STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – It was something that was far too familiar to eighth-ranked Penn State – a second straight blown lead in the fourth quarter resulting in another disappointing defeat at home.
The 21-17 loss Saturday to Michigan State marked the fifth loss – by a combined margin of 12 points – in the last 29 games for the Nittany Lions. The common theme was that the Lions had led in the fourth quarter of all those defeats.
Penn State had suffered an emotional 27-26 loss two weeks earlier to Ohio State. Head coach James Franklin said he did not see signs of his players failing to get over the loss during the week, but he will take a further look at it.
"Obviously after seeing the results, the first thing you question is, did we get over the loss from the previous game?" he said. "You're going to question that. I didn't see signs of that during our preparation. But let's be honest, that was an emotional game. I think we need to look at that, there's no doubt about it."
The Spartans trailed 17-14 through much of the fourth quarter before a 76-yard, eight-play drive led to the winning touchdown, a 25-yard pass from Brian Lewerke to Felton Davis III. After the game, players took responsibility for not doing more to help their team finish the game.
Safety Garrett Taylor had an interception in the third quarter but dropped a potential one on the Spartans' next-to-last drive in the fourth.
"That's what you come here for – big games, big stage," Taylor said. "I could have made a play that potentially could have put the game away and I didn't. I didn't step up when the team needed me the most. So I'll have to go back and work on my 1 percent."
Franklin had said after the Ohio State game that he wanted each of his players to improve 1 percent in meetings, practice, nutrition and other areas.
Miles Sanders, whose 162 rushing yards included runs of 78 and 48 yards, also said he and his teammates will have to work harder to get the season back on the right track, starting with Saturday's game at Indiana.
"That's our standard," Sanders said. "It starts tomorrow, watching extra film. Our practice habits have to change. We have to be more intense in practice, step it up. Starters have to keep practicing. I'll be practicing heavier if I have to. And I'll have to speak up more if I have to. We made way too many mistakes today."