STATE COLLEGE, PA. – Joey Julius has become a fan favorite for Penn State this season, hustling down the field and using his 5-10, 258-pound body to deliver hits most kickers simply don’t make.
He made another one early in Saturday’s victory over the Gophers, getting a piece of returner Jalen Myrick. On the next kick, Julius got knocked down by Gophers linebacker Jaylen Waters, who kept the kicker pinned to the ground for an extended moment, drawing boos.
Things turned ugly after Penn State took a 20-13 with a touchdown late in the third quarter. The next kickoff was a touchback, but Waters still leveled Julius with a hit near the 27-yard line.
Julius lay face down on the ground, as the crowd howled its disapproval. The officials ejected Waters for unsportsmanlike conduct. Several Penn State players and coaches stalked angrily onto the field, and tensions simmered.
“I don’t have much comment,” Gophers coach Tracy Claeys said. “I’ll take care of that.”
Claeys had an extended conversation with Penn State coach James Franklin at midfield after the game. Asked if the Waters hit came up, Claeys said, “That’s between me and [Franklin].”
Said Franklin: “Coach Claeys said … he is going to take care of that. I appreciate him saying that. It was an emotional game.”
Later in his postgame media session, Claeys made it clear where he stood.
“Nobody has more pride and cares about the game of football more than me,” he said. “There may be some who have equal, but I care about the game. I care about protecting the game, and I don’t believe in that. I’ll take care of it.
“So anybody who thinks that we coach that does not know us. This is a great game. It’s going to help a heck of a lot of people. You’re also dealing with kids who are doing things, and there are consequences for decisions.”
Asked how the ejection affected his team’s psyche, Claeys said, “I don’t know. I don’t have a psychology degree.”
More sad news
Gophers defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel lost his father, John, to cancer in August. And after the loss came news that offensive coordinator Jay Johnson’s father, Dick, died Saturday.
“I ask the U of M Fans to support Coach Johnson and his Family,” Claeys tweeted. “We were informed after the game that his father passed today! Go Gophers!”
Dick Johnson was a longtime football coach in Lakeville. He not only coached his son, but he also was the quarterbacks coach for Mitch Leidner at Lakeville South.
Before the game, Penn State announced that police received information about a potential threat at Beaver Stadium but that extensive police searches found no evidence of potential risk. Both teams were made aware.
“All I know was there was some type of threat,” Claeys said. “So we told the team, and like I said, I trust law enforcement.”
Gophers linebacker Cody Poock suffered a right shoulder injury on the final play of the first quarter and did not return.
•Freshman defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr., made his first career start, as the Gophers went with their nickel package. Winfield finished with eight tackles, including 1½ tackles for a loss.