STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Judging from the plays Penn State called late in its 45-12 victory Saturday over Michigan State, there might have been some payback involved.
Leading, 38-12, Penn State took over at its 17 with 4 minutes, 26 seconds to play and went 83 yards on two completions by Trace McSorley, 43 yards to Juwan Johnson and 40 yards to Andre Robinson for its final touchdown with 3:40 to play and the Beaver Stadium crowd in full celebration mode.
One year ago, Michigan State laid a 55-16 crushing on the NIttany Lions, with starting center Jack Allen scoring its last touchdown. Penn State coach James Franklin denied that Saturday's late passing was related to that game, although he did admit on his radio show last week that the 2015 game did not sit well with him.
He said that the late series was simply a matter of his team "running our offense" and that "you want to end the game on your terms, and if they're going to play a solid defense to force us to throw the ball, that's what we're going to do."
"We were focused on what we saw on the field this year. We are finding a way to be successful against Michigan State and Coach [Mark] Dantonio's great program. That was it. We haven't beaten Michigan State since 2009 and if we're going to go and chase all those ghosts, we wouldn't be able to find the time to focus on the team we play this year."
Asked about the late touchdown, Dantonio said, "You know what they say about payback. It was 55-16 last year. I guess they felt it. We have to make the play to stop them."
When the clock ticked down on Penn State's victory, Franklin headed toward midfield. He not only had a television interview to do and Michigan State hands to shake, but he also had many people to thank, including the Penn State administrators who stood behind him through criticism early in the season.
After his television interview, he enveloped athletic director Sandy Barbour, university president Eric Barron, and Barron's wife, Molly, in a hug. Franklin and Barbour spoke, but the coach said he couldn't remember what she said.
"She was smiling, Eric Barron was smiling, Molly was smiling; I don't know," Franklin said. "It was like the mom on Charlie Brown on the phone. It wasn't that I wasn't paying attention; I was so excited in the moment and she smiled and I didn't need to say anything and she didn't need to say anything. We just hugged."
"Then I hugged President Barron, kissed Molly, I kissed Sandy," Franklin added, "and then I told President Barron that he was getting a kiss too whether he liked it or not."
Penn State defensive end Garrett Sickels said he did not know what happened in the Ohio State-Michigan game until midway through the fourth quarter of his team's contest when he spoke with fellow defensive end Evan Schwan.
"I didn't pay attention to any of it," he said. "I completely forgot about that game, to be honest. It wasn't until eight minutes left in the fourth and there was a timeout and I was like, 'Dude, we've got eight minutes left. I don't know what happened in the Ohio State-Michigan game. As long as we win, I'll be happy.'