before, Shaka Toney sure made an impact on the unit on Saturday.

Penn State’s starting defensive end knifed through the line and blocked a 46-yard field-goal try by Michigan State’s Chris Coghlin, setting up a drive that ended in a 27-yard touchdown pass from Sean Clifford to KJ Hamler and helped fuel the sixth-ranked Nittany Lions’ 28-7 win over the Spartans.

Toney, a redshirt junior who starred at Imhotep Charter, said he saw something on film about the way one of the Spartans’ blockers on field goals lined up.

“I’m thinking, ‘I’ve got this one,’ just because of the way the guy was aligned,” Toney said. “He was kind of turned giving a lot of shoulder toward [tackle Antonio Shelton], so I could swim the gap. Coach [Sean Spencer] got me ready for it. I practiced it all week, and it felt good.

“It was funny. When the ball hit me, I couldn’t find it. I’m like, ‘Oh man, where’s the ball?’ I know it hit me in the head, right in the face mask. It was cool.”

A rash of penalties

Penn State entered the game 11th in the nation in fewest penalties at 4.7 per game, but second in most yards per penalty at 11.0.

The Nittany Lions topped both numbers Saturday, with season highs of nine penalties and 104 yards (11.6 per penalty), including three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and one ejection, Shelton.

Head coach James Franklin was not pleased and let his team know it after the game.

“It was addressed, very clear, very direct, and we’ll do it again on Sunday,” he said. “That’s not who we are. I think the people who’ve covered us for six years, I can be criticized for a lot of things, and I don’t think that’s one. We play a disciplined style of football around here. I take a lot of pride in the 700,000 fans and alumni we represent.”

More futility for Hamler

Speaking of penalties, for the second straight week, speedster KJ Hamler scored a return touchdown that was wiped out because of a yellow flag.

Iin the fourth quarter, Hamler caught a punt and returned it 50 yards, but Jesse Luketa was called for running into the kicker. One week earlier, Hamler returned the second-half kickoff 100 yards for an apparent score, but that was nullified by a holding penalty.

“This stuff happens,” Hamler said. “I think it’s just football. It doesn’t really affect me. Sometimes, I think we all block good, and we all do good and contribute our 1/11th on the field, so I don’t really have a problem with it. I’ve just got to go get it another time.”