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Penn State’s Shareef Miller finds some unpleasantness while trying to claim a fumble against Rutgers

Miller said he got punched by at least two Rutgers players in the pile and was assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after taking off his helmet because he couldn't see.

Penn State's Shareef Miller during the Nittany Lions' win over Wisconsin last Saturday.
Penn State's Shareef Miller during the Nittany Lions' win over Wisconsin last Saturday.Read moreCHRIS KNIGHT / AP

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Shareef Miller was at the bottom of the pile that assembled to try to recover a fumble Saturday, when he realized he finally had had enough.

The Penn State defensive end from George Washington High School took the first shot at the fumble that came loose when linebacker Micah Parsons sacked Rutgers quarterback Artur Sitkowski on the final play of the first quarter in the Nittany Lions' 20-7 win. He had his hands on the ball when Wrestlemania broke loose.

"I had the ball, and a guy from Rutgers grabbed me in the area where he wasn't supposed to grab me and punched me in the stomach," Miller said. "Another guy grabbed my arm, and then No. 54 [Kamaal Seymour] got me real upset. He was over top of me, and he fell on me with his fist and threw a punch at me."

Miller took his helmet off, earning him a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, and scrambled to his feet. Rutgers wound up with the football.

"My helmet was already messed up, so I couldn't really see nothing," he said. "That's why I took my helmet off. But, it is what it is at the end of the day."

Miller had one of the Lions' four sacks and now has seven for the season, second on the team.

Looking to finish

The Nittany Lions entered the game with an 80 percent (32 of 40) touchdown rate in the red zone, but they managed just two in six trips Saturday. They also had to settle twice for short field goals – 22- and 19-yard kicks by freshman Jake Pinegar — after driving inside the Rutgers 5-yard line.

"Yeah, you want to finish those type of drives, that is critical," head coach James Franklin said. "I'm trying to look at the big picture, and we've been pretty good this year. Even today, we were 4-of-6 [in red-zone scoring], and we've been even better than that. But we have to score touchdowns, but I do think the experience that our field goal kicker is getting is valuable too."

Miles Sanders had a chance to score from the 2 with 10 seconds left in the half but was stopped short.

"I think we've got a very young team, and we've got a lot of young guys playing," he said. "It's just stuff like that. We've just got to grind on, keep playing, not get too frustrated. We've got a lot of football left, and we have to keep going."

A new look

The Nittany Lions had several offensive plays in which they lined up two running backs, usually Sanders and backup Ricky Slade, on either side of Trace McSorley for the first time this season.

"I just think that gives us an option, being able to utilize both those guys in different ways," McSorley said. "It's one of those things where it presents another look to defenses. Now, they kind of have to think about how they're going to defend two true running backs and two true playmakers in the backfield."

Nittany Notes

Two offensive linemen, tackle Ryan Bates (Archbishop Wood) and guard Connor McGovern, left the game with unspecified injuries. McGovern returned to the game in the fourth quarter but Bates did not return. … Linebacker Cam Brown, who had started all 10 games, sat out the first half for what Franklin called "a small violation of team rules." Brown played the entire second half. … Blake Gillikin averaged 48.7 yards on six punts, including efforts of 70 and 67 yards. Three of the punts were touchbacks, the other three gave Rutgers the ball at its own 12, the 8, and the 16.