STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - With one last singing of the university alma mater and an unemphatic trot off their home field, Penn State's seniors solemnly bade farewell to a half-empty Beaver Stadium.
Unlike the euphoria that followed the Nittany Lions' last two regular-season finales - both upset victories - Saturday's postgame emotion wasn't savored.
"Because we lost the game," senior linebacker Mike Hull said after the 34-10 drubbing by Michigan State. "It wasn't a good feeling. We got our butts kicked, so we just wanted to get out of there and get away from it."
The Lions (6-6, 2-6 Big Ten) anticipate their first bowl invitation since 2011 in the coming weeks, offering a silver lining to an otherwise anticlimactic senior day. But the excitement over a shot at postseason play had hardly sunk in for a senior class that lost a shot at a victory over the 10th-ranked Spartans.
"Right now, they're not thinking about that," coach James Franklin said of the bowl game. "It's the disappointment of today. I do think it does help in that locker room a little bit, the fact that it's not completely over."
Penn State honored 17 seniors prior to the game. Hull said the senior day aspect of the game was a big emphasis all week, adding that the worst part of the game was "the fashion that we went out in, at Beaver Stadium in front of these fans."
Michigan State running back Jeremy Langford broke through the Lions defense for 118 rushing yards and two touchdowns, despite a standout day from Hull, who led the Lions with 13 tackles. The middle linebacker's total of 134 tackles is more than twice that of any teammate.
Seniors Bill Belton and Sam Ficken, however, had less-than-banner days in their final home outings. Belton had just one carry, and Ficken made 1 of 2 field-goal attempts after misfiring on the opening kickoff - which was fielded short and returned for a touchdown.
"A lot of kids are sad to see it go, obviously myself included," Ficken said of the regular season. "But we get to go to a bowl game. So it's something we have to throw out the window right now and go back to work."