STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Amani Oruwariye dove in a futile attempt to stop Felton Davis III on Michigan State's game-winning touchdown and remained on the turf at Beaver Stadium, too distraught to move until his Penn State teammates helped him up.
It was that kind of day Saturday for Oruwariye, a fifth-year senior considered one of the best cornerbacks in the Big Ten and perhaps the nation. As the Spartans began their drive to the TD that would give them a 21-17 victory over the Nittany Lions, he saw a potential interception on the second play slip through his fingers.
However, to a man, his teammates said they supported him.
"I just told Amani that I loved him, he played a great game," said defensive end Shareef Miller, a former George Washington High School standout. "He was battling. He was attacking the ball every time trying to get the interception."
"First and foremost, Amani is a helluva player," added safety Garrett Taylor. "He's meant a lot to this program. He's made a lot of big-time plays when we've needed them the most. Myself, the defense, this whole team, we have his back. We're not going to tell him to do anything different."
Oruwariye, who usually defends the opponent's top receiver, was in on four pass breakups in the game and leads the team with nine for the season.
"I love Amani," head coach James Franklin said. "He's made huge play after huge play for our program and will continue to do that. I love Amani and I wouldn't trade him for anybody. [NFL All-Pro] Richard Sherman is a great player, but I wouldn't trade him for Amani Oruwariye."
Those nagging mistakes
The Nittany Lions committed six penalties in the game, but two of them impacted Michigan State's first two touchdowns.
They mounted a goal-line stand that stopped the Spartans on three straight snaps from the 1 in the second quarter, but tackle C.J. Thorpe was called for unsportsmanlike conduct at the end of the third-down play. That gave the Spartans a first down, and they scored on the next play.
In the third quarter, defensive tackle Robert Windsor was called for holding after Michigan State failed to convert a third down, and the Spartans scored two plays later.
There were other mistakes. A 26-yard run off a fake punt by Connor Heyward kept alive a drive that resulted in the visitors' first TD.
"We could not have worked on fakes more than we did all week long," Franklin said. "On the punt, we had a guy in position to do his job, [but] he started running out for the punt return and by the time he recovered, it was way too late."
Miller contributed two tackles for loss, including a sack, and a quarterback hurry while chasing quarterback Brian Lewerke for most of the afternoon and early evening.
"I know I'm going to take a lot of reps in the game," Miller said, "so I kind of prepare my body during practice, just running to get my conditioning in and stuff like that."
But in the end, Lewerke, who completed less than 50 percent of his passes (24 of 52), found his target on five of eight attempts on the final drive, including the game-winner.
"We've just got to do a better job all around – special teams, offense, defense, outside of football," Miller said. "We've just got to take care of things and get better."