Bittersweet Day for PSU Seniors

Rare home finale loss leaves Nittany Lion veterans and their coach wondering what might have been.

As Evan Royster began removing his uniform for the final time inside Beaver Stadium, he was met with a serious roadblock.

His jersey would not come off.

“My jersey is so tight to my body because of how it fits on my shoulder pads,” the senior running back said. “I ended up needing someone to help me take it off.”

While Royster's wardrobe malfunction was symbolic of his desire to remain a Nittany Lion, he felt his team's performance on Senior Day was not representative of the game's final score: Michigan State 28, Penn State 22.

“I don't think Michigan State was a better team than us today,” said Royster, who rushed for 85 yards and a touchdown. “We had some nice drives on offense, but penalties killed us on both sides of the ball. I'm looking forward to playing in the bowl game so we can show we're better than a 7-5 team.”

The Nittany Lion senior class was honored in a pre-game ceremony, with each player being individually introduced to a crowd of 102,649 fans on a wintry Saturday afternoon in Happy Valley.

The early cheers were quickly silenced, though, as Penn State (7-5, 4-4) came out flat and fell behind 14-3 at halftime. The No. 10 Spartans (11-1, 7-1), who earned a share of the Big Ten regular season title with the win, benefitted from eight Penn State penalties that all seemed to come at crucial times.

Penn State did stage a valiant fourth-quarter comeback, but an onside kick in the game's final minute was recovered by Michigan State. It was the Lions' first loss on Senior Day since falling 31-27 to Tom Brady and Michigan in 1999.

For senior linebacker Chris Colasanti, it was a bittersweet day.

“This is not how we wanted it to end,” said Colasanti, who led the team in tackles with 10. “I feel like it was yesterday when I was a freshman and walked out onto that field for the first time. I'm upset we couldn't pull out a win, but I truly feel blessed for having played (at Penn State).”

When asked to assess the 2010 Nittany Lions senior class, Colasanti spoke glowingly of his teammates, describing how tight a group they are and how much they've improved as players over the past four years.

Head coach Joe Paterno, on the other hand, was far more reluctant to shower praise on Colasanti and his teammates.

Throughout the season, Paterno pressed the team's seniors to increase their leadership roles, and while some responded, the 83-year old coach was clearly disappointed with certain members of his graduating class.

“I'm going to miss some seniors, and others not, obviously,” Paterno said. “There weren't enough of them to show the senior leadership you'd expect from the senior class. Overall, it was a tough year for them, but they were able to hang in there for the most part. I know a couple of guys are thinking about the NFL, but I'm not sure if they should or shouldn't.”

Although he did not identify the players he was alluding to, there was a belief that his comments may have been directed toward Royster, a player who came back to raise his stock for the NFL Draft, but ultimately saw his production drop.

“Bad things happen, but I don't regret my decision,” Royster said. “I'm happy I came back and experienced all the things seniors get to experience. The team and I didn't have the season we hoped to have, but it doesn't mean you're going to go back and cry about it.”


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