Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

October 10, 2018 at 9:28 am.

Nittany Lions looking to close out games

A year ago, Penn State wasn’t able to keep a heartbreaking, one-point loss to Ohio State from turning into a two-game losing skid on a last-second field goal at Michigan State.

The No. 8 Nittany Lions (4-1, 1-1) need to do just that if they want to keep their outside shot at a Big Ten championship and possible College Football Playoff berth alive when the Spartans (3-2, 1-1) visit Beaver Stadium on Saturday.

“I’m very, very pleased with the direction of the program and where we’re going, but we’ve got to fight to get to that next level,” Penn State coach James Franklin said.

“We have to fight to get to that next stage, and like I said, it’s not going to be any one moment, where you have this ‘ah-ha’ moment and the light goes on. It’s that daily grind on little things that most people overlook.”

With an extra week of rest — and down time to think about another one-point loss to the Buckeyes — Franklin believes his team is ready to shake off any bad feelings lingering after it surrendered a 12-point lead over the final eight minutes.

Before that, Nittany Lion defenders had played close to lights out against Ohio State’s vaunted offense. They shouldn’t have as tough of a challenge against a Michigan State offense that ranks 83rd overall in the country and Penn State’s defense is focused on finishing.

“As a unit, we’re moving on,” linebacker Cam Brown said. “We’re trying to think of ways that we can fix the problems. It’s not like a continuous problem that’s going on. I feel like each game it’s something a little bit different.”

Matching the intensity of the Michigan State rushing defense could be tough, however.

The Spartans have held opponents to just 34 rushing yards per game and have allowed just four touchdowns so far.

“I think our defense played really well last week against one of the best offenses in the country, but we’ve still got work to do,” Franklin said.