GLENDALE, Ariz. – When Washington took the field Saturday for its first possession of the Fiesta Bowl, defensive end Shareef Miller was nowhere to be found unless you looked to the Penn State sideline.
Miller, a 6-foot-5, 257-pound redshirt sophomore from George Washington High School, did not play a single snap in the first half. ESPN reported early in its telecast that Miller and fellow defensive end and Philadephian Shaka Toney (Imhotep Charter) had been suspended for the game.
As it turned out, Miller started the second half and played the rest of the way. Toney, a redshirt freshman, did not make an appearance and left the field during the victory ceremony for the Nittany Lions after their 35-28 win over the Huskies.
Asked about the day for the two players, head coach James Franklin said tersely, “That was the rotation we had for the game.”
Told about Franklin’s answer, Miller said, “I don’t really want to get too much into that.”
“I felt helpless,” he said. “That was kind of like the worst, to sit on the sidelines, because I worked so hard to get my opportunity to be a starter here at Penn State. I had that taken away from me in the first half, so that was real tough on me.”
Miller said he continued to cheer his teammates on from the bench and spoke to the defensive ends on the sidelines about what he has seen on the field, “telling them what to expect and what not to expect.”
Once he got into the game, Miller said he was “like a caged animal getting released out of the cage.”
Miller ended up with one of team’s four sacks of Washington quarterback Jake Browning. That gave him the 2017 team leads with five sacks five and 11 tackles for loss.
Toney was not in the locker room at the time media members were allowed inside.
Hamilton’s fine ending
Fifth-year senior wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton closed out his career with the Lions in style, catching five passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns. He was especially happy to be able to perform like that in front of his older brother, Darius, who has non-verbal autism.
“Having a game like this on the big stage and getting a win with this team means a lot,” Hamilton said. “For my brother and for the rest of my family, I had a lot of people come out, and for them to see me play well and to see us end the season with a win, it was really special.”
Hamilton laughed when he was informed that ESPN cameras caught his brother eating after he scored both of his touchdowns.
“You should see the things he eats at home,” he said. “The first couple of years growing up, he used to eat only McDonald’s every day.”
Even though his team trailed, 28-7, in the second quarter, Washington coach Chris Petersen said he thought the Fiesta Bowl “would come down to the wire.”
“But credit to Penn State,” he said. “They’re a good team. They are a top-10 team, and I think we’re right there as well. They got that lead on us and got us on our heels, and it’s hard to catch a really good team when you get that big of a lead.”
Petersen said Saquon Barkley was “probably as good as advertised.”
“He’s a big, strong, athletic guy,” he said. “He must have jumped us four times and outrun us. What did we say, we knew if he got a step, he’s really, really fast. I think he’s an excellent player.”