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  1. #21
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    Penn state vs. Kent state: Recap



    Penn State 63-10 thrashing of Kent State at Beaver Stadium could have been even worse for the Golden Flashes if not for all of those costly PSU penalties. But can you really find fault with James Franklin's program for a 53-point win? Here are my takeaways from the Nittany Lions' third win of the season ...

    The Lions' defense was almost as impressive as the Penn State offense. The Lions' deep 'D' limited Kent State's up-tempo offense to 221 total yards on 77 plays, average of just 2.9 yards per play. The visitors were held to 72 second-half yards. The tackling was better and the PSU defensive line was everywhere as the Lions finished with 15 tackles for loss and seven sacks.

    Sean Clifford is going to be an impact player at Penn State ... eventually. The redshirt freshman completed his only pass against Pittsburgh to wideout Brandon Polk for a 34-yard touchdown. He played the whole fourth quarter vs. Kent State and went 3-for-3 for 141 yards and another score, this one a 95-yarder to true freshman wideout Daniel George. The 95-yarder is the longest scoring pass in PSU history and it was made possible, in part, from a great pump fake by Clifford from the Lions' end zone. Clifford, given an opportunity, tends to make the most of it.

    This Penn State offense could give the fabled 1994 offense a run for its money if it continues to develop. The Lions amassed 643 total yards, most by a PSU offense since 1994 (at Minnesota) and PSU produced plays of 95, 69, 41, 40, 39, 23 and 22 yards. The Lions have scored 159 points in three games.

    The Lions' young offensive linemen gained valuable experience and looked good on a limited number of snaps. Specifically, PSU turned to redshirt freshman Mike Miranda at left guard for a stretch and redshirt freshman C.J. Thorpe subbed for Connor McGovern at one point.

    Even when Kent State scored a touchdown, it had to work for it. I thought the Golden Flashes' only score, a 47-yard throw from quarterback Woody Barrett to Mike Carrigan, was a bit fortunate for the visitors. PSU was offside on the first-quarter play and Barrett knew he had a free shot, and Lions veteran corner Amani Oruwariye was in great position to make a play and just missed doing so.

    Young Squad Still Playing Young and Running Out of Time to Knock It the Heck Off

    The offense had five penalties for 74 yards, including bringing back three different Trace McSorley touchdown passes, and the Lions defense committed another four for 35 yards. Did the Lions pick up some bad habits from Pitt & Narduzzi last week?

    Tough to say, but that mess has got to go!

    I was hoping to see fewer dropped passes this week with no weather to exacerbate the ugly early-season trend, but the Penn State receivers let McSorley down a couple more times again this week. The pass-catching wasnít entirely an eye-sore though, as Deandre Thompkins and Brandon Polk each used soft hands to pull in beautiful touchdown passes that looked briefly to be out of reach.

    With only the Illinois Fighting Lovie Beards left to practice up on before Ohio State comes in for the White Out, this young and talented team is running out of time to shake the slop.

    Offensive Line Getting Meaner & Meaner

    Hoo boy, these boys are looking good! Ryan Bates looks barely even bothered by defensive ends. CJ Thorpe spelled Steven Gonzalez a fair bit in the second half, and his nasty reputation was on display. Michal Menet adjusted to a legit nose tackle right on his head, after an early false start, and Will Fries & Connor McGovern played nearly mistake-free ball.

    The results? Seven rushers combined for 297 rushing yards and a 6.6 yards per carry average. Miles Sanders took the most advantage, with 14 carries for 86 yards, and softened the Kent State D so much that McSorleyís three keeper scores looked effortless. Oh, and 6 for 6 in Red Zone touchdowns.

    When Trace dropped back to throw, the pocket protection was stellar and provided plenty of time for McSorleyís solid decision making. They only allowed one sack.

    When the fourth-quarter depth-management operations began, we saw former starter and 5th-year Senior Chasz Wright out there, underscoring the advancements this unit has made these past four years under Coach Franklin. The starters all have size, good footwork, more and more experience, and are still being challenged by young up-and-comers.

    Itís a beautiful thing.

    Wild Dogs Gettin Wilder

    Defensive Line Coach Sean ďChaosĒ Spencer has to be happy with the chaos his unit created today: seven sacks for minus 46 yards and 15 TFLs for minus 66 yards in toto. The Wild Dogs held five Golden Flash rushers to 41 yards on 37 carries. For you maff-heads out there, thatís a 1.1 yards per carry average, another drop-dead gorgeous thing to see.

    The depth and rotation management felt pretty smooth, as Brent Pryís staff continued to teach fans the players wearing those nameless jerseys. There are a lot of them.

    Tick tock, you donít stop. Doug E. Fresh taught us that, and thereís one week left before things get really, really, real.

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  3. #22
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    Coach franklin press conference: Illinois

    COACH FRANKLIN: Appreciate everybody coming out to cover Penn State football. Got some notes from the previous game and then get into some thoughts on our opponent this week and then open it to questions.

    But in the Kent State game, the one thing that we didnít do a good job of is protecting the football. That is going to be critical. Itís going to be a lot of what I talk about this week, because thatís something that Illinois does such a good job of is turnovers. So weíll talk about that a little bit more. But we didnít win the turnover battle. We had one interception, but the ball was on the ground too many times. And they had none.

    Penalties, although it didnít necessarily feel like that, because we were sloppier than weíve been. We won the penalty battle. We won the drive-start battle, which so far Blake has been a weapon for us.

    We won the sack battle pretty handedly, seven sacks to one. And then the explosive-play battle. We won that pretty handily as well, offensively, at 21 percent and defensively at five percent.

    Coaching staff, players of the week, on offense was Trace McSorley. On defense was Shareef Miller. And on special teams was a combination, we had two winners, K.J. Hamler and Isaac Lutz. Very pleased with those guys.

    In general, some comments, some of these I covered after the game. But number one, positive notes we won, 63-10. Two, we stayed healthy. Three, weíve got a lot of guys reps and experience, some for the first time. We had 11 guys play for the first time. Seven of those 11 were true freshmen.

    We were able to limit reps of our starting unit, which is going to be obviously important this week with the turnaround. And then I saw some really good examples of discipline, which we talk about with our guys all the time.

    So it was a couple of penalties, one specifically on the sideline where their guy was shoving and pushing us, and one guy took a swipe at us after the whistle. And we didnít respond.

    And we talk about that all the time with our players, because if we would have responded, it would have been either unsportsmanlike conduct on both teams or a lot of times the second guy in is the one that gets the penalty.

    So we didnít respond. They got the penalty. Thatís an opportunity. Thatís a time that you have to swallow your pride. These guys are prideful guys and they want to defend themselves. And you canít. You walk away. So I thought that was a real positive.

    Opportunities for growth, weíve got to be more consistent in all three phases. Defensively weíve got to eliminate the presnap penalties, those three offside penalties. Obviously, especially the way they played out, our free yards and free opportunities that we gotta take away. And then offensively we took 21 points off the board with two holding penalties and a pass interference. Weíve got to be better there.

    The one holding penalty was not a holding penalty. It looked like it. Menet got called for it. If you watch the play Menet got locked up on the guy and the guard comes and knocks the nose over. And if youíre watching it and you just see the end of the play, you think Menet pulled him down but what really happened is the guard just came in and cleaned him up. So it is what it is. But in my opinion that was not a penalty.

    Getting into Illinois, obviously got tremendous respect for Lovie Smith and his career, what heís been able to do. His third season as the head coach at Illinois, 14th year of head coaching experience. Illinois, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears. 19 years of NFL coaching experience. 11 as a head coach. One Super Bowl appearance as a head coach and one as defensive coordinator with the Rams.

    Look at what he was able to do with the Chicago Bears -- three division titles, two NFC Championship game appearances, a Super Bowl appearance, AP Coach of the Year in 2005. And is the third winningest coach in Chicago Bears history. So obviously the guyís won a lot of games and is a very, very good football coach.

    They returned 17 of 29 starters. And we think weíre going to have some challenges. Thereís no doubt. It looks like this week, looking at their depth charts, theyíre going to have some guys back that havenít been available to them that they feel like are some of their better players.

    Rod Smith is a first-year offensive coordinator there. Is an old Rich Rod guy in terms of system and scheme. Heís been at Arizona. You look at the numbers that they were able to put up when he was the offensive coordinator at Arizona with Khalil Tate. They did some great things.

    Was at Indiana as a co-offensive coordinator. Before that was at South Florida. Heís a veteran offensive coordinator. Theyíve got five returning starters. Theyíre an 11 personnel team 70 percent of the time, about.

    Though they will go some 12 personnel and 20 personnel about ten percent of the time. Thereís a lot of carry-over with what our defense saw at Kent State and from our offense.

    They use multiple two-by-one and three-by-one sets. They run split-flow zone read. They run the stretch play. And they read that as well. The same thing with the counter. Play-action pass, screens and boots a lot.

    They put up pretty good numbers statistically offensively. Itís going to be a challenge for us. Both their starting quarterback AJ Bush, who I think has a hamstring pull and missed last weekís game, as well as the backup, M.J. Rivers, have both played really well. Theyíre both completing over 60 percent of their passes.

    Running back, Mike Epstein, who weíre familiar with, is from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is averaging seven yards a carry. Reggie Corbin, the backup, is averaging 6.5 yards a carry. Then theyíve got a wide receiver, Ricky Smalling, weíre impressed with all those guys. And some of the guys weíre obviously aware of through the recruiting process.

    Defensively, Lovie has a defensive background as well as Hardy Nickerson, the defensive coordinator. Been there three years, played in the NFL for 16 years, got a tremendous background. Seven returning starters, seven starters returning for them. Theyíre well-sound. Theyíre opportunistic.

    I think the biggest factor in this game, no doubt about it is going to be turnovers. I think theyíve gotten a turnover in 17 straight games. They have not turned the ball over this year. One of only a few programs in the country that has done that. And theyíve gotten multiple turnovers in almost every game this season. Thatís going to be the storyline of the game. Thatís what theyíre doing a really good job of.

    There are four-down front. Theyíre going to play cover one, cover two. In the back end, overall 15 percent pressure, 14 percent normal downs and 25 percent on third down.

    Weíve been impressed with their productive linebacker, No. 35, Jake Hansen. Their nose tackle Tymir Oliver, who is from Philadelphia, West Catholic. Whenever I see that, I always kind of look back and say: Why is there a guy from Philadelphia playing for Illinois and not Penn State? Obviously we didnít do a good enough job there because not only is he a good player but heís a captain. We always revisit those things. And then DB, No. 31, Cameron Watkins, weíve been impressed with him.

    Special teams, Bob Ligashesky, Iíve known him a long time. Bob is a PA guy, heís done a nice job for them. Heís got 15 years of collegiate experience as well as 12 years of NFL experience. I think you hear that a lot.

    A lot of NFL experience on this staff. Theyíre returning five of their seven starters on special teams. Weíre impressed with linebacker No. 10, James Knight. Kicker, No. 43, Chase McLaughlin, seven field goals, a long of 54. I think heís the record-holder in Illinoisí program history of field goals over 50 yards. I think heís got four of them.

    And then 16 touchbacks this season. So a really strong leg. And just like everybody else in college football, they have an Australian punter who does a nice job, a nice job for them as well.

    So just kind of wanted to give you some overview, some thoughts, some ideas. I like where weíre at. Itís going to be important that we practice well today and take another step in the right direction. So open it up to questions.

    Q. Whatís been the biggest challenge in preparations this week and how have the players adjusted?

    COACH FRANKLIN: For the players, I think itís easy. You think about all the freshmen we have playing, theyíre used to playing Friday night. For them theyíre good. And we were very specific all summer about planning of how we were going to handle this week.

    I think we have a really good plan for it. I felt good. I thought yesterdayís practice was excellent. I thought Sundayís practice was excellent.

    I like where weíre at. Weíre not talking about this week any other way than this is game week. I do not like talking about it any different than that, because I think it has a psychological effect and we wonít do that.

    Weíve got the same days, amount of days to get ready that Illinois does. So I kind of voiced some of my thoughts before this week started. But now that itís this week, this is game week for us.

    So weíve embraced it. We got, like I said, I think we got a really good plan from our strength staff, as well as our administrative staff, as well as our sport scientists and studying all these things and I like our plan. I feel good about it.

    Q. I wanted to ask you about your red-zone success this year. Offensively I think you guys are 16-for-16 with 15 touchdowns and youíve been good defensively, just four touchdowns on eight possessions. How much do you emphasize that? And are there one or two things that you see that maybe explain that hot start?

    COACH FRANKLIN: Well, yeah, I think we emphasize it. Thereís no doubt about it. I think weíve done a good job in opening drives. Weíve emphasized the importance of starting fast.

    Right now, as you know, as a coach, you donít always spend a whole lot of time on the things youíre doing well. You focus on the things you think you should do better. Weíve had a lull in the second quarters of games.

    Instead of just saying, weíve got a lull in the second quarter games, we need to study that. Why do we have a lull in the second game? Is there some things we can do in terms of being very strategic and intentional about that, to study our second quarter plans. And is there some things we can do to help ourselves there?

    Thereís no doubt that weíre scoring touchdowns at a high rate in the red zone. And that usually puts your team in a really good position to be successful.

    Red zone, youíve really got two different storylines. And I think a lot of people focus on touchdown success in the red zone compared to field goals. Field goals, if youíre kicking field goals in the red zone thatís going to come back to get you beat at some point. So obviously we emphasize the touchdowns.

    But I think the other thing thatís probably just as important is red zone trips. Thatís something that we spend a lot of time talking about as well. You want to get into the red zone as much as you possibly can. Thatís probably even a stronger indicator of offensive success than anything. The more times you get to the red zone, good things are going to happen for your ball club. So we talk about that a lot.

    But I think Trace obviously has got a good feel for that. I think Ricky has done a really good job for the offensive staff at having a plan and how your offense needs to change in the red zone.

    I think one of the things that weíve done a good job of is getting into 12 personnel, which is something we hadnít done in the past, and being able to run the ball and be more physical in that area of the field, which typically your playbook shrinks because you lose your vertical passing game in some of those shots down there.

    So the best teams typically, year in and year out, in red zone performance are the ones that run the ball the best. So I think thatís helped us as well.

    So we spend a lot of time talking about situational football, understanding how to operate in those different areas and those different field zones and those different situations. And I think our guys have embraced it.

    Q. Youíre just talking about situational football. Youíve scored just before halftime in all three games and then you add in the tying touchdown in the fourth against App State. Whatís been the key that youíve seen to your 2-minute offense so far?

    COACH FRANKLIN: I mentioned this last week to you guys, if you go back to even our first game, weíve been pretty good in two-minute situations, and we spend a lot of time on it. And I think the way we do it, instead of coming up with some arbitrary two-minute situations, using actual two-minute situations that weíve been through or that our guys have watched on Monday Night Football or whatever it may be, I think thereís a lot of value in that. And I think thatís helped us tremendously. I think obviously having an experienced quarterback factors into that as well.

    I donít think thereís any doubt about it, but I think I do think the way we train, the way we talk, the way we plan, I think helps too. So I think whenever youíre able to put those types of game-winning drives together, obviously that is critical to your success. But also being able to get some momentum before halftime changes the perplexion going in at halftime, or changes the feel when youíre coming out after the half. I donít think thereís any doubt about it.

    Like I said, we spend a lot of time talking through four-minute, talking through two-minute, talking through coming out. And I think where weíve probably done a better job is the game of football has changed. So some of these rules of how football is played and how situations should be handled has changed.

    When youíre running a different style of offense, you know, if youíre running a spread-style offense, your four-minute philosophy or your two-minute philosophy is different than if youíre a pro-style huddle team and you need to kind of grow and morph and understand those things and evolve.

    I think weíve spent a lot more time as coaches talking through situational football. I think one of the things that weíve done in terms of adding a tenth coach is that person having some more responsibility on game day, giving me someone to talk to other than the offense and defensive staff, someone that I can bounce ideas off of kind of throughout the game thatís not focused on the offense or defense. I think thatís been helpful as well.

    Now, as a staff coming in from practice and talking situational football, or something that came up in practice, or even during practice, talking to the players, or weíre doing a two-minute drive and thereís a situation thatís come up. Stop the clock, donít worry about the clock, bring the quarterbacks together, bring the coordinators together and talk through that situation and why weíre going to handle it a certain way.

    So I think weíve just been very intentional about it. And Iíve been pleased with what weíve been able to do. I think we all learn, we all learn based on how we practice and we all learn, Iím constantly -- I annoy the video staff and the administrative staff because whenever Iím watching college football or NFL football, if I see something Iím sending it so we can show our players during the week examples of guys that didnít handle things well and it comes back to bite the team in the rear end. So we spend a lot of time talking about all these things, and I think itís helped us.

    Q. How has Sean Clifford responded to being the backup quarterback the last couple of weeks? And how close is Tommy Stevens to returning?

    COACH FRANKLIN: Once again, we wonít get to talking about injuries and things like that. Again, I understand youíve got to ask the question. But Seanís done a really nice job in his role. Itís hard to argue. I think heís completed every single pass and 50 percent of them for touchdowns and one for the longest touchdown in the history of Beaver Stadium.

    So pretty good start. Pretty good start for him. Heís gotten a lot of reps over the last year and a half in practice. Heís extremely competitive. Heís extremely prideful. Itís very, very important to him. He is focused. Heís locked in.

    So I think in a lot of ways this has been a blessing in disguise. If Tommy had been taken the reps that he had been normally taking in practice and games, then maybe Sean wouldnít have been able to get this opportunity.

    So now weíve got three guys that have all played in games and played at a pretty high level. So I think in the long run this is a real positive for us.

    But we expect to have all three of those guys available for Saturday -- or Friday, thank you Chris for Friday, excuse me. We expect to have all those guys available for the game this week that happens to be on Friday.

    And I will share this with you: If we needed Tommy last week we could have played Tommy last week. So weíre just probably being a little more cautious than probably we need to be.

    Q. Penn State is traditionally one of the least penalized teams in the country. Numbers going up this year. Do you consider it a big issue at this point, and how do you get back to kind of the normal numbers here?

    COACH FRANKLIN: When you say Penn State, are you talking about like historically?

    Q. Both historically and with you.

    COACH FRANKLIN: I think itís something that -- we spend a lot of time having officials at practice and talking about the importance of it. I felt like this last game we had some things that I wasnít happy with because I felt like we extended drives and created opportunities.

    So for us, I think what we just try to do is we try to emphasize it every single day and talk about the importance of it. But weíre never probably going to go further than that, because I actually think it can have the opposite effect. So for us weíre going to stick to our plan and weíre going to stick to our process. And you know weíre still in a good place, but I agree with you. We need to be more disciplined.

    And I think itís magnified right now because of the type of penalties and the impact on the game theyíve had.

    Q. Special teams have been a real plus for you guys, the first three games. What are some of the keys to the success of your units? And are Hamler and Thompkins two of the most talented return men youíve seen in your coaching career?

    COACH FRANKLIN: Two of the most what? I would say our special teams has been inconsistent. I think our return game is more explosive right now than itís been based on, I think the point youíve made, is we have some guys that scare defensive coordinators, scare special teams coordinators and get everybody in the stadium sitting on the edge of their seat. Thatís what you want. Iíve been talking about that for a while.

    Last year we used Saquon for that very reason in some of those roles. But I think weíre in a good place right now. Weíve got multiple guys that can make plays with the ball in their hands. Thatís a good thing. Weíll continue to do that.

    I think our freshmen kickers have been -- I think, doing a really good job. Our kickoffs have been -- when he hits it right -- have been deep and put us in a really positive position to cover the kicks and limit opportunities.

    But I still think we can be a little bit more consistent there. But I think considering weíve got two true freshmen kicking for us, I think both of them have done a really good job. And I think the staff, Phil Galiano and the staff have done a really good job managing that.

    The one probably regret that I have is there was an opportunity on Saturday where we went for it on fourth down and obviously after the fact we should have kicked a field goal there. That would have been an opportunity, that would have been an opportunity to get another kick in the game that I didnít manage that as well as I should have.

    But overall, Iíve been pleased. But obviously weíve had a kickoff return for touchdown. Weíve got to make sure that that doesnít happen again. Weíve got to reduce the explosive plays.

    And then weíve two onsides kicks, one that I think weíll take responsibility for because I didnít think we were aligned correctly, way too much space in the middle of the field. And then the second one, they really didnít have, but they made a play on the ball. But weíve done some really good things. But weíve also given up some big plays. So weíve got to get those things cleaned up.

    Q. The two quarterbacks for Illinois, I guess the fifth-year senior who might play, might not, and the other is a true freshman, is there any difference stylistically or how you prepare? Do you assume Bush is going to play? Whatís your thinking on that situation?COACH FRANKLIN: We just have to prepare and assume that these guys will be back. And from everything weíve seen and weíve read we feel like -- excuse me, they feel like these are some of their better players from all the stuff that Iíve read.

    So, obviously, theyíll make an impact. I think thatís in the secondary area as well as the tight end. Theyíve got some guys that theyíre expecting back. So weíll plan accordingly, but again we can only do so much based on what we see on tape. Weíll adjust to what we find out on Friday. I almost said it again -- Friday.

    Q. After the game Saturday, you talked about studying sudden-change defense during the offseason. What was that process like? And were there changes that came about that and were they more philosophical or were you trying to do some things schematically in those situations?

    COACH FRANKLIN: Did you say sudden-change defense, is that what you said?

    Q. Sudden-change defense, yeah.

    COACH FRANKLIN: And then you were asking whether we changed some things schematically, is that what you said?

    Q. Yes.

    COACH FRANKLIN: Itís not like we change -- itís more of a mentality and talk to our guys on defense about what a great opportunity they have to go out and swing the momentum back. I think we played really good defense throughout that entire game and that showed up, that showed up obviously in the sudden change situation as well.

    Except for the penalties where we jumped offsides and gave them some opportunities and gave them some first downs, I thought we played some pretty salty defense throughout the game.

    Q. There are still only 13 black head coaches among 130 FBS teams, and this is one of the few games all season that will have one on both teams in the country. How do you feel about where the diversity issue is in coaching right now, and are you seeing strides being made or not?

    COACH FRANKLIN: Iíd love for us to get to a point where this really isnít even a conversation anymore. Obviously I donít think weíre there yet. But I remember thinking back as an assistant, when Tony Dungy and Lovie were playing against each other in a Super Bowl, and I said this is going to have an impact. And I think it did. I think it did especially in the NFL.

    I do think thereís a lot of progress that still needs to be made in college and probably the NFL as well. But at the end of the day I think all that anybody wants is that people have opportunities, and whether that is people of color, whether that is women, whether that is whatever it may be, that they have opportunities. And at the end of the day that the most qualified people get the job and that if you are going to take a chance or risk on someone that maybe is less qualified, that again the same opportunities are there.

    So I have so much respect for Coach and what he has done in his career. I think for me, I kind of look at guys like Lovie kind of coming up in this profession as kind of role models and mentors for me from a distance. I donít know Lovie as well as maybe some other guys.

    But again Iím working like crazy, number one, for Penn State. Iím working like crazy for our players. Iím working like crazy for our lettermen and for this community. Iím working like crazy for my family. But I also feel like I carry a little bit of that weight that Iím also working for thousands of young African-American football coaches all over the country that when someone gets into my position the success that we have here hopefully opens some opportunities for other guys in the future.

    Q. Mark Allen, Johnathan Thomas, Nick Scott all coming in focused on running back. Could you describe their journey to this point, all playing roles in different ways and what theyíve meant to the program development?

    COACH FRANKLIN: Theyíve been huge, all three of them. I went out of my way on Saturday in the locker room with the guys, with Johnathan Thomas. I donít know if thereís a better example of what we call the ultimate teammate. Complete team-first guy. Always has a smile on his face. Always is reaching out a helping hand to try to help a teammate, a young player, a rookie coming in, a veteran that may be going through something.

    Really important, his role on special teams. Never been a guy coming into my office asking for anything. He just wants an opportunity to earn, kind of very similar to what we got done talking about.

    Heís just been a fantastic teammate and a fantastic member of the team. I think thatís why you saw the sideline and the team respond the way they did when he scored that touchdown. So we kind of all have different stories and different paths. And heís got a long one. But couldnít be more proud of him and his role and how heís embraced it and what heís done.

    Nick Scott, you know, same deal. We asked Nick to change positions. I think I either saw a quote or read a quote where someone said, why did you move to defense back. And he said, I had 26 reasons to do it.

    I thought that was a really good quote by Nick. But heís done a great job. Talking about a guy that moved positions, was still learning how to play on the defensive side of the ball, but then ended up being a two-year captain, and thereís only been a handful of two-year captains in Penn State history. Heís one of them. One as a special teams guy and now defensive guy.

    And we have a short history of guys starting in the secondary at the safety positions that come in play one year and have really good years for us and for them. I think Nick is an example of that, one of the more respected players on the team.

    And Mark again is stuck behind maybe one of the better running backs in college football history. When he got opportunities, he made the most of them. For all of us, thatís hard. Thatís hard to sit behind a guy like that when the gameís really important to you, and I think the game is extremely important to Mark.

    And itís great to see him getting his opportunities right now and making the most of them. One of the things thatís interesting along this journey that we all go on through life, whether thatís as a player, whether thatís as a student, whether thatís as a son or a brother or as a father or as a coach, everybodyís journey is different.

    One of the things that weíve talked to Mark about is, you know, Mark thought that his blessing in life was football. And it is. But itís one of his blessings. And Mark has a much larger gift, and his gift is his ability to impact others in a positive way.

    You talk about a guy like Marcus Allen, what he did for our team, like K.J. Hamler is doing for our team right now. And Mark is one of those guys. Markís one of those guys that lights up a room when he comes into it. He lights up a locker room. He knows how to have fun. Thereís a time and place for everything.

    And I think thatís been probably an important part of Markís journey is realizing that, yeah, football is one of his gifts, and the type of intellect that he has in graduating from Penn State with still eligibility left is one of his gifts. But one of his greatest gifts is his ability to impact others in a positive way.

    So all three of those guys have had tremendous journeys and have been invaluable to the things that weíve been able to do over the last four years.

    Q. In keeping with the running backs, through the nonconference slate now, are you pleased with how the running back rotation has gone between Miles and Mark and Ricky? And do you see now going into Big Ten play Ricky and Mark continuing to get some run early in the game?

    COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, yeah, we continue to want to rotate those guys. I think whenever you play big-time college football you better have three backs ready that you feel like you can play with.

    Again, the other thing thatís going to factor in there is keeping our guys fresh for the fourth quarter, and then also keeping our guys fresh throughout the season. And thatís across the board at every position as well as our running backs. So, yeah, I like where weíre at.

    Ricky obviously has shown some really good things, but he also has been through some experiences that will create opportunity for growth with him, and those experiences are similar to what Miles has been through in his past and Mark has been through in his past.

    So weíve got two veteran guys that have played a lot of football and can make plays for us, and we have a young up-and-coming guy as well as some other guys.

    Weíll continue to try to rotate those guys. Obviously as the season goes on, some games there will be more rotation than others. Weíll just see -- typically we go into the game with a very specific plan by position. So itís going to be a one-to-one rotation. Itís going to be a two-to-1 rotation or a three-to-one rotation. Or this guy is the starter but weíre going to try to get this guys a series in the first half and a series in the second half, those types of things.

    And obviously as the game goes on, we stick to that plan but then the game can dictate some adjustments. But we want to have very specific plans about everything we do heading into it and then the game factors into that.

    So like, for example, the other day we had a rotation, well, then when we got to the point late in the game where we were up by enough points that we made some significant substitutions, that planís over. So weíve adjusted.

    So Iím trying to kind of have as many of these conversations ahead of time so that then Iím not having to manage these things during the game, although I still do at times.

    Q. Iím wondering, John Reid you said after week one he kind of had some rust to work off. And the way it came on the broadcast after Pitt was that it sounded like he was a healthy scratch the way they portrayed it. Is everything okay there, do you expect him back this week?

    COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, we expect John back.

    Q. What do you remember about Yetur Gross-Matos when you recruited him? Maybe it was Old Dominion when you first saw him in person.

    COACH FRANKLIN: Obviously we were recruiting him and aware of him and obviously got an opportunity to work with him at camps. But the same thing that probably you see now are the same things that jump out to you when we first saw him -- his length, his growth potential, his athleticism, the type of family that heís come from. Heís got a really strong support system at home. His grades, his film, flash some really good athleticism and then obviously what I call home training.

    Heís been raised well. Mom, dad, brother, sister. Heís done some really good things. So weíre pleased with him. Heís still got a lot of areas to grow in and improve. But heís got a lot of ability. And heís grown up in a lot of different areas. And hopefully will continue to do that.

    Q. How would you evaluate your pass rush through the first three games of the season, and how do you evaluate a pass rush when youíre going up against more mobile quarterbacks than some traditional offensive players?

    COACH FRANKLIN: I think weíve been pretty good at defensive end. Obviously we had seven sacks last week, but I think weíve been pretty good at defensive end. I think we can be better at defensive tackle. And I think we can be better at linebacker. Weíve got to be more reckless when we blitz and when we rush at linebacker. Sometimes that running back goes to fit us up and we can be more aggressive in terms of rushing the quarterback.

    And things that youíre always going to get better at. So typically youíve got aiming points for where youíre supposed to rush the quarterback. So if youíre supposed to rush the quarterback on his outside shoulder, on the high hip or however you want to describe it, thereís a couple times where weíve gotten two tights on our rush, and then the quarterback has been able to break contain.

    I also think that people have a tendency, weíre so aggressive rushing up the field that people use that against us in terms of quarterback scrambles or draws or things like that. So thereís that fine line between how reckless we are in rushing up the field and trying to get to the quarterback but also making sure that we stay in our lanes and things like that and that we donít lose contain especially on the mobile quarterbacks. I think thereís no doubt about it.

    Defensive end, overall good. At defensive tackle I think we can get better. And at linebacker when weíre blitzing I think we can be better.

    Q. How do you coach a guy through a funk? How do you get somebody maybe not performing at the level you were expecting get them back to that point without talking to them, because sometimes it makes it worse in some cases.

    COACH FRANKLIN: I think it depends on the kid. Thatís where itís an art, not a science of knowing that kid and what he needs. And I think you guys that come to practice see, I have a very different approach. You guys donít get to see a whole lot of this. But Iím a very different approach on game day than I do on Saturdays.

    Iím pretty aggressive in practice. And on Saturdays Iím pretty aggressive when it comes to positive things, not when it comes to negative things. And then when I see examples in practice or in games of a young man doing something at a really high level, whether itís effort or execution, production, whatever it may be, try to make a big deal out of that, because when our team shows those examples, I want to show the whole team.

    When individuals show those examples, I want to show the whole team, because thereís a flash of what weíre capable of, and the best players and the best teams are able to do those things consistently.

    So for us I would probably say we spend more time focused on the positive of what we want them to do coaching from the affirmative rather than screaming what you donít want them to do. Those types of things.

    But thereís a lot of different ways. Sometimes itís talking to the guy one-on-one. Sometimes itís getting in the guyís face and challenging him. Sometimes itís talking to the high school coach. Sometimes itís talking to the parents. Sometimes itís just loving them up as much as you possibly can and telling them you believe in them.

    Itís really different for different kids. And part of it is, is it a confidence issue? Is it an effort issue? Is it a focus issue? What is it? And all those different things, experience, what the issue is is going to determine how you correct it. What that guyís personality traits are. Those types of things.

    I think obviously the position coaches are going to be the best at doing it because they spend the most time with these guys and what motivates them and how they respond the best.

    But as a head coach, I think thatís a big part of my job as well to either reinforce what the coaches are doing with them or even sometimes the old good cop/bad cop. I think if you see a position coach blasting a guy, they donít need me coming over blasting them as well -- that we try to complement each other. And I tell the assistant coaches the same thing; we have to complement one another. If Iím blasting a guy you shouldnít be blasting him. We should be complementing each other.

    Q. What are your thoughts on from when you get home Saturday to a practice Tuesday, youíve got just a couple hours on Sunday. Thatís not the norm. How do you -- whatís your thinking on that?

    COACH FRANKLIN: You know, we donít gain as much from Saturday as youíd like, because we donít get home until like 5:00 in the morning, so -- with the time change and things like that. So you donít gain as much.

    But obviously weíll be able to get some work done. Weíll be able to get our games corrected, which we will do. Weíll come in the office on Saturday. Weíll grade the tape. Weíll be able to have our staff meeting, kind of go over that game, get all those things knocked out so come Sunday weíll gain probably three hours is truly what weíll gain.

    And then obviously the GAs will be able to get that film, that Saturday game graded and put into the system as well. So weíll gain a couple hours, but not as much as youíd think. And then where we have to be a really mature football team is how we handle Saturday.

    I think thatís going to be really, really important as well, that we get a good nightís sleep and we recover so we can have a great week of preparation. But obviously I donít want to get into a whole lot of that. But I wanted to answer your question about how weíll handle coming back from Illinois.

    Q. I actually meant the kids.

    COACH FRANKLIN: From what standpoint?

    Q. Theyíll have Saturday and Monday off and they donít usually have two out of three days and then half of Tuesday, too.

    COACH FRANKLIN: I guess what Iím saying is theyíre really only going to get probably Saturday night off. And if we were playing a 12:00 Saturday game, it really wouldnít be any difference because if we get back at 5:00 in the morning theyíre probably sleeping until when?

    Q. Two.

    COACH FRANKLIN: Right, probably sleeping until 2:00, 3:00. So youíre not gaining as much as you think you would. Theyíre probably gaining a couple hours on Saturday. Say it was a noon game, theyíre gaining a couple of hours there. And weíre gaining a couple hours for Sunday, really. But besides that not a whole lot, unless obviously it was a night game, back-to-back night games.

    Q. How do you go about coaching a guy like Blake Gillikin, a specialized position, captain, doing really well? Do you kind of give him a long leash? Do you let him figure out stuff on his own? Or are you hands on with him just like the other players?

    COACH FRANKLIN: I think itís probably a little bit of both. Obviously Blake is a captain for us, so that comes with a little bit of responsibility and a little bit of leeway. Obviously the type of student heís been, obviously the type of success that he had on the field and has been playing a lot of football for us.

    So, yeah, I think itís no different than probably we are with our kids. Your kidsí got a curfew at 9:00, and if they respect that curfew do a good job with it, then in tenth grade then they have a later curfew, in 11th grade -- and itís the same thing with our guys; they come in as freshmen and weíre kind of all over them about everything. And once they prove themselves then they get more freedom and they get more flexibility as their career goes on as they earn it.

    And I think itís kind of a -- Blakeís a really good example of that. Heís a guy that weíre probably talking to more than weíre talking at. Iím asking Blake questions. Iím getting his perspective.

    But I also think thereís also a fine line with those captains that every once in a while that the team sees that I get on all over those guys as well because I think itís really important that the team sees that nobody is above that.

    But for the most part, as you can imagine, thereís not a whole lot that needs to happen with Trace and Nick and Blake. Heís really been kind of the model student-athlete in a lot of ways. I think probably the biggest thing I talk to him about is his influence of being able to set a standard with the rest of those specialists, especially with two true freshmen that are handling kickoffs and PATs.

    Vasey is a part of that as well because heís an older guy, been there and done that with the long snappers. But Blake and Vasey can coach all those guys up on how to be a successful student-athlete here at Penn State.

    Q. With Jason away I think he played about a dozen high school games before he got here. He flashes in the first game -- two sacks. What are the short-term and long-term expectations for what he can make of his college career?

    COACH FRANKLIN: Itís probably easier right now to talk about long term. I think heís got a bright future. Heís 6í5Ē. Heís like 247 pounds right now. He ran the fastest 40 of any freshman that we brought in at summer camp. He had, I think, the highest vertical jump, the longest broad jump. So obviously heís got a lot of gifts, genetic gifts. I donít think thereís any doubt about it when it comes to athleticism.

    But the game is still very knew to him. But I see him getting better every week and understanding the things that weíre teaching. Came from really good high school program. His D line coach in high school, I played with in college. His head coach in high school I played with in college.

    So he came in and had a pretty good foundation, although he hadnít played a lot of football. And the other thing is heís just a very hardworking respectful, coachable kid, so heís getting better every day.

    Itís hard to tell short term because right now him and Tarburton, weíre kind of complementing those two guys. So we played Tarburton first two games. Probably gonna play Jayson Oweh in two games and evaluate them from there.

    Do we save those (indiscernible) for late in the season, or do we end up playing one these guys? Obviously depending on how Jayson plays this week weíll determine do we just green-light him the rest of the year based on his production last week? Or does he go back into kind of a wait-and-see type mode?

    But long-term, based on his body type and athleticism and mentality and then a very small sample size, but very productive in that small sample size, youíd like to say that heís going to have a very bright future.

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    PSU Running Backs Series: Franco Harris

    Franco Harris 1969-1971

    Harris was born in Fort Dix, New Jersey. Harris graduated from Rancocas Valley Regional High School in Mount Holly Township, New Jersey in 1968, and then attended Penn State University. While playing for Penn State's Nittany Lions, Harris served primarily as a blocker for the All-American running back Lydell Mitchell, though he amassed 2,002 yards rushing with 24 touchdowns and averaged over 5 yards per carry, while also catching 28 passes for 352 yards and another touchdown. He led the team in scoring in 1970.

    He was picked by the Steelers in the first round of the 1972 NFL Draft, the 13th selection overall. He played his first 12 years in the NFL with the Steelers; his 13th and final year was spent with the Seahawks. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990. In his first season with the Steelers (1972), Harris was named the league's Rookie of the Year by both The Sporting News and United Press International. In that season he gained 1,055 yards on 188 carries, with a 5.6 yards per carry average. He also rushed for 10 touchdowns and caught four touchdown passes. He was popular with Pittsburgh's large Italian-American population: his fans dubbed themselves "Franco's Italian Army" and wore army helmets with his number on them.

    Harris was chosen for nine consecutive Pro Bowls (from 1972 through 1980), and was All-Pro in 1977. Harris rushed for more than 1,000 yards in eight seasons, breaking a record set by Jim Brown. The running back tandem of Harris and Rocky Bleier combined with a strong defense to win four Super Bowls following the 1974, 1975, 1978, and 1979 seasons. On January 12, 1975 he was the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl IX; in that game he rushed for 158 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries for a 16-6 win over the Minnesota Vikings. Harris was the first African American as well as the first Italian-American to be named Super Bowl MVP. Harris was a major contributor for the Steelers in all of their first four Super Bowl wins. His Super Bowl career totals of 101 carries for 354 yards are records and his four career rushing touchdowns are tied for the second most in Super Bowl history.

    Harris claims he extended his career and thus his contribution to the team's objectives (including four Super Bowl victories) by avoiding unnecessary contact. With the retirement of O.J. Simpson after the 1979 season, Harris became the career rushing leader among active players. Following the 1983 season, Harris and Walter Payton were both closing in on Jim Brown's NFL rushing record, and Harris asked the Rooney family for a pay raise. The Rooney family refused, believing that Harris was on the downside of his career, and Harris threatened to hold out. The Steelers released Harris in training camp in 1984 and he eventually signed with the Seattle Seahawks during the 1984 season. He played just eight games with the team, gaining only 170 yards before retiring (192 yards short of Jim Brown's record).

    In his 13 professional seasons, Harris gained 12,120 yards (then 3rd all-time) on 2,949 carries, a 4.1 yards per carry average, and scored 91 rushing touchdowns (then also 3rd). He caught 307 passes for 2,287 yards, a 7.4 yards per reception average, and nine receiving touchdowns. Harris's 12,120 career rushing yards rank him 12th all time in the NFL, while his 91 career rushing touchdowns rank him 10th all time tied with Jerome Bettis. Harris and the Rooneys reconciled after Harris retired; in 2006, during pre-game ceremonies for Super Bowl XL (the Steelers' second SB appearance Ė and first championship Ė since his retirement) honoring the MVPs of the previous 39 games, Harris waved a Terrible Towel while being introduced, much to the delight of the overwhelmingly pro-Steeler crowd. While the Steelers have only officially retired two uniform numbers (Ernie Stautner's number 70 and Joe Greene's number 75, they have not reissued his number 32 since he left the team, and it is generally understood that no Steelers player will ever wear that number again.

    Harris was a key player in one of professional football's most famous plays, dubbed "The Immaculate Reception" by Pittsburgh sportscaster Myron Cope. In a 1972 playoff game, the Oakland Raiders were leading the Steelers 7-6 with 22 seconds to play when a Terry Bradshaw pass was deflected away from intended receiver John "Frenchy" Fuqua right as defender Jack Tatum arrived to tackle Fuqua. Harris snatched the ball just before it hit the ground and ran it into the endzone to win the game. The Raiders challenged the touchdown, claiming that Fuqua had handled the ball before Harris, which would invalidate the score because at that time it was against the rules for two offensive receivers to touch the ball. The Steelers maintained that the ball had touched Tatum instead. According to a recounting by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the film of the play is inconclusive. Raiders linebacker Phil Villapiano attempted to criticize Harris's achievement by stating that he was only in position to catch the ball because he was lazy, but replays show that Harris headed downfield when the Raiders forced Bradshaw out of the pocket, and can be clearly seen running before catching the deflected ball.

    In 1999, he was ranked number 83 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players. In 2006, The Heinz History Center, home of the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, installed a life-size figure of Harris in the grand concourse of Pittsburgh International Airport. The statue is a recreation of Harris's "Immaculate Reception." He was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2011.

    Harris and Lydell Mitchell, successful college teammates at Penn State, now own Super Bakery, a company founded in 1990 to produce nutrition-oriented foods for schoolchildren. The business was renamed to RSuper Foods in 2006.RSuper foods produces the Super Donut that has been served to students at public schools in the eastern United States.

    Harris and Mitchell also partnered in 1996 to rescue the Parks Sausage Company in Baltimore, the first African-American owned business to go public in the U.S.

    Harris is also a paid representative for the Harrah's/Forest City Enterprises casino plan for downtown Pittsburgh. This association has earned him the tongue-in-cheek nickname, "Franco Harrahs".

    Franco has served as part of the advisory board at Penn State's Center for Food Innovation, and in the Fall of 2009 was named a Conti Professor by Penn State's School of Hospitality Management.

    Harris is involved in, and provides funding to, Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, a group aimed at ousting the members of Penn State's board of trustees.

    As a fershman in 1968, Franco harris was ineligible to play because freshmen were not allowed to play varsity.

    Penn State Statistics

    1969: 115 carries for 643 yards and 10 touchdowns. 12 catches for 189 yards.
    1970: 142 carries for 675 yards and 8 touchdowns. 6 catches for 66 yards.
    1971: 123 carries for 684 yards and 6 touchdowns. 10 catches for 97 yards and 1 touchdown.

    TOTALS: 380 carries for 2002 yards and 24 touchdowns. 28 catches for 352 yards and 1 touchdown

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    Penn state vs. Illinois: Preview




    No. 10 Penn State at Illinois: Game Preview

    Itís time for Friday Night Lights as Penn State opens up Big Ten play against the Illini.

    Penn State kicks off Big Ten play with a road trip to Champaign for a Friday night battle.

    (10)Penn State (3-0) vs. Illinois (2-1)

    Kickoff: 9 p.m., Memorial Stadium, Champaign, IL

    TV: FS1- Justin Kutcher (play-by-play), Petros Papadakis (analyst), DeMarco Murray (sideline)

    Weather: Friday will be a hot day in the upper-80s, with temperatures falling into the mid-60s with a chance of storms in the evening.

    COACHES:

    James Franklin:

    PENN STATE RECORD: 39-17, 5th Year

    OVERALL RECORD: 63-32, 7th Year

    VS. ILLINOIS: 1-1


    Lovie Smith:

    ILLINOIS RECORD: 7-20, 3rd Year

    OVERALL RECORD: 96-107, 14th Season

    VS. PENN STATE: First Meeting


    NOW THE FUN PART....

    Look ahead to Ohio State in two weeks? There is no way James Franklin will allow that to happen to his Penn State team Friday night in Champaign, Illinois. But the Lions, 27-point favorites on the road, need to focus and bring their "A" game against the Fighting Illini (2-1). Here are my Penn State keys ...

    1. No more slip-ups on special teams. Penn State punter Blake Gillikin has been very good the last two weeks and he averaged 48.5 yards on two attempts against Kent State. But the Lions' performance wasn't exactly clean against the Golden Flashes. There was the matter of that onside kick recovery in the first quarter, the second by an opponent in three games.

    2. Force the Illinois offense to the air. The Fighting Illini were held to 168 passing yards in last week's home loss to South Florida and averaged 5.8 yards on 29 attempts.

    3. Go deep often. The Illinois defense gave up 411 passing yards to South Florida and Penn State's combination of quarterback Trace McSorley and his receivers can strike quickly. McSorley and reserve quarterback Sean Clifford combined for 346 yards on only 14 completions against Kent State. PSU wideouts DeAndre Thompkins, KJ Hamler and Brandon Polk are legit home run threats.

    4. Penn Stateís receivers need to get on track. For as good as McSorley has been for Penn State, he still needs to get some help from his wide receivers. McSorleyís stats would look better if his receivers were not dropping as many passes as they have this season. KJ Hamler is Penn Stateís leading receiver with 129 yards, but that is good for just 20th in the Big Ten receiving totals. It will be essential for Penn Stateís Bandon Polk, DeAndre Thompkins and Juwan Johnson to leave this game with some confidence before a big home game next week against Ohio State.

    5. Stay aggressive on defense. The Lions have allowed 16 points in the last two games and PSU was in complete control against Kent State's up-tempo offense. Coordinator Brent Pry's unit posted 15 tackles for loss, seven sacks and eight pass breakups.
    Last edited by Ratpenat; 22-09-2018 at 00:50.

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    Rat,

    What do you mean by your statement "The Lions haven't allowed a point in the last two games"? In your Kent State recap you said "Even when Kent State scored a touchdown, it had to work for it" . Did the worm in the bottle fuzz up your gray matter a bit? Or your needed another to clear out some of cobwebs.


    We are Penn State Go Lions.

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    Quote Originally Posted by itwizard View Post
    Rat,

    What do you mean by your statement "The Lions haven't allowed a point in the last two games"? In your Kent State recap you said "Even when Kent State scored a touchdown, it had to work for it" . Did the worm in the bottle fuzz up your gray matter a bit? Or your needed another to clear out some of cobwebs.
    LMAO ...... Actually went back and corrected it....Should be 16 points....... Yeahhh the tequila hit me hard. better roll another doobie

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    Penn state vs. Illinois: Recap



    Takeaways from the Illinois Game

    1. PSU might need >40 to beat Ohio State. Or maybe another 63.

    Because that defense is soft. The front is getting no penetration, the linebackers are not only not making plays, they're being pushed out of the vicinity to make them. You could say tackle Robert Windsor and defensive end Shareef Miller had decent games. But nobody in the second layer was a difference-maker. You can't get by with that against OSU's offense, especially now that Dwayne Haskins is playing quarterback.

    Penn State has built its defense around speed. It is constructed with the intent to run down plays. But the reason the Lions were in position to pull the upset two years ago was the active toughness of linebackers Jason Cabinda and Brandon Bell and safety Marcus Allen.

    That and OSU's stodgy offense with J.T. Barrett and a dysfunctional crew of receivers. Those are not impediments now. Haskins is firing the ball around and downfield and his receivers are catching it. And Ohio State has a couple of bruising backs in J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber and a massive offensive line. You can't just run around them. PSU is going to need to find its defensive muscle and fast.

    2. The Defense Has To Grow Up Fast

    The Penn State defense didnít have its best effort on Friday night against Illinois. The first half of the game was very reminiscent of the first half against the Pittsburgh Panthers, allowing nearly 200 yards of rushing in the first half. The tackling was piss-poor to say the least, with multiple defenders missing tackles. The defense did get it together in the second half like it has all season, but there is still a lot of work to do all the way around.

    The most disheartening defensive takeaway however may be the ongoing regression of John Reid. While a slight regression from Reid wouldnít have been too surprising, heís gone from being a shutdown corner to being a defensive liability as of late. He has the talent and football IQ to turn it around at any point, but until he proves it, Brent Pry will need to be careful with putting Reid out there.

    3. Sanders stabilized the night when it might've gotten wobbly.

    Sometimes the difference between a rout and a game spinning out of control into an unthinkable upset is a single stabilizing factor. In this game, that was the junior feature back from Pittsburgh.

    Yes, there was a juncture in the second half where one Penn State mistake would have given the Illini enough belief that... well, who knows? Illinois' well of self-confidence is an empty vessel. If PSU doesn't have Miles Sanders to take over on a pivotal drive after the go-ahead Illini TD, it could've been a different game. But they did. And he was spectacular.

    Illinois' touchdown on a wideout pass from Trenard Davis to Ricky Smalling set Memorial Stadium as ablaze as it could be on a chilly, windy first night of autumn and put the 27-point underdog Illini up by 3 points. At that point, Illinois had run 24 of the last 25 plays wrapped around a halftime it entered with a field goal and exited with the second-half kickoff.

    That was when Trace McSorley began feeding Sanders the ball. And Sanders fed on it. Five consecutive carries later, PSU scored to retake the lead, capped by his 48-yard breakaway.

    They say you don't have to have a tough, between-the-tackles running back anymore. Well, it's awfully nice to have, especially when he can get to the edge pretty quick, too.

    3. Don't look, but the PSU offensive line might be pretty good.

    Then, there's this group. Matt Limegrover's much-disparaged O-line seems to have turned the corner. Of course, it has not been faced with anything approaching a great defensive front yet, and will certainly be challenged next week. But it wasn't just Sanders and McSorley and Ricky Slade making their own holes out there.

    The Nittany Lions came close to posting three different runners with over 100 yards (Sanders 200, Slade 94, McSorley 92). One sack allowed and 387 rushing yards gained pretty much speaks for itself. LT Ryan Bates, LG Steven Gonzalez, C Michal Menet, RG Connor McGovern and RT Will Fries have been doing what their colleagues up front on defense have not - controlling scrimmage.

    4. Juwan Johnson did what he needs to do when he needed to.

    The box score of this one looked like something out of the early Paterno era against Army or Brown. The wide receivers caught only 9 balls. McSorley threw only 19 passes. But the most important line was at the top of the receiving stats: Johnson - 4 for 51. And the most important catch was the junior's 16-yard post pattern from McSorley to give the Lions some breathing room at 35-24.

    Johnson has taken a tertiary role to exciting little speedballs K.J. Hamler and DeAndre Thompkins in the season's first month. But on the first play of the third quarter, facing 3rd-and-12 from the Illinois 16, the 6-4, 225-pound Johnson was exactly what McSorley needed - just as he was on PSU's final play of the Iowa game a year ago. They happen to be the only two touchdown receptions of his career.

    This one wasn't as critical as the do-or-die game-winner at Kinnick, but it was a tough catch. McSorley had to step up in the pocket just as Johnson was breaking open over a vacated middle. So, the throw was a split-second late and defenders arrived and high as McSorley threw it moving forward. But Johnson made a beautiful fingertip catch of the high, hard one.

    The better the secondaries and the tighter the coverage, the more McSorley will need his big strong target, not only to get to balls the little guys can't but to outmuscle DBs for contested balls. It's his time now.

    5. Concerns with Field Goals

    Entering Friday, Jake Pinegar only attempted two field goals this season. He got his third field goal attempt on Friday night, but it was a 44-yarder against the wind. Pinegar has a leg and has been solid with extra points, but it is concerning that he doesnít have a ton of field goal experience heading into the biggest game of the season.

    6. Self-Inflicted Wounds

    Self inflicted wounds have been hurting the Nittany Lions all season, and they were back against Illinois. Eight penalties ó esepcially a few defensive penalties ó helped to lead to a few Illinois touchdowns. And as is tradition, the offense saw a touchdown get wiped off the board again as well.

    7. Second Half Team

    Weíve mentioned it before this season, but this is feeling a lot like the 2016 season in the idea that Penn State seems to struggle in the first half before making great adjustments at halftime. Over the course of last three games, the Nittany Lions have scored 37, 35, and 42 unanswered second-half points.

    Next Game: vs. Ohio State

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    Coach franklin press conference: Ohio state

    COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Just quickly to summarize kind of the Illinois game. Most of the stuff you guys already have. Weíre even in the turnover battle of that game. Thatís an area that weíre going to have to do a better job at moving forward. We won the penalty battle. We won the drive start battle. We won the sack battle. We won the explosive play battle, which was big.

    Coaching staff, players of the week was offensively, Miles Sanders. Defensively was Garrett Taylor, and special teams was John Petrishen. General positives, won on the road in the Big Ten which is always difficult to do. We believe in each other and our process. I think that has become very obvious in our locker room. And on the field, first time in Penn State history with 50 points in three straight games. One of the messages Iíd like to get out there about that is I think a lot of times everybodyís focus is on the offense, but you donít do that without all three phases, offense, defense and special teams all playing a part in that.

    Just the fourth time in the last 100 years a Big Ten team has scored 60 points in back to back games. Same thing, offense, defense and special teams. Two interceptions for the first time in guysí careers, Jan and Ellis. I thought Janís was a great example. When you run to the ball, good things happen. We got Amani stripping the ball out and Jan was there to clean it up, which was awesome. Offense rushed for 387 yards against a Big Ten opponent, and Miles obviously with 200 yards and three touchdowns. And then I think a general positive is we can get better. And we need to get better one day at a time, and thatís how weíll approach it.

    Opportunities for growth, I think we need to be a little bit more consistent on special teams, from an execution perspective. Defensively, I think we can be more ball aware. When the ball is in the air, itís ours. When weíre going to tackle a ball carrier, weíre trying to strip the ball out. When the ball is on the ground that weíre constantly scooping and scoring every time itís on the ground.

    Offensively we gotta be more ball secure. That is decision making. That is protecting the quarterback. Thatís high and tight. Thatís ball in the outside arm. And then I think we can be more detailed and precise and efficient in our passing game. And we need to be.

    And then just in general, eliminating penalties, allow our opponents to give away yards, we donít need to do that.

    So those are the notes that I had from the previous game.

    Kind of getting into Ohio State, obviously got tremendous respect for Ohio State, their football program, their traditions, their history, their talent on their roster, and obviously the way theyíve been able to win and win at a high level.

    Three of the last four meetings have been decided by 7 points or less, so this has been a very competitive series for the four years that weíve been here. And obviously Urban, his record on the field speaks for itself. So itís going to be a tremendous challenge for us. They have six offensive starters returning, four defensive starters returning and then five specialists. Theyíre strong from a specialist perspective. Weíre going to have to win the critical statistics. Thatís going to be very important. Youíre playing two programs that know how to win. So being able to win those critical stats like I talk about every week when I come in here, turnover ratio, explosive plays, things like that, itís going to be really important.

    Offensively, Ryan Day Iíve known for a long time, have always respected Ryan from a distance, all the way back to his time at Boston College. Heís really doing some nice things. Obviously 30 touchdowns in four games, a bunch of explosive plays, one of the more explosive teams in the country and obviously almost 55 points per game. Over 500 yards and 40 points per game. I think total offensive theyíre actually at 599 yards. So a real challenge. Dwayne Haskins, guy that we know very well, weíve recruited Dwayne. I did see the video that came out when he was like eight years old in the Ohio State locker room. We probably werenít going to win that battle after seeing that video, but obviously very, very talented guy. Iím happy for him and the success that heís having. Probably an ideal situation for a first-time starter, the talent that he is surrounded with is impressive, the running backs, the wide receivers. And probably the best offensive line that weíve seen at Ohio State in the last four years.

    Scheme wise, theyíre predominantly a one back set. They will use a second -- theyíll use a tight end to get into some two running back sets. Theyíre 11 personnel almost 80 percent of the time and theyíre pretty balanced, 50 percent run to pass. They like the zone, the stretch the counter and the power. 12 personnel is their next most popular personnel group. They like to run the kick play, the zone, the stretch and the power. And then they will mix in a little bit of 10-personnel as well, which is a majority of pass. Tempo is a big part of what they do, but primarily it shows up after explosive plays after a big play, and then they do a good job with their intermediate and short routes as well.

    Impressed with Dwayne Haskins, the way heís able to throw for such a high percentage, such a high touchdown interception ratio, and again, the type of talent that heís surrounded with is impressive. Wide receiver, No. 14, K. J. Hill, can change the game at any moment. Parris Campbell could change the game at any moment, and then obviously they got two of the better backs in the country in J. K. Dobbins and Mike Weber. So impressed with all those guys. Another guy that we recruited Isaiah Prince, offensive tackle is really, really playing well right now. So been impressed with them.

    Defensively, Greg Schiano, Iíve got a lot of respect for Greg over his entire career, all the way back to when he was the head coach at Rutgers and what he was able to do with that program. Theyíre sound, well coached, theyíre athletic. Theyíre a four-down front. Theyíre going to play Tampa two. Theyíre going to play cover one. Theyíre going to play what we call four X and Z, which is what Michigan State has made very popular over the last couple of years, and then theyíre going to play cover one with pressure.

    31 percent overall pressure, 26 on normal downs and 42 percent on third down.

    The guys that kind of stand out to us defensively is No. 86 DreíMont Jones is really doing some great things. Another guy that we recruited Jordan Fuller, strong safety No. 4, and then Damon Arnette, their corner back, all playing well. And then on special teams is Taver Johnson running that unit, but obviously we all know Urban is very involved in special teams, has been for a while. Theyíve returned five starters, and their scheme is aggressive. They play with tremendous effort, and they got a lot of athletes on the field. Guys weíve been impressed with is their punter, Drue Chrisman; No. 23, Jahsen Wint, out of Brooklyn, 15 tackles in a season, primarily all on special teams. Same thing with No. 52, Dante Booker, is also a guy who really shows up making a bunch of plays on special teams. And then we also see the same thing with No. 47, Justin Hilliard, as well as No. 1, Jeffrey Okudah. So some really good players, some really talented players. Thatís going to be obviously a great environment. Weíre looking forward to it. We had a great practice on Sunday, had off yesterday, and weíll get back out on the field today. So look forward to the opportunity. Open it up for questions.

    I probably do want to mention one of the changes that you guys probably saw on the depth chart is Mark Allen not being listed. Mark has suffered a season-ending injury and will be done. As you guys know, I donít typically get into injuries a whole lot, but with Mark being a senior and with this being a season-ending type injury, I talked to Mark about this and made sure Iím handling it the way he wanted me to. He talked to the team about it yesterday. Heís in great spirits. But I did want to mention that to you guys because I didnít want you guys to think or wonder why he wasnít on the depth chart and I knew I was probably going to get the question. But Markís got a very bright future. Heís going to be very successful whatever he chooses to do. Heís talking a little bit about maybe getting into coaching. But we got a lot of love and respect for Mark and what heís been able to do in his career here. But you wonít see Mark again this year playing on the field.

    Q. Good afternoon, James.

    COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Hey, Rich.

    Q. How different is Ohio Stateís offensive from the one youíve seen the last four years?

    COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: I donít think itís a whole lot different. Obviously they promoted from within or made a change from within, the guy thatís been a part of their program for a be in of years now. So I think the biggest difference for them in some ways probably similar to us is that itís the best O line that theyíve had. They are massive. You look at them on film and itís like theyíre all legs, unusual you see a six foot seven center. Thatís not something you typically see and theyíre pretty much six foot six to six foot seven across the board, about 315 pounds across the board. This is a big, athletic offensive line, and I think they kind of set the tone for everything and then theyíre just so balanced. They got two of the better backs in the country. They are explosive at the wide receiver position. They got a quarterback thatís able to make all the throws and distribute the ball. So theyíre putting up big numbers and doing a lot of really good things and itís going to be a tremendous challenge for us.

    Q. James, I wanted to get your thoughts on Ricky Sladeís play against Illinois, and given Mark Allenís situation, do you think heís ready for a bigger role in the run game?

    COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, Ricky is doing some really nice things for us as a true freshman, is getting better every single practice. His attitude, his work ethic, his demeanor has been really good. Heís working hard in pass protection, which is typically a challenge for young backs, but heís been really good in those areas as well. So yeah, weíre excited about his future. I think obviously you take Miles and Ricky and Journey and Johnathan Thomas, weíre going to miss Mark, but we still feel really good about those four guys as well.

    Q. James, are there one or two things that stand out to you about how your offensive line has improved, even since last season, and how would you rate your depth on that unit at this point?

    COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, obviously we feel like we got six starters in Bates and Gonzalez and Menet and McGovern and Fries and Chasz Wright. Kind of look at all those guys as starters because theyíve all played a lot of football for us. Weíve gotten bigger, weíve gotten stronger. Weíve gained a lot of experience over the last couple of years. Besides Michael Menet those guys have all played a lot of football for us. And I think Michael has been in the program for a number of years now, and he understands the expectations and the standards. But we also know weíre going to be playing one of the better D lines in college football. Their whole scheme is built around their D line. They play predominantly press coverage so the quarterback has to hold on to the ball, and theyíre expecting those four D linemen to be able to get to the quarterback or cause the quarterback discomfort in the pocket, and thatís kind of how theyíre built. So itís going to be a challenge, but again, I think weíre in a much different position than weíve been in the past with our offensive line, not only from protecting our quarterback, but also more consistently being able to run the ball.

    Now, obviously this is the first opponent weíve played to this level, the type of talent that they have, the type of size and depth, one of probably the more talented rosters in the country, if not the most talented roster in the country. So this is going to be a different type of challenge. Thereís no doubt about that.

    Q. After the Illinois game, you mentioned that youíre still looking for an eraser you said on defense. Who could that be?

    COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: I think or defensive ends as a group can be, and theyíre moving in that direction. I think Shareef has the chance to be that type of player. I think Yetur has the chance to be that type of player. I think Kevin Givens has the chance to be that type of player and Robert Windsor. So we need that front to really be those types of players for our defense, and then we need to develop that second level of guys, especially at the defensive tackle position to really help us out.

    At the next level, at the linebacker level, obviously you got some inexperience there. I think at times Cam Brown shows that and will probably need it a little bit more consistently out of him. And then in the secondary I think our group of corners have the ability to be that for us, but have not yet. The combination of Amani and John Reid and Tariq Castro-Fields have played a lot of football for us, so we need them to be that as well.

    Q. Your safety position, how do you think itís developed? Where are those guys at? Has it been as good as you think it needs to be or should be right now?

    COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think Nick Scott is doing some nice things for us and been really consistent. Obviously you heard me say earlier Garrett Taylor was the player of the week from a coaching staff perspective. So we obviously feel like heís growing into that role as well. And I will say John Sutherland all the way back to the spring game is a guy who flashes. Weíre talking about getting him more involved. I think heís one of the better tacklers on our defense. So I think weíre getting better and weíre going to need to continue to get better each day this week to put us in the best position to play on Saturday. But weíre going to be challenged. Weíll be challenge this week at every level, defensively with the number of athletes that they have.

    Q. Understanding that you treat every game the same from week to week no matter who the opponent is, Iím just wondering when you go out among the people this week, do you get people stopping you more and encouraging more to win this week more than say any other week?

    COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah. I think our players will. I think the coaches will. I mean I got a note in the mailbox last night my wife gave me from the mailman, or mail woman I guess it was actually. You go downtown, thereís people making comments. I mean I had this four weeks ago. Iím trying to talk about App State and people want to talk about this game. So I think thatís kind of the perfect reason why we approach things the way we do. But you canít just say those things in press conferences and then go act different in front of your team. Itís gotta be a consistent approach in all the things we do.

    Theyíre hearing it from everybody. They donít need to hear it from us. So itíll be standard operation for us. We just want to focus on today and maximize today and have the best practice we possibly could have, best Tuesday practice of our lives and make corrections and then move on to the next day. So I know theyíre hearing it from everybody. I just did -- Chris just had me do like 17 interviews before I walked in here. So, yeah, I get it. But thatís all external things. Internally weíll keep our process the same.

    Q. Last week you talked about you didnít think youíd really gain a day from playing on Friday because the guys would have to sleep all day. Can you talk about the last couple of days in terms of what Saturday was like for the players, and did they get rest, and are you completely back on the weekly schedule that you want to be on?

    COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah. Weíre back on our weekly schedule for sure. What the players did on Saturday, I donít know, I wasnít hanging out with them. I was falling asleep on my couch with my family. But obviously Iíll have a better feel after today, so we were able to have basically after going 14 straight days, I think, without a day off, now we were able to have somewhat two days off, if not a day and a half off with Saturday, then practice Sunday, then off Monday. So there is some value there for the coaches. There is some value for the players, if we handled it the right way in the choices that we made when we got back here on Saturday.

    But in terms of what we talked about with the players was a very specific plan of how we could use that extra time. Now, weíll see in todayís practice, and weíll see in this weekís preparation if we were able to gain some of the advantage that we had in having a few more hours of prep.

    Q. With Miles the other day, his ability to keep the sticks moving, to kind of get three yards when thatís all thatís there. There had to be a temptation for him to look at what Saquon was doing and try to mimic that style, but was this the kind of style you envisioned for him and how has he kind of worked to develop it?

    COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Was the question about Miles doing a good job of getting three yards and not negative yards and staying on schedule? Yeah, I think heís done a nice job with it. Something that weíve always talked about the importance of it. I think thereís been a few times where Miles has tried to make some yards that werenít there, but for the most part is doing a really good job. I also think Miles is getting a lot of credit, and he should. But I also think our offensive line is playing at a higher level. I also think Ricky is doing a nice job of getting us into the right call as well. So Miles deserves credit. Ricky and our offensive coaches, Coach Limegrover and the run game coordinator and all those things, all that stuffís a factor in this. But I do think itís a pretty good mentality that Coach Seider has been teaching and Miles and the rest of the backs have embraced.

    Q. Both of these teams score so many points that field goals sometimes can get overlooked. But if the game does come down to a field goal, where is Jake Pinegar in terms of his progress and what are your thoughts on the overall progress of the field goal unit?

    COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah. Weíre obviously not experienced, but I think Jakeís been great. Iíve been very impressed with him and the whole operation, from Vasey to Blake Gillikin and to Jake. And we got a lot of confidence in him. Heís hitting at a very high rate in practice, hasnít had a whole lot of opportunities in games. Probably one opportunity that I should have got him earlier in the season. But overall Iíve been pleased with him. I think heís going to have a great career here. I think heís going to have a great year this year. And heíll continue to step up at times when we need him. But most importantly itís about being consistent. Thatís on kickoff with Checa and thatís with field goals with Pinegar and that entire unit.

    Q. Hey, James, how you doing?

    COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Did you get a haircut?

    Q. I did.

    COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Looks very nice.

    Q. Thank you. I appreciate that. My person who cuts my hair says she always appreciates when you say that.

    COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Who is the person? Letís give her a little shoutout.

    Q. Leslie. Sheís tremendous.

    COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Leslie?

    Q. Yes.

    COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Great job, Leslie.

    Q. Hey, will this rate as one of your bigger recruiting weekends numbers wise and with that in mind how do you juggle everything in terms of official visitors, visitors, taking care of your team responsibility, getting out Friday night, that sort of thing? How much of a juggling act is that for you?

    COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think probably most of the White Outs have been similar, similar in terms of number and similar in terms of possible impact for our future. I donít think thereís any doubt about it. I remember talking to some of the guys in the past. I think it was Jesse James one day said to me, he goes, if you come to the White Out, youíre committing. You know, like thereís -- you know, thereís no other option. You just get caught up in the energy and the enthusiasm and the excitement. Obviously itís an impactful day for us in terms of our future on the recruiting front. But I also think, you know, I do think what you just described is why you see recruiting departments getting bigger and bigger because these days are so impactful and so important for continuing to build your program that you canít do it all, and you need enough people that are going to be able to manage all these things so the coaches can spend their time on the game and on the opponent and on our current players which is where our focus should be. And then you have a group of people that are managing, say you have 10 to 12 official visitors, and managing that group so that they have the best possible experience they can. And then you youíre also going to have another 175 recruits and their families and how are you going to manage all of that. So I think thatís where the challenge comes. And in the old days where you had one recruiting coordinator to handle all of that, itís not realistic. You know, itís not realistic. And I would say more than just football. Itís also for our university that we are presenting our university in the best possible light we possibly can on a day where everybodyís going to be pulled in a thousand different directions. I would assume, I donít know what the numbers say, but I would assume weíre probably going to have an increase of about 200,000 people on Saturday. And how are we going to manage all of that, from directions to parking, to tickets, to the game, to seats, to so on and so forth. So I think itís a really important day. Itís an important day for our football program. I think itís an important day for our university. I think itís an important day for our community, at least the conversations that Iíve had with hotels and restaurants and other establishments. You know, itís an important day. So I think as a football coach, my ultimate job is to make sure that our guys get great educations and are learning habits and lessons that theyíre going to be able to take with them for the next 50 yards of their lives. Itís also to make sure that they have a great football experience. But I also understand and am aware of the impact of what Penn State football also does for the community and can do for the university when handled the right way. So weíre very aware of those things in our program.

    Q. James, what does Ohio State lose with Nick Bosa being injured, and what impact, if any, will his absence have on your preparation?

    COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Heís one of the better college football players Iíve ever seen on tape. He is obviously big and strong and athletic. But his motor is I think what separates him. Thereís a lot of big, strong, athletic guys out there, but very rarely do those big, strong, athletic guys have the type of motor that he has play after play after play after play. Itís impressive. I got a lot of respect for him and really his family, what his familyís been able to do in terms of success and production on the football field. So obviously Iím concerned about coaching our football team and getting our team ready to play, but I do have tremendous respect for their program as a whole, for the type of support that they get, the history, the traditions, the athletes on the field. And heís a guy that really stands out to me when you watch the tape how much respect that you have for how he -- he plays the game the way itís supposed to be played. And thereís a lot of talented players that arenít using their talents to the level they should be. And heís a great example of how the game is supposed to be played.

    Q. James, getting ready for Ohio State at home in a White Out, has the 2016 game at all crossed your mind over the last few days and with where your program is now, what sticks out to you about that night?

    COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Not a whole lot. I mean I think obviously, I think whatís probably even more significant is that three out of the four games have been decided by 7 points or less. So this has been for four years a great game, a great game for college football, a great game for our conference and a great game for both programs. I mean you think about my first year. You think about the last couple of years. Itís been a great game but in terms of how much value there is transferred over from one year to the next, you know, Iím not sure. I mean obviously our players, the experienced players that we have that have played in multiple games, they get it. And that experience is valuable, but we donít have a lot of those guys that are playing significant roles for us right now. We got so many young guys. A lot of them were in the stands watching, saying thatís cool. But thereís a big difference between watching it and being out on the field. Iíll never forget, I remember Saquon, I think his freshman year talking about how like for the first quarter he was like, you know, like a fan, like, you know, talking about players that when he was in high school he grew up watching. And I think we got a lot of young players like that. We canít afford that. Weíre going to have to play really well for four quarters and canít have a lull in the second quarter and are going to have to play really well in all three phases, which I think weíre capable of doing.

    I think obviously being at home, thereís a home-field advantage, and there needs to be a significant home-field advantage. You know, Iím challenging all of Nittany Nation. Iím expecting weíll have 110,000-plus in the stands. Iím expecting weíll have another 100,000 fans outside of the stadium. And we need to make it the most challenging environment in the history of college football on Saturday. I want the Ohio State fans and family members of the players that are coming to have a great experience. I want our fans to treat them extremely well, welcome them to happy valley because we got a special thing going here. And I donít want anybody leaving not feeling like that Penn State does everything in a first class manner. But on the field, I want it to be the most difficult environment in the history of college football, and that is all 110,000 fans standing up, screaming, yelling, high-fiving your neighbor, going crazy and enjoying it. And I would also say for college football fans all over the country, if you havenít experienced a Penn State football game and specifically a White Out, it should be on your bucket list because, you know, Iíve been doing this for 23 years, and itís special. Weíre blessed and weíre fortunate to be in a community and to be in a state that loves coming together as a family come Saturday afternoons or Saturday evenings.

    Q. James, you mentioned in your opening statement you want to be more precise in your passing game. What do you mean by that, and could you just elaborate more on what youíre looking for there?

    COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah. Thatís as simple of splits, thatís as simple of depth of routes. That is -- and I say simple. I probably shouldnít say simple. But that is splits, being specific with our splits, being specific with the depth of our routes. Thatís understanding how to run routes where youíre trying to affect defenders. That is protection, being organized and on the same page in terms of how weíre picking up blitzes and pressures from a communication level from the quarterbacks to the O line, the running backs all being on the same page. Thatís fundamentals and techniques of consistently catching the ball.

    You know, this is going to be a game where thereís going to be very few balls caught where thereís not someone hanging on you. This is going to be a game where there are going to be contested catches, and weíre going to have to win our share of those contested catches on both sides of the ball. This is going to be one of those games. They are going to make plays, weíre going to make plays. And we canít flinch. And itís going to be that way for four quarters. But the details and the specifics and the fundamentals and the techniques, at the end of the day, thatís whatís going to win for you is those types of things. Obviously they have a very talented team. So it probably even more so magnifies that your techniques and your fundamentals need to be on point.

    Q. James, to go along with that, you mentioned closely matched teams and those sorts of things. As a coach how do you try and maybe strike that balance through these first four games knowing that perhaps you want to hold certain things back, that you donít want to put on film, and has that impacted at all kind of the Tommy Stevens package that we havenít seen yet. Is that one of those things where you say, okay, we only want to show X amount of things so far?

    COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah. Obviously Iím not going to get into scheme and things like that, even philosophy of scheme and what we would do in big games, because that doesnít obviously aid us or help us to do what we want to do on Saturday. But again, I think you guys know we donít necessarily approach things like that. Week one against App State what was the Super Bowl for us, Pitt, Kent, so on and so forth. We donít necessarily approach things that way. And from a holding things back or scheme or things like that, there is programs that do that and major in those things. Weíre going to watch the film. Weíre going to come up with schemes and opportunities that we think give us the best chance to be successful each week. There will be certain things show up that you guys havenít seen before, but thatís not necessarily because weíre holding something back. Itís because weíve seen something on film and an opportunity to expose maybe, you know, leverage or an angle or an opportunity.

    Q. Two-part question for you here. How concerned are you with getting pressure on Haskins, and then what do you see from their two wide outs?

    COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think the two wide outs are guys that in terms of them getting their hands on the ball in space can change the game at any moment. I donít think thereís any doubt about it. Thatíll be a significant challenge for us. And then being able to get pressure on the quarterback is not something that people have necessarily consistently been able to do against them, for a couple of reasons. Number one, I think the quarterback does a good job of getting the ball out of his hands quickly, and I think theyíve done a good job with their scheme and the talent that they have at wide out that typically his first or second progression is open because of the scheme and because of the talent, that heís not holding on to the ball very long as well. So I think itís a combination of those two things. Weíre going to have to make him uncomfortable in the pocket and get to him, and some of that will have to be through pressure, but some of thatís going to have to be with four down. And thatíll be a challenge, because I do think this O line, like I mentioned earlier, is probably the better -- probably the best O line weíve seen since I got here in terms of playing Ohio State.

    Q. Here all along I thought you and Brennan had the same barber. Do you need to start better on defense? (Laughter). Do you need to start better on defense or is it a product of still trying to find the combination youíre looking for, because it looks like youíre subbing more defensively early in games than -- I was just curious.

    COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I donít know if I would necessarily say that. Against App State I think we held them to three points and 175 yards until the fourth quarter. So, you know, we are subbing probably very similar to that weíve always subbed, except certain positions we donít have established starters yet, so thereís more probably rotation there. Typically when we have established starters we usually do a two to one rotation. Defensive line weíve always rotated linebackers itís typically been two to one starters with two series to one series of the back up or three to one depending on what the gap is like, and then secondary we played a bunch of guys. So I donít view it as that we are subbing more than we have in the past. I view it that we have less established starters that have created a gap between the backup. Weíve got some positions where literally itís about a 50/50 split because thatís what we feel like gives us the best chance to win.

    Q. Youíve seen a lot of J. T. Barrett the last couple of years. Haskins now the guy at quarterback for them. How does their approach maybe change a little bit? What are some of the things that he brings in terms of skill set that maybe werenít there before. And then Tate Martell, their number two quarterback, heís a dynamic threat it seems, how much do you account for him?

    COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Well, I think it starts with obviously Haskins, and I think with the athletes and the weapons that they have, heís able to make you account for all 53-and-a-third of the field because of his arm strength and because of the athleticism that they have. So that helps their running game. That helps their passing game, that heís able to really distribute the ball to so many weapons that theyíve been able to recruit and develop. So I think thatís what makes them different, where in the past they were probably more of a heavy running game as well as quarterback running game was such a big part of what they did. Both were challenging. Both are problematic. You know, quarterback running game is always a challenge. And the other thing I would say is obviously a quarterback thatís able to distribute the ball all over the field and be able to be accurate enough that receivers are able to run after the catch with it is challenging. So you got really two different animals. Obviously Tate factors into that as well. But heís obviously a different style when he comes in the game.

    Q. As a coach how do you come up with the answer for yourself of my team is this good, how good is my team? Maybe not what you tell us or what you tell other people, but what are you looking for four weeks in that kind of gives you an idea that we are this good when you go to sleep at night?

    COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah. I donít know. I donít know if Iíve ever necessarily said that or felt that or thought that. I think obviously games like this show you. I donít think thereís any doubt about that. But I think probably what I look for on teams and what I look for if I had to kind of pin down what Iím looking for on teams and what Iím looking for with players is consistency. Almost every single player on our roster can make pretty impressive athletic plays or they wouldnít be here. And thatís pretty much our entire roster. Where I think you go from being an average player to a good player or from a good player to an elite player is when youíre able to do that at a high percentage of your reps, you know, that the coaches trust what theyíre going to get from you play in and play out. And now those flashes of brilliance we have seen in the past we see them at a high level, kind of like what I was talking about with Bosa. You see -- itís not just flashes. You see it on a consistent level. And I think thatís what you guys are looking for. I think thatís what the fans are looking for. Thatís what Iím looking for. Obviously I got a better understanding of what weíre trying to do.

    Itís like -- itís the same thing with like thereís these companies out there now that grade players on how they played in the game. I donít know how you do that. You have no idea whatís being taught. So I think obviously weíre able to look at it as coaches with a little bit more of a critical eye than most, but I think weíre all looking for the same things. Weíre looking for consistency. And with the amount of players that have maybe played four games in their entire college career that we have on the field, we gotta increase that. We gotta increase those numbers of plays that theyíre playing at the level theyíre capable of playing. And thatís eliminating hesitation, thatís eliminating thinking, because the reps and the things that weíve been able to show them on tape or in the meeting rooms or on the practice field, that it becomes second nature to them. And weíre trying to speed up that maturation process as much as we can.

    Q. James, with Mark Allenís injury, what would you like to see from Ricky Slade now? And he hasnít had a catch yet. When he spells Miles, do you see him factoring more into the passing game now as a result of?

    COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think itís consistency. You got a young player, and heís obviously shown flashes of really good things, but itís kind of like what we just talked about is just consistency.

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    PSU Running Backs Series: John Cappelletti

    John Cappelletti 1971-1973

    Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Cappelletti attended Monsignor Bonner High School in Drexel Hill, a west suburb, played quarterback and graduated in 1970.

    In the era before freshman eligibility, Cappelletti was a running back on the freshman team at Penn State in 1970. During his sophomore season in 1971, he played as a defensive back, as the Nittany Lions had two senior running backs who were taken early in the 1972 NFL Draft: Franco Harris (13th overall) and Lydell Mitchell (48th).

    As a senior tailback at Penn State in 1973, Cappelletti gained 1,522 yards on 286 carries scoring 17 touchdowns as the Nittany Lions rolled to an undefeated 12Ė0 season. He was awarded the 1973 Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award, the UPI College Football Player of the Year, the Walter Camp Award, the Chic Harley Award, as well as receiving All-America honors. In his two-year running-back career, Cappelletti gained over 100 yards in thirteen games and had a career total of 2,639 yards and twenty-nine touchdowns for an average of 120 yards per game and 5.1 yards per carry. His Heisman acceptance speech, where he dedicated his award to his dying brother Joey, is one of the most memorable in the history of college sports.

    The relationship between Cappelletti and his younger brother, who died of childhood leukemia on April 8, 1976, was made into a television movie in 1977 called Something for Joey; Cappelletti was played by Marc Singer. The movie was based on the book of the same name written by Richard E. Peck and chronicled the bond between the two brothers as Cappelletti supported his young brother, ill with cancer.

    During Cappelletti's senior season, Penn State played West Virginia in late October. The morning of the game, Cappelletti asked Joey what he wanted for his upcoming 11th birthday. Joey replied "I want you to score three touchdowns for me. No, four." In Something for Joey, a shocked Cappelletti is seen confiding to a teammate: "How am I going to score four touchdowns?" At the end of the first half, Cappelletti had scored 3 touchdowns, well on his way to four. But head coach Joe Paterno did not like to run up the score against opponents, so when the game resumed after halftime, Paterno told Cappelletti he would be on the bench. Cappelletti quietly took his seat on the bench, without telling Paterno of Joey's wish. Late in the third quarter, one of Cappelletti's teammates told Paterno of Joey's wish. On Penn State's next possession, Paterno shouted "22" and Cappelletti took the field; he scored his fourth touchdown on the same possession, and pointed to Joey as he ran off the field. The Lions scored three more touchdowns in the fourth quarter and won 62Ė14.

    Cappelletti was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1993, and is also a member of the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame as a member of the 2009 Inductee Class.
    The undefeated 1973 team was honored at Beaver Stadium during halftime of the 2013 home opener on September 7, and Cappelletti received special recognition Ė his No. 22 was retired by the program, the first and only number to be retired by any sport at the university.

    On December 11, 2014, the Big Ten Network included Cappelletti on "The Mount Rushmore of Penn State Football," as chosen by online fan voting. He was joined in the honor by linebackers Jack Ham, LaVar Arrington, and Shane Conlan.

    Cappelletti was the eleventh overall pick of the 1974 NFL Draft, taken by the Los Angeles Rams. He played nine seasons in the league, five with the Rams (1974Ė1978), and four with the San Diego Chargers (1980−1983). He missed the entire 1979 season due to a nagging groin injury. In his 8 professional seasons, Cappelletti rushed 824 times for 2,751 yards, a 3.3 average, and 24 touchdowns. He caught 135 passes for 1,233 yards and 4 touchdowns.

    Cappelletti is married with four sons and now resides in Laguna Niguel, California, with wife, Betty. He is active in sales and manufacturing activities. His sister-in-law is the daughter of Heisman Trophy winner Alan Ameche. Cappelletti also is a classic car enthusiast.

    Penn State Statistics

    1972: 233 carries; 1117 yds; 12 tds / 16 receptions; 138 yds; 1 td
    1973: 286 carries; 1522 yds; 17 tds / 6 receptions; 69 yds; 0 tds

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    Penn state vs. Ohio state: Preview



    No. 9 Penn State vs. No. 4 Ohio State: Game Preview

    (9)Penn State (4-0, 1-0) vs. Ohio State (4-0. 1-0)

    Kickoff: 7:30 p.m., Beaver Stadium, State College, PA

    TV: ABC- Chris Fowler (play-by-play), Kirk Herbstreit (analyst), Maria Taylor and Tom Rinaldi (sideline)

    Weather: A very nice and sunny day with a high of 69, with temperatures cooling into the low 50s at night and little-to-no chance of rain.


    COACHES:

    James Franklin:

    PENN STATE RECORD: 40-17, 5th Year

    OVERALL RECORD: 64-32, 7th Year

    VS. OHIO STATE: 1-3


    Urban Meyer:

    OHIO STATE RECORD: 74-8, 7th Year

    OVERALL RECORD: 178-31, 17th Year

    VS. PENN STATE: 6-1



    NOW THE FUN PART....


    Ohio State travels to Happy Valley to take on Penn State in a clash of two of college footballís top teams for the 2018 season on Saturday night. And if the last two matchups between these programs are any indication, Saturday night's matchup between the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions has potential to be one of the top games this season. The stakes are high for both teams entering Week 5. The winner of this game will take an early step forward in the race to win the Big Ten East and for positioning for the CFB Playoff.

    Urban Meyer returned to Ohio Stateís sideline last week after a three-game suspension and guided the Buckeyes to a 49-6 victory over Tulane. Under the guidance of interim coach Ryan Day, Ohio State earned wins over Oregon State (77-31), Rutgers (52-3) and TCU (40-28). As usual, the Buckeyes have plenty of talent on defense, but the offense is more explosive through the air than in recent years. Sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins has passed for 16 touchdowns and completed 75.7 percent of his throws through the first four games.

    Penn Stateís program has been trending up under coach James Franklin and is primed to push for its third consecutive season of double-digit victories. The Nittany Lions claimed the Big Ten Championship in 2016 and fell just short of another East Division title last season, largely due to a one-point loss in Columbus. Penn State needed overtime to beat Appalachian State in the opener but defeated Pitt 51-6 in Week 2 and earned victories over Kent State (63-10) and at Illinois (63-24) to get to 4-0.

    Ohio State holds a 18-14 series edge over Penn State. Three of the last four matchups in this series were decided by seven points or less. The Buckeyes last victory in Happy Valley took place in 2014.

    Three trends to know

    ó The Buckeyes and Nittany Lions have the two longest win streaks among Power 5 programs. Ohio State has won nine straight games dating back to 2017, one game better than the Nittany Lions, at eight.

    ó Ohio State is 23-2 as a road favorite under Meyer, including victories at Penn State in 2012 and 2014.

    ó Penn State hasn't lost a home game since Nov. 21, 2015, against No. 14 Michigan. The Nittany Lions are 16-0 at home since and are one of three undefeated Power 5 teams at home since 2016, along with Alabama (16-0) and USC (15-0).


    Six Things to Watch

    1. Ohio Stateís Offense Against Penn Stateís Defense

    Ohio Stateís high-powered offense ranks second nationally by averaging 54.5 points a game in 2018. Under Meyerís direction, the Buckeyes have ranked near the top of the Big Ten in scoring, so a productive offense isnít a surprise. However, this unit is more explosive with its passing attack than it recent seasons, largely due to the development of quarterback Dwayne Haskins. In his year as the starter, Haskins has passed for 16 touchdowns to just one interception and completed 75.7 percent of his throws. Haskins isnít the runner that J.T. Barrett was, but the sophomore can contribute on read plays if the defense keys too much on the running backs.

    Helping Haskinsí fast start has been a deep and talented group of receivers on the outside, along with the one-two punch of J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber at running back. Parris Campbell (15.7 ypc) is the best of the bunch at receiver, but K.J. Hill (21 catches), Terry McLaurin (nine), Austin Mack (15) and Johnnie Dixon (10) will all factor into the gameplan on Saturday night. Ohio Stateís offensive line has surrendered six sacks through four games, and center Michael Jordan had a couple of low snaps against TCU. Thatís a small factor to watch on Saturday night.

    When Ohio State has the ball, can Penn State find a way to slow down Haskins through the air and Weber/Dobbins on the ground? Needless to say, this will be the biggest challenge of the year for a rebuilt defense under coordinator Brent Pry. The Nittany Lions are only giving up 4.6 yards a play but have been susceptible to the run (172.5 ypg allowed) and has allowed six plays of 30 yards or more. This defense is third in the Big Ten in pass efficiency defense but has yet to face a passing attack like the one Ohio State will bring to Happy Valley on Saturday night.

    2. Ohio Stateís Defensive Line Without Nick Bosa

    Itís no secret Ohio State has one of the top defensive lines in the nation. However, the Buckeyes will be missing a key piece of that unit, as end Nick Bosa is sidelined indefinitely due to an injury suffered against TCU in Week 3. With Bosa out, Chase Young and Jonathon Cooper anchor the end positions, with DreíMont Jones, Robert Landers and Davon Hamilton leading the way on the interior. Ohio Stateís defense is tied for the Big Ten lead with 15 sacks but its per-carry average has climbed from 2.9 allowed last year to 3.84 in 2018.

    While Young and Cooper are certainly capable off the edge, not having Bosa on the field will have some type of impact on Ohio Stateís defense. Adding to the intrigue surrounding this unit has been the concerns at linebacker and in the secondary for co-coordinators Greg Schiano and Alex Grinch. The Buckeyes have allowed 11 plays of 30 or more yards and six of 40 or more.

    Penn State will counter Ohio Stateís defensive front with an offensive line that is deeper and more talented than it has been in recent years. How will Young and Cooper and the other ends hold up in their biggest test of the 2018 season? Can they continue to create disruptive plays off the edge? Or will the Nittany Lionsí front five give quarterback Trace McSorley plenty of room to make plays downfield and open up holes for running back Miles Sanders?

    3. Can Penn Stateís Offense Generate Big Plays?

    As mentioned in the previous section, giving up big plays has been a problem for Ohio State this season. In the matchup against TCU, the Buckeyes had their hands full against a mobile quarterback and a group of speedy skill players. While the big plays are notable, itís also worth pointing out that Ohio State is only allowing 17 points a game.

    When Penn State has the ball, the focus of this matchup will fall on quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Miles Sanders. McSorley accounted for 241 overall yards in last yearís 39-38 thriller and enters Saturday nightís game averaging 249.5 total yards a contest. Sanders has picked up where Saquon Barkley left off, rushing for 495 yards and five touchdowns through the first four games of 2018. The depth and talent of this offense continues at the receiving corps with senior Juwan Johnson, along with rising star K.J. Hamler.

    Penn State has recorded nine plays of 40 yards or more this season and will need to add to that total in order to win on Saturday night. If the Nittany Lions can block the front four of Ohio State, thereís a good chance Sanders, Hamler and Johnson can make plays in space. Additionally, McSorleyís mobility will be an asset for coordinator Ricky Rahne to utilize.

    4. The QBs.

    Haskins and McSorley are both in the Heisman discussion and are among the seven Power 5 quarterbacks responsible for at least 21 points per game. Haskins (25.5) ranks second, while McSorley (21.0) is tied for fourth. McSorley is more of a threat to run, and has never lost a start at home. If Haskins leads Ohio State to a win, you can start thinking College Football Playoff championship in Columbus.

    5. Miles Sanders.

    Ohio State's defense has allowed five touchdowns of 49 yards or more this season, and Sanders has emerged as Penn State's play-making running back. He's coming off a three-touchdown, 200-yard effort against Illinois. If Sanders can break a few big plays in the running game early, that would make a huge difference.

    6. Ohio State's balance.

    The Nittany Lions give up almost identical numbers against the run (172.5) and pass (173.3), something to keep in mind while watching Ohio State's playcalling. Haskins can spread the field, but expect the running back tandem of J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber to be the key in the second half if Ohio State is able to build a lead. Dobbins averages 14 carries per game, Weber 13. If those numbers hold, Ohio State will be in good shape.
    Last edited by Ratpenat; 29-09-2018 at 05:24.

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  21. #31
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    John Cappelletti.... awesome. Thanks Rat!

    If you ain't a Gator, you must be................ Gator Bait !!
    Big CHEERS To All Streamers! Geaux Saints!


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    The game turning points that lost the game, Fumble and Missed Field Goal. The one that gets me the most, the last play call after two time outs. Coaching indecisiveness, to much thinking and not going with a play that was working during the game. They got out coached at the end of the game just like last year. Feel sorry for the players on how the coaches let them down.


    We are Penn State Go Lions.

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    Penn state vs. Ohio state: Recap



    As the dust settles following Penn Stateís heartbreaking 27-26 loss on Saturday night to Ohio State, the wound is still fresh but itís not a death blow to the 2018 season. The loss be a hard pill to swallow for fans everywhere but the future remains bright in Happy Valley.

    Trace McSorley Deserves Better:

    Iím not sure that Trace McSorley could have played any better than he did on Saturday night. McSorley had 461-yards of total offense against the Buckeyes. FOUR-HUNDRED-SIXTY-ONE. That is an amazing number for a quarterback going up against a top 10 team. That being said, as we all know in the gameís biggest play, the ball didnít end up in McSorleyís hands and thatís unacceptable. Whether it be a QB run or a pass, McSorley needed to have the ball in his hands.

    Trace had his signature Heisman game on Saturday and unfortunately because of the result, Iím not sure if anybody is going to remember his performance but it will go down as one of the most valiant efforts in program history. I promise youíre going to see a different Trace McSorley who is going to be on an absolute mission the rest of the season.

    This Team Can Play With Anybody:

    Okay, so maybe Alabama would be hard to hang with but they may run away with every game this season, even those against Auburn, Georgia, and LSU. But outside of Alabama, this Penn State team on Saturday showed that they are a top 10 team and might be even a top-5 team in reality. If the defense that we all saw on Saturday for the most part is the defense we can expect going forward, the rest of the Big Ten better watch out because no offense in the Big Ten is nearly as strong as Ohio State and the Buckeyes barely had enough for a win. This team is going to be fine going forward, the Michigan game will be difficult because of the circumstances but Iím pretty confident in this team winning out.

    Losing McSorley will be a big hit for Penn State but at the same time, with the talent coming into the program, the sky is the absolute limit.

    The Buckeyes are who we thought they were

    Yes they are and we let them off the hook. We beat Ohio State last night. We just also happened to beat ourselves.

    Couldnt stop the screens

    In the end, for as brilliant as Brent Pry's defense performed all night, they couldn't make a stop on either of these game-defining screen passes. This has been an area in which Penn State's defense has struggled for multiple years now, so don't expect teams to stop trying it. Hopefully the team can make some adjustments in that area over the bye week.

    In-Game departures

    Penn State lost a few key players to injury and one to an ejection on Saturday. Antonio Shelton's targeting call left an already thin defensive line even thinner, especially with Ellison Jordan's absence. KJ Hamler was knocked out of the game after taking a tough hit to the head. This team is still inexperienced, so losing a key rotation guy along the line and arguably your most explosive player is a tough hole to dig out of.

    Third down inefficiencies

    The Nittany Lions were an abysmal 4-17 on third downs against Ohio State. It seemed like the offense was trying to get too cute and ended up shooting itself in the foot on more than a few key plays.

    Drops

    It's been a theme all season. Penn State's receivers had, by my count, four drops on Saturday. No matter how you spin, you can't have that happening in week five. That should be the primary focus for David Corley and the receivers during the bye week and heading into Michigan State.

    Late Game Collapses:

    We have to face reality. This Penn State program has struggled closing out games over the last three seasons. Yes, they won two huge games in 2016 by closing out Ohio State and Wisconsin but since, theyíve lost to USC, Ohio State (2x), and Michigan State. The total point difference in those four losses? Eight points.

    That being said, in all of the four losses, the Nittany Lions blew fourth quarter leads. Itís becoming a trend in big games that is unacceptable and has to be fixed going forward. Thatís on James Franklin thereís no doubt about it but I also believe that fans need to trust Franklin more than ever going forward. But in the end, a loss is a loss and Penn State is still finding themselves just on the brink of greatness. But for them to do so, these collapses need to stop.
    Last edited by Ratpenat; 01-10-2018 at 01:11.

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  27. #34
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    I’m still having a hard time shaking off that result the other night. Especially as that’s the second year in a row!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mezzle View Post
    I’m still having a hard time shaking off that result the other night. Especially as that’s the second year in a row!
    Mezz, Same here bud. I have been reflecting on it all week. Have been on facebook in PSU Forums, reading blogs,listening to people. Talking to my college buddies too. It has taken a whole week to process the 4th and 5 call, the lack of adjustment by Pry on the screen passes and perimeter game, and then the Franklin Press Conference after the game about tired of being great. As much as I have grown to like Franklin, I have said this from day one, and I will still stand by this.... He is not a game day xīs and oīs coach, and that goes back to his time at Vanderbilt. He is a great recruiter, motivator, delegator, CEO of the program.
    I mean look at games where we had leads: USC, OSU, MSU, OSU .... We have blown double digit leads in those games. Its not a question of talent, they can play with anyone, rather I feel its a question of coaching at the assistant level. Franklin made the final call on that 4th and 5, but Rahne called the game....Defense, blowing double point leads like that... Pry has been DC during those games, so the question is, why is he not being questioned??
    Aside form this, when I looked at the schedule this season and saw OSU, MSU, Wisconsin, and Michigan...I figured 3-1 at best or 2-2 at worst... I still think a 10-2 regular season is in order, IF the team is kept focused and doesnt dwell on teh loss to Ohio State.

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    PSU Running Backs Series: Matt Suhey

    MATT SUHEY 1976-1979

    Matt Suhey: Fullback, Investor, Friend

    Football and Penn State were almost birthrights for Matt Suhey. He is the grandson of Bob Higgins, an All-American and the Nittany Lions head coach from 1930 to 1948, and the son of College Football Hall of Fame guard Steve
    Suhey. His brothers, Paul and Larry, also played for Penn State.

    ďI was so fortunate to have grown up in State College,Ē Matt says. ďMy coaches gave me a lot of great guidance and character buildingĒ ó not just his football coaches but also soccer, wrestling, track, and even Little League baseball.

    After high school, he carried on the family tradition as a standout running back for the Nittany Lions from 1976 to 1979, rushing for 2,818 yards and 26 touchdowns. In 1980, the Chicago Bears drafted him in the second round, and he replaced injured fullback Roland Harper as lead blocker for running back Walter Payton. The future Hall of Famer shunned the rookie at first, but their on-the-field chemistry grew into an off-the-field friendship that lasted long after Suhey scored a touchdown in the Bearsí 1986 Super Bowl win.

    In 1998, when Payton was diagnosed with inoperable liver disease, Suhey was the one who drove him to appointments at the Mayo Clinic.

    After Paytonís death the following year, Suhey was executor of his friendís estate, and he remains close to the Payton family. He recently met with Paytonís children to discuss a possible business enterprise that would bear their fatherís name.

    After retiring from the Bears in 1989, Suhey put his Penn State marketing degree to work, buying a membership at the Chicago Board of Trade and then becoming involved with Milesburg-based AquaPenn Spring Water Co. Although Danone Group bought AquaPenn in 1998, Suhey is still ďheavily involvedĒ in the water industry as well as other sectors, including heavy equipment (Manitowoc Cranes).

    He and his wife, Donna (also a Penn State alum), still live in the Chicago area. Their oldest son, Joe, became the fourth generation of the family to play Penn State football ó he was with the Lions from 2007 to 2011 ó and he now lives in San Francisco. Daughter Allison is a neonatal nurse in Milwaukee, and youngest son Scotty is a senior at Indiana University.

    The Suhey kids have spent plenty of time in State College during family visits over the years, and Matt himself still keeps in touch with grade-school friends.

    ďState College brings back very fond memories to me,Ē he says. ďThere are some wonderful people there, and I was the beneficiary of all those influences.Ē


    Matt Suhey Statistics 1976-1979

    1976: 125 carries/ 487 yds/ 5 tds ; 4 receptions/ 17 yds/ 0 tds
    1977: 139 carries/ 638 yds/ 8 tds; 12 receptions/ 101 yds/ 0 tds
    1978: 184 carries/ 720 yds/ 7 tds; 10 receptions/ 111 yds/ 1 td
    1979: 185 carries/ 973 yds/ 6 tds; 13 receptions/ 99 yds/ 1 td

    Totals: 633 carries for 2,818 yds and 26 tds; 39 receptions for 328 yds and 2 tds


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    Coach franklin press conference: Michigan state

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Going to try to add to our tradition and history here. Weíve got so many unbelievable things that one of the things that we discussed a couple weeks ago and were able to get it running, and weíre going to do this, start a new tradition here for the homecoming game each year, weíre going to have a lead bus that brings us to the stadium for our normal walk into the stadium and that bus will be full of Penn State lettermen. So they are going to lead us into the stadium. That first bus will be a number of Penn State lettermen, basically itís first come, first serve. Once the bus is full, the bus is full. I thought that would be a really nice thing for us to do every single year on home coming.

    We have so much respect and appreciation for our lettermen. Itís another way to show our respect to them and honor them in a way. So thatís that. Thatís maybe some of the changes for home coming, and then also what weíre able to get done in the bye week.

    Shifting to Michigan State, got a lot of respect for Coach Dantonio, what heís been able to do in his career and the Michigan State program. Itís very, very impressive what heís been able to do in his 12 years there.

    Very consistent. Weíre facing a team thatís got as many returning starters as any team in the country, 29 of 30 starters returning off a 10-3 team. A group of guys that know how to win and a bunch returning from a leadership perspective, as well.

    And then offense, Dave Warner has done as good a job as any offensive coordinator in our league over the time that heís been there.

    They do a lot of different things. You know, they are as multiple as youíll probably see. 11-personnel is their lead personnel group. 12-personnel is their next most popular personnel group at 63 percent and then they also get into 21-personnel, which itís almost like you never see that any more and also 22-personnel.

    Weíll get a lot of different things we have to defend. We have to be ready for the power, the kick play, the truck -- we call it truck. Some people call it pin-and-pull. We have to be ready for all those things.

    I think time of possession is something they do very well. They rank No. 2 in the Big Ten and No. 10 in the country. We have to protect the football. They already do a great job of time of possession, so we canít turn the ball over and put them in a situation which is really the style of play that they want to play with.

    And guys weíre impressed with on offense, the quarterback, Brian Lewerke, seems like heís been playing there forever: 64 percent completion ratio; is a guy that can beat you with his arm, his mind, his legs. I think heís what most people are looking for at the quarterback position. Heís also 6-3, 220 pounds.

    And then they have two wide receivers, Cody White is playing at a high level and then Felton Davis seems like heís been playing there forever, as well, and done some great things and both of those guys have given us headaches in the past.

    Defensively, Mike Tressel, Coach Dantonio, this defense is kind of what they have made their name on, really since Coach Dantonio has been there. You look at them: They are big, they are stout and they are physical, especially up front. They are a four down base defensive front.

    They probably have a little bit more diversity from a coverage perspective than what you saw a few years back. They used to be a, what we call, quarters 4x and zero; they press the two outside receivers and play the two quarter safeties. They are playing other things now. They are playing cover one a little bit more than they have in the past and playing a little bit more fire zone than they have in the past, and they are pressuring about 30 percent of the time overall.

    The thing that jumps out to everybody is they are No. 1 in the country in rush defense. No. 1 in the Big Ten and No. 1 in the conference and in the country, so thatís something that jumps out.

    We think the middle linebacker, No. 35, Joe Bachie, we think may be the best linebacker in the league that we have seen. Very productive, very physical. Great leader for them. Runs really well.

    And then their defensive end, No. 48, Kenny Willekes, is really making a bunch of plays from a lot of different ways. Eight tackles for loss, four sacks, four quarterback hurries, 29 tackles.

    And their cornerback, Justin Layne with, him being 6-3, kind of stands out to you on tape and during games. Seems like heís been playing there for ever, as well. Has had a nice career.

    And then special teams, Paul Haynes, is running their special teams right now. Paul has been a head coach and been very successful. You look at them, we are going to need to be ready and we have studied a lot of this and we have made a lot of cut-ups.

    They are willing to run a fake at any time in the game. That goes back with Coach Dantonio. They are up by points; they will run a fake. They are down by points; they will run a fake. Different field positions, overtime to win the game.

    You look at 2018, they ran a speed option versus IU.

    They ran a kicker sweep versus Maryland in 2017.

    They ran a kicker ISO against Rutgers in 2015, all on field goals.

    Notre Dame, 2010, overtime to win the game, they run a tight end wing switch pass.

    Notre Dame in 2016, they run a muddle two-point play.

    They have run punt fakes versus Ohio State.

    They ran a punt fake in 2016, and Northwestern on a kickoff; they ran a popover.

    We have all these things cut up. We are showing them to our players to get prepared because they have a history of doing these things and they are going to look for these things and take their opportunity when they see them there.

    We have got a real challenge. This is a program and a team that is very proud; that knows how to win, has been doing it for a long time. We have had some serious battles that have gone back and forth.

    So look forward to the opportunity, and open up to any questions.

    Q. You and others have talked about not allowing a loss to linger, and I was wondering, what have you seen from your players and coaches in the last ten days on that front, and secondly, how can Shane Simmons impact your defense?

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, weíre really excited about having Shane back. Heís a guy this spring and this summer we were really excited and he has not been available up to this point.

    You know, weíll see how much he plays, but even if he can give us ten to 15 plays on Saturday, and play those reps at a really high level, then I think itís a win for us. And weíre excited about getting him back. Heís more of a complete player than heís been in the past. Heís over 250 pounds. He always was a pass rusher but now we think heís going to do a really, really good job, and playing the run, as well. So excited about that.

    The other thing, you know, it hurts. It hurts our fans. It hurts our coaches. It hurts our players. I think the last thing you want to do is ignore that. You recognize that. You watch the film. You evaluate the film, you make the corrections and you move forward.

    The thing that Iíve been really harping to the team this week is really two things, and I say this week, probably the last two weeks -- is really two things. No. 1, weíre at a point in our program, we have to fight for every little gain we possibly can find, and itís not going to be in one specific area. Can we improve 1 percent in nutrition; can we improve 1 percent in sleep; can we improve 1 percent in scheme; can we improve 1 percent in terms of practice, effort and focus, in meetings, in taking notes and all those types of things. Because thatís really where weíre at.

    So we spend a lot of time talking about that, and challenging each coach, including myself and the players, to all look at it that way. You know, how can we get 1 percent better in multiple areas and thereís tremendous value in that. So thatís been the one thing.

    And I think the other thing is this -- and this I know has been helpful to me and helpful to our players and our coaches is, you know, I think the people that study our program closely, you guys, the media, our fans, our coaching staff and our players, itís always got to start with a simple question, and that is: Have we gotten better?

    I know we did not finish the game the way anybody wants us to finish the game. I get that. But okay, we understand that. We study that. We learn from that. We grow from that.

    But letís go back to that first question: Did we get better from week one to two? Yes? Did we get better from week two to week three; weíve gotten better every single week. If we continue to do that individually and collectively, I think weíll like where weíre going to be.

    You know, those are things that we can control. Thereís other things outside of our control. Do I think some of those things probably helped this week? Yeah.

    Our players, we didnít as coaches, but our players were able to sit around and watch college football all day and a lot of teams across the country got beat. Me and my wife were talking in between schools, and we were saying, is there a way to get every single team in the country to lose this weekend. I donít know if thatís mathematically possible, but me and my wife were trying to come up with a way for that to happen.

    But you know, I know our players sat around watching college football and a lot of teams got beat. A lot of teams got upset. So the things that we can control, which is getting 1 percent better in multiple areas, thatís all of us, players, coaches and everybody as a program is something we can control and focus on.

    The other thing about, have we gotten better every single week, I donít think thereís too many people out there that could argue different; that we havenít gotten better every single week.

    So those are the things that we can control and thatís what our focus is going to be and then all the other things that are outside of our control, weíre going to try not to listen to those things and weíre going to try not to focus on those things and weíre going to focus on our process.

    Q. You brought up Brian Lewerke, the Michigan State quarterback. He had a pretty big game against you last year. What do you think are a couple of keys trying to defend him better this year?

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: I think his mobility is a major factor. Being able to make sure that we can take some of those easy throws away from him, keep him in the pocket so he canít extend plays.

    So I think getting pressure is great, but being able to get pressure in a way that we keep him in the pocket; so he canít extend plays, and now itís difficult to cover anybody for that long.

    I think thatís the biggest thing. If you look back with Coach Dantonio over his career, they always want to establish the run and when they are able to do both, they are difficult to defend.

    But I think with their quarterback, I think the biggest thing is make him hold on to the ball and try to keep him in the pocket. Our contain rushers and things like that cannot allow him to break contain and get on the perimeter, where now he can hurt you by running the ball, or now our defensive backs have to cover for an extended period of time, which is always challenging.

    Q. What has stood out most to you about Pat Freiermuth so far, and how quickly has he been able to pick things up as both a receiver and a blocker?

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: I think the thing that we notice pretty quickly is the stage just isnít too big for him. It hasnít been in the weight room. It hasnít been in practice. It hasnít been in meetings. You never know when the lights come on, but it hasnít seemed to be there, as well. Heís a very confident guy. Heís a very poised guy.

    Heís physical. Thatís something that we have shown the team, examples of big runs and big plays that heís had where heís pan caked people. Heís playing really well right now.

    But we also have a lot of confidence in our other tight ends, as well. A couple of those guys have been banged up or had some injuries and things like that. Itís great having Bowers back. We think those two guys are a really nice complement.

    We felt like Holland had a really good off-season and summer camp. So being able to get him back, as well. Weíre expecting to get all these guys back this week, and Danny Dalton has done some really nice things for us.

    I think itís a really good unit and we have enough depth there; so that when we do have a bump or bruise or whatever it may be, we have enough depth there that guys can step in and get the job done for us.

    Iím pleased with how Coach Rahne has recruited that position when he was coaching that position, and I think Tyler Bowen has come in and done a nice job with his O-line background at that position, too. Been very pleased with him and the whole group.

    Q. Do you expect K.J. Hamler to be able to play Saturday?

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah.

    Q. Staying with your receivers, can you explain the inconsistency with the older guys, where thatís headed in your mind, and also, can you tell us where Justin Shorterís progress is right now?

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, a lot of confidence in our wide receivers. I know they want to play at a higher level and I know Coach Corley wants them to play at a higher level and they have done some really good things, but itís consistency. I think between Trace and those guys getting on the same page and doing it every single day at practice, that will translate into the games. Weíre very confident.

    I believe in those guys. I believe in how we do things and how we operate. So I have a lot of confidence; I have a lot of confidence there.

    You know, Justin Shorter, got banged up and got some bruises and things like that during camp and missed a significant amount of time, and I would say it probably seems like itís more significant because when youíre a young guy, those reps are critical.

    So itís delayed some of his opportunities and slowed down some of his development but we feel really good about that whole freshman class. Thatís a really good class. They have all done some really good things at times.

    But we also have that redshirt freshman class that factor in for us, as well. Weíll just continue working with these guys and keep developing them and keep loving them up, but I think that unit has a chance to be really special and I know itís going to happen at some point. Hopefully itís this weekend.

    Q. You talked after the Ohio State game about trying to make everyone -- their team was too comfortable being a great program and now you want to make them uncomfortable to become elite. How have you seen your captains and your team leaders taken what you said about that and how have they gotten the message out to their teammates and how have you gotten the message out to the team?

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: A couple things.

    Iím going to answer the question, but you know, what I would probably say to everybody is, you know, we had a press conference last week on the field after practice. Had a chance to answer some questions. I really kind of want to move on to what we did during the bye week and what weíre going to do against Michigan State. I donít want to be talking about something from two weeks ago, but I will answer your question.

    I think itís funny, the responses of that have been interesting. Iíve gotten a lot of really positive responses from athletic directors across the country within our own conference, from high school coaches, from recruits. Thereís other people that havenít liked it a whole lot.

    But I will tell you, one of the things we talked about with the players and with the coaches is this is really what weíve been talking about for a while. Weíve made some pretty good strides.

    Again, I think the people that cover our program closely from before we arrive to since weíve arrived and what weíve been able to do the last couple years, I think itís clearly obvious to everybody that weíre making great progress and weíve done some things that probably people would have questioned before arriving.

    So I think the trajectory of the program and what weíre doing is really good, but Iíve talked about this for a while; that, you know, as hard as weíve worked to get to where we are now, thereís another step that has to happen, and that is difficult to do. That is challenging to do, and every stage you get to, you fight like heck to get to that stage and then break through and get to that next level and thatís kind of where weíre at.

    You know, one of the things that we talked about a little bit with the players is that year we started out 2-2 and the coaches were all over everything, the players were all over everything. We had a players-only meeting and we had a lot of discussions with the leadership council and the captains and then we won nine straight. There was a shift. There was a shift, and there was a change in how we approach things and our standards of how we do things: Holding each other accountable, thatís coaches; thatís players; thatís coaches to players; thatís players to coaches, thatís everything. We need to continue on that path. We need to continue on that path and challenging each other and pushing to have that next breakthrough.

    Again Iím very, very pleased with the direction of the program and where weíre going, but weíve got to fight to get to that next level. We have to fight to get to that next stage, and like I said, itís not going to be any one moment, where you have this ďA-haĒ moment and the light goes on.

    Itís that daily grind on little things that most people overlook. I think you guys have heard me talk about: You go eat at a nice restaurant, a very successful restaurant. Why is that restaurant successful? Because they do all the little things better than anybody.

    You stay in a really nice hotel and that hotel is really successful and itís been successful over years and years and years; why have they been successful? Itís when you call down to the front desk; it doesnít ring more than three times and someone answers it.

    Itís all those little things that add up and weíve got to look at our organization the same way, how we sit in meetings, how we take notes in meetings, coaches going back through the game plan and looking through everything with a magnifying glass, in as much detail as we possibly can because weíve got to fight and scratch and claw to have that next breakthrough as a program. I think weíre headed there. All signs show that. But itís still going to be a lot of heavy lifting.

    Q. Can you take me through the process of C.J. Thorpe making the transition from an offensive player to a defensive player?

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, you know, so we talked to C.J. this summer about it. It was a discussion. We have some veteran players who have played a lot of football and then we kind of have a gap of some young players that havenít played a whole lot of football, and he is a big, strong aggressive, powerful, violent kid with a motor.

    You see it on offense, and thatís why the offensive coaches werenít real fired up about losing him. And I would still make the argument, his greatest long-term potential is on the offensive side of the ball. Heís got a lot of characteristics where youíd like to recruit ten C.J.s and plug them into a lot of different places.

    It just came to the point where we had a need, a more urgent, pressing need. We waited on it this summer and then it got to a point where we felt like we needed to make a move. So we revisited it, brought him in, and C.J.ís first response was, ďis this because you guysĒ -- I think he said, ďIs this because you guys think I suck on offense?Ē

    And I was like, ďNo, no one thinks that. Quite the opposite. Itís because we feel like you can go over and help us.Ē

    Heís very strong, very strong, especially in his lower half. Heís aggressive. Heís explosive. Heís about 323 pounds. So it gives us an older guy.

    I think I got a question last week after the Tuesday or Wednesday practice, whatever it was, about why C.J. Well, instead of a redshirt freshman possibly when heís competing with, heís a redshirt sophomore, another year in the program, developing growing.

    Now itís all the fundamentals and technique and I think the thing thatís challenging is although he picked up the system fairly quickly, thereís still all the fundamentals. Coming off the ball as an offensive lineman is very different than coming off the ball as a defensive lineman; where you put your hands, how you accelerate your feet, the way your base is. Itís very different.

    But he can make up for a lot of that lack of technique and fundamentals with those other traits that Iíve already described. So weíve just got to continue speeding up his maturation process with the techniques and fundamentals, and we think weíve got, you know, a guy that could be a problem in there at the nose tackle position.

    Q. How has Michigan State been so good against the run? Are they doing something that you notice that really impresses you in that area?

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: I think the biggest thing is up front. Their D-tackles and their D-ends are big, are strong, are physical, are very, very aggressive. They have got the two Panasiuk boys inside that we recruited that are problems, that are problems, very physical, very physical inside.

    Raequan Williams is massive. Heís 6-4,300 pounds. When you watch the tape and youíre looking at all those thighs and legs and rear ends, I mean, they are massive.

    The defensive end, Willekes, who we talked about before, is very disruptive, as well.

    And then they have a middle linebacker that I already mentioned that we think is one of the better linebackers that weíve seen on tape this year in Bachie.

    They are committed to it. If you look at this system with Coach Dantonio, with Coach Narduzzi, with Coach Tressel -- I throw Narduzzi because they come from the same family, the same tree; they have been good on defense and specifically stopping the run for a long time.

    So they take a lot of pride in making you one-dimensional, and you know, you see that on tape, as well. You see that on tape, as well. I know they take a lot of pride in it.

    Q. What positives do you take out of your defense and what did you learn about them from the first 52 minutes versus what do you think happened in the last eight minutes? Did they get tired or worn down, or was it just things that Ohio State was doing to take advantage?

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, you know, again, I want to answer your question. But I already said a few questions ago, that we talked about that game after the game in the press conference and then we talked about that game last week on Tuesday when we had a little press conference -- Wednesday, excuse me -- after practice.

    So Iíd like to really talk about the bye week. Iíd like to talk about Michigan State.

    I can talk in general about our defense. I think we took a real stride last week. Again, I think our defense played really well last week against one of the best offenses in the country, but weíve still got work to do. Again, Iíd prefer to answer questions about the bye week and about Michigan State and our focus on that moving forward.

    Had some questions about how do you move on to the next game; itís by stop talking about the previous game.

    Again, I know youíve got to do your job and thatís a question you want to ask based on what you want to write, but Iíve already kind of said a few questions ago that I prefer to keep my answers about the bye week and the upcoming opponent.

    Q. Can you talk about how big the bye week was for a lot of the true freshmen that you have playing, and also, do you have redshirt decisions to make now on P.J. and Ricky because they are at that four games and they didnít play in the last game?

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I donít think anythingís really changed. We had already green-lighted Ricky. We had already green-lighted P.J. We had already kind of made that decision. We werenít really counting games with those guys; unless something happened, we were going to play those guys this year.

    I do think we have some other guys that have only played a little bit and we need to manage that, and thereís still time to make that decision. Those guys want to play.

    So are we going to green-light them for the second half of the season; are we going to manage it and try to take them up to the limit where they play a decent amount but not enough to burn a year; thatís the stuff that still needs to be managed, but no real changes in the original plan have been formed at this point.

    You know, the bye week I think was good for a lot of our non-travel guys, whether thatís older guys that are doing a great job for us each week or whether that is young guys that have just joined the program that are trying to kind of figure some things out.

    Yeah, they got an extra practice. They were out in full pads getting some live work when the vets were just in really helmets and cleats and things like that.

    A lot of these plans are based on years of experience of other places that Iíve been, as well as talking to the sports science people and everything else. I thought the bye week went probably as good as it could have gone. But again, weíve got to use that moving forward.

    Q. How do you assess what youíve gotten from gross Matos through the first five games and where has his game developed most over the past year?

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: I think just more complete. A lot like some of the other guys we talked about, like with Shane, I think a lot of those young defensive ends, I think early on in their career, they are just more focused on sacking the quarterback and a lot of the speed-type stuff, and maybe donít have the bodies yet to be the complete players that we need them to be in the Big Ten. They can be role players in certain situations.

    And I think thatís kind of where Yetur is growing. Heís much better against the run right now. Heís very physical. Heís very strong. Heís got a really good motor and I think he can be even better. Weíve seen flashes of really good stuff.

    Youíd like to see a little more production, but I think he can be more productive in terms of sacking the quarterback, tackles for loss, tackles in general, things like that. But I do know heís a disruptive presence out there and I think youíll see him continue to grow as he gains experience.

    Q. With the bye week, when you look at the offense from points per game, yards, etc., what are your thoughts on the job that Ricky Rahne has done, and how has he evolved since taking over full-time as the offensive coordinator?

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: I think really good. Again, I know his coaches, myself, and all the assistants, with the fans and with the media, you focus on specific plays and specific situations, and trust me, weíre looking at all those things as hard as anybody, but I do think your point is a good one.

    You know, look at where weíre at. Look at where weíre at across the board, not just in specific plays, not just in specific moments. Thatís myself, thatís the offense, thatís the defense, thatís special teams.

    But I think weíve been pretty productive. I think weíve been pretty consistent both in the run and the pass. Weíve done a really good job. I think at one point we were leading the nation in scoring.

    So you know, I think overall, I think Ricky and Brent and Phil and all of our coaches have done a really good job. Again, I know after last week, thereís criticism. I get that.

    Again, and thatís me included. I understand; I get that. You donít fill up 110,000-seat stadium without passion. When you win, thereís nothing better. When you lose, you know, that same passion spills over into other areas, as well. So we get that. We embrace that. We know that comes with the territory.

    But I love our coaches. I love our players. I love what weíre building and where weíre going and what weíre doing and who weíre doing it with. Weíre just going to keep plugging away.

    But again, thereís nobody more critical of us more than we are.

    Q. You mentioned in the bye week that you were going to take a look defensively at how teams were tackling you and what you could do to counteract that. Is there anything thatís declassified or any interesting nuggets you might be able to share? And how do you balance that philosophically when being so aggressive has made you very successful but at times has also led to a lot of big plays?

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think thatís a great point. I think you essentially hit it right on the head there. When youíre aggressive, and you play really good, with any scheme, with anything you do on offense, defense, special teams, thereís strengths and thereís weaknesses.

    If youíre blitzing a lot, youíre susceptible to the screen game, and you need to identify and know what that weakness is so that when you are blitzing and you are being aggressive like that, everybody needs to know how people will attack you when youíre doing that and what our answer is.

    And it canít just be: Iím going to pin my ears back and so sack the quarterback. Those responsibilities are critical, are critical, as well. So the screen game is a big one. Weíve worked on whether thatís a traditional screen to a running back or whether thatís a perimeter screen to a wide receiver. You know, people trying to get their athletes in space, athletes in space.

    You go throw, you make an efficient play cut-up, you make an explosive play cut-up, you look at it and say, what themes are there, what plays are hurting us more than others. Thatís other things, as well, that we see that are themes that people try to do to attack us week-in and week-out. So those are the things that we spend a lot of time during the bye week in talking about.

    But overall, you know, again, I go back to I think we have gotten dramatically better from week one, and weíve got to improve in those areas, and weíll be saying that in week 11. Thereís things that weíre doing really well and these are areas we still need to get better at.

    But I think as we gain experience, not only in terms of fundamentals and technique and confidence in playing, but also, I think as young players, you spend so much time focused on the defensive call or the offensive play or the special teams assignment that you have, and weíve got to get to the point where their responsibility and their assignment is second nature and now they are thinking about: How is the defense going to try to attack; what do I need to be aware of.

    What youíre really trying to get all players to do, which is critical at the quarterback position and critical at every position, is: Can you anticipate? Okay. Weíre calling this defense, and they line up in this formation, and in this formation, they typically do these two or three things, and if they do this, this could cause us problems because in this defense, our weakness is here.

    In this offensive call, you know, and play, our challenge is here, and I think thatís where we have to get as a program. We have to gain that experience. If the guys arenít thinking about their jobs any more, they are playing fast, and they are able to react to what the offense or what the defense or what the special teams is doing.

    Thatís the next step for us, and I would say, we probably have more players doing that than not, but weíve got to get those not guys, you know, up to that level where they can anticipate, because thatís when you really start playing fast is when you can anticipate as a quarterback or as an offensive player, based on safety rotation or linebacker skew, you know what they are going to do before the ball snaps. Thatís when you hear players say, well, the game has slowed down. Thatís whatís happened. They are able to anticipate before the ball snaps whatís going to happen.

    Thatís the same thing on defense. They line up in this formation based on all the film study weíve done, they are going to do one of these three things, and now, I can identify it as quickly as I possibly can, and Iíll go play fast because I know whatís coming; I know what they are about to do.

    Q. I know you guys like to kind of prepare, go through every scenario and last year, after Michigan State, you said after the game that you guys would totally analyze that weird delay and how you went about doing that. How did you break that down in the off-season and what were some of the things that came from that in case you were ever faced with that situation again?

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: I think we talked about that at an earlier press conference. I think I got asked that when we first came back, but Iíll cover it again.

    Basically what we found is, itís a challenging solution to come up with because essentially each team in the Big Ten doesnít really have the space needed. Who has got a room big enough thatís not being used on game day to house 150 people? Is there all going to be the advantage to the home team? No doubt about it, based on their space.

    Iíd like to be critical of other peopleís visiting locker rooms, but ours isnít great. So I think youíd better be careful when you start taking shots at other people if you havenít really looked at yourself.

    Could we travel more food? Yes. And have we talked about all those things? Yes. How do you get out of -- how do you get out of your wet clothes when you donít have dryers and you donít know how long the break is going to be, whether itís 45 minutes or three and a half hours? So now are we traveling extra underclothes so we can take off the underclothes and put a new set on; all those types of things.

    So the things that we can control, yeah, weíve got a plan for, but just thereís so many things that thereís not an answer for, unless Penn State and every other school in the conference is going to build massive structures for rain delays; that youíre going to leave open, whether thereís good weather or not, in case you get thunder and lightning. Thatís not going to happen.

    As much as we studied and look add it, what came out of it is every school in the Big Ten should have a protocol that they go to so that itís not a scramble, because a lot of it, youíre reliant on that home stadium and what they are able to provide to you.

    Q. Could you assess the field goal operation at this point and your confidence level and also your ball protection.

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, thereís no doubt weíve got to do a better job of protecting the football. I think you guys have heard me talk about it enough. You guys have studied the game enough. We all understand, you donít turn the ball over; your likelihood of winning skyrockets.

    We talk about that. We drill it every single day, more than any place that Iíve ever been and that has been good to us. That plan has been good to us, so weíll stick to the plan.

    In terms of field goal percentage, in terms of kickoff, I think those guys have done a nice job. Our operation is good. Those guys are kicking probably at a higher level than I would have anticipated, when you combine practice and games.

    Do we need to be more consistent in games? Yes. I donít think thereís any doubt about it, both with field goal percentage as well as kickoff location and things like that.

    But again, we have two true freshmen that I have a lot of faith in and that I have a lot of confidence in, and I think both those guys are going to have great years this year as well as great careers here at Penn State. I believe that.

    Q. With K.J., the sample size is small, five games and 13 catches, but I think he has 24-and-a-half yards per catch. Have you been around a wide out that has that big-play potential? And also with Donovan Johnson, do you expect him to play this weekend?

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, Iíve been around -- if you look at my history with wide outs, Iíve been around some pretty good wide receivers. I think weíve got record holders here at Penn State in terms of the Big Ten. I think we had the all-time leading receiver in the SEC what I was there in Jordan Matthews and Hamilton here at Penn State.

    You look when I was at the Green Bay Packers, Donald Driver had the best year of his career up to that point. You look when I was at Maryland, we had Smith and Bay. You look when I was at Kansas State, Jordy Nelson in our offense, I think had 122 catches in one year for 1,600 yards and finished second in the Biletnikoff Award.

    So you look at our history with the wide receiver position, production has been really good. Now, is K.J. right up there with those guys and as impressive as a redshirt freshman as Iíve been around? No doubt about it.

    I think the thing that I probably like about K.J. just as much as how productive heís been, is he is an energy giver. His ability to make meetings fun, to make practice fun, the locker room fun; coaches want to be around him; players want to be around him, and I think that undervalued.

    I look at whatís going on in high school and I look at whatís going on in college and I look at whatís going on in the NFL, and you see really good examples of positive leadership and you look at examples of things that could be distractions.

    K.J is whatís great about college football. Heís got an awesome mom and heís got an awesome dad that couldnít be more supportive of their son and couldnít be more supportive of Penn State and what weíre doing here. He never asks for the ball. Just the opportunities he gets, he makes the most of them. Heís a positive impact on his teammates, on the coaches, on the players, on this community.

    K.J. is like a lot of guys in our program. I could not be more proud of what our guys are doing in the classroom, what our guys are doing in the community and what our guys are doing on the football field. Partly thatís the type of young men we have. Partly thatís who we are bringing here. Partly thatís the development once they step on campus and the leadership that we have in the veteran players, as well.

    Heís doing great, but Iíve been around some pretty good wide receivers in my career, and heís right up there with them.

    I probably missed a couple wide receivers out there. Whenever do you that, you hurt someoneís feelings. I didnít mean to do that but Iíve been around some pretty good ones.

    Q. Last week you mentioned the fact that because you tightened up who was getting reps, that resulted in some running out of gas towards the end. Do you try to make that your formula for the next seven games, or do you reassess to opening it up to a rotation or how do you find that balance?

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: I think thatís a really good question and I think thatís a fair question.

    If you look at us, weíve gone back and studied. Again, we have looked at everything. You look at the games that we have lost like this, and thereís been a few of them, what are the themes, what are the patterns and thatís part of it. Thatís part of it. We play our best players, and we get worn out late in the fourth quarter against really good football teams. The two things that we have to do is we have to be more willing to play the depth that we typically do.

    As you guys know, I think a few weeks earlier, you guys were asking me tough questions, like why are you playing all these guys? Why not just play your starters more. And then we do that, and then we run out of gas.

    Well, we didnít do that because of your suggestions or your questions, but my point is, weíve done that over my eight years as a head coach. I think the next step for us as a program is to really continue to work really hard at developing that next level player, that second team player that we have more depth there; that thereís not as much of a drop-off.

    I think most programs around the country, the ones are the ones for a reason. But whether itís for injury or whether itís to keep guys fresh, thatís the next step for us. We have got to have more depth that the coaches feel great about playing; that when we know that when we put them in the game, they are going to play at a really high standard week-in and week-out.

    Now, what we do is, we try to develop that, and then when we get to a game like we had last week, we had come up having discussions as a staff and with the players that this was our plan. You could make the argument after the fact that we should have played some of those guys, but Iíd also make the argument, the plan was what got us to that point in the first place.

    So again, thatís more just about studying kind of where weíre at as a program and the next steps for us and what we need to do.

    But everything has been looked at. You guys question us, which is good. The players questioning each other and the coaches, the coaches questioning the players, coaches questioning each other, offense/defense, and defense/offense, and not from a defensive standpoint, I think thatís something weíve done a good job of creating a climate.

    Iíve been places where the defense knows the offense is doing something and thereís a tendency -- or the offense knows that the defense is doing something and itís not sound and they donít say anything because they donít want to overstep their bounds. We donít live like that.

    We have really good conversations in other peopleís words to give perspective. And then I go home, and I get in bed and my wife questions and challenges, and I think all those things are good. And Iím working really hard at not being defensive because youíre defensive because you care so much and youíre prideful, but all these questions are good because they allow you to make sure that you donít have holes or blind spots in your program.

    And the questions allow you to double-check and make sure those things donít exist.

    Q. This is not an Ohio State question. Itís just context.

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Thank you.

    Q. There were six plays in that game, some of the biggest -- no I promise.

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: You guys are unbelievable (laughter).

    Q. I promise. There were six plays in that game, some of the biggest yardages that you gained, in four of them, you lost yards and didnít gain yards after that. How much of a process is it learning how to continue punching after chunk plays, especially when the past two years or so, that was something you guys were good at?

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think being able to use momentum and continue that momentum is really important. Thereís a lot of things that go on that you guys and the fans are unaware of and never will be because this is not the setting or the place to do those types of things.

    But thereís reasons for when we donít execute; that is, coaches making better calls; myself; the coordinators; the assistants. That is execution in terms of guys knowing their assignment and doing their assignment and that is -- sometimes, the guy across the field or the guy across the line, made a really good play.

    And thereís a lot of different things that kind of go in there with those types of things.

    We have to control the things that we can control. Weíve got to make the calls that we need to make at the right time, and we need to execute the plays. What happens is, it doesnít seem like a lot but the O-line makes a critical error; the D-Line makes a critical error; the wide receivers make a critical error; the coaching staff makes a critical error; and you have, I donít know, six, ten of those in a game; when your margin of error against an opponent like that is so small.

    Now, donít get me wrong, they did, too. And at the end of the day, itís going to come down, when youíre playing that type of opponent and youíre going back and forth, two really good teams; itís not going to come down to a lot of times who makes the most plays. Itís who makes the least amount of mistakes.

    So thatís kind of what weíre doing is looking at all those things and we seem to stall out at around the 30-yard line and it comes -- itís all of that. Itís a little bit of scheme. Itís a little bit of execution. Itís a little bit that they got really good players, as well.

    I mean, the fourth and one call, again, here we are going back; but the fourth and one call, their defensive end makes an unbelievable play. He gets his hand up, bats the ball down. Weíve got a huge play. He makes a really good play.

    So I really want to move on, but itís hard to answer your guysí questions, and you guys keep asking them, and if I donít, then Iím rude. So I donít know what the balance is. Iím still kind of trying to figure that out.

    Kris, help; at some point jump in and help me here.

    KRIS PETERSEN: Youíre done.

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Thatís the best way to do it. Thanks, guys, appreciate it.

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    Penn State Running Backs Series: Curt Warner

    CURT WARNER 1979-1982

    West Virginia star

    Curt Warner was a star long before his days at Penn State ó at least in his hometown. Warner graduated from Pineville High School in West Virginia, where he excelled in more than just football. During his prep career, he earned first team all-state honors in football, basketball and baseball and was the first person to win the Harrison H. Kennedy Award as West Virginia's top football player and West Virginia's Amateur Athlete of the Year in the same year.

    As a senior at Pineville, Warner rushed for 2,532 yards and scored 48 touchdowns. He also amassed more than 1,500 points over three seasons on the basketball team. Those accolades earned him a spot in the West Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 2016.

    Just the beginning

    During his first year on campus, Warner served as a reserve to starting tailback Matt Suhey and Booker Moore. But that didn't stop him from contributing on the field. Warner appeared in 11 games during his freshman season, rushing for 391 yards and two touchdowns on 84 carries. He also caught 10 passes for 129 yards and a touchdown.

    Penn State finished with a 7-4 regular season record and a spot in the Liberty Bowl. There, the Nittany Lions beat Tulane, 9-6. They ended the year ranked No. 20 nationally by the Associated Press.

    Starter in the backfield

    With Matt Suhey out of State College and in the NFL, Warner took over the starting running back duties in his sophomore season. Taking a bulk of the carries out of the backfield for the Nittany Lions, Warner tallied 922 yards and six touchdowns on 196 totes.

    With Warner and quarterback Todd Blackledge leading the offense, Penn State averaged 26.8 points per game, good for 23rd in the nation. Behind a seven-game win streak spanning the middle of the season, the Nittany Lions finished the regular season 9-2, earning a Fiesta Bowl bid against future Big Ten rival Ohio State.

    Bowl game MVP

    Right from the start, Warner showed he wasn't shying away on the big stage of the Fiesta Bowl. On the first play from scrimmage, the Penn State running back went 64 yards for a touchdown. While the Buckeyes managed to answer and take a lead into halftime, the Nittany Lions owned the second half. Penn State won, 31-19, as Warner was named the offensive MVP behind 155 yards rushing and a touchdown on 18 carries.

    All-American junior

    If there was anyone who didn't realize Warner's talent after his Fiesta Bowl performance the year before, they quickly realized what he could do during the 1981 season. As a junior, Warner helped the Nittany Lions offense continue to improve, as he posts 1,044 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on 171 carries, an average of 6.1 yards per try. Against Syracuse in Week 5, he rushed for a then school-record 256 yards. For his efforts, Warner was named a first-team All-American.

    The Nittany Lions boosted their average offense to 30.9 points per game ó 10th in the nation ó and finished the regular season 9-2. They reached the No. 1 national ranking midway through the season, but a loss to Miami derailed that. Even so, Penn State earned a second consecutive bid to the Fiesta Bowl, this time against USC and Heisman Trophy-winning running back Marcus Allen.

    Stealing the spotlight

    Entering the 1982 Fiesta Bowl, all eyes were on the dynamic backfields of both teams, highlighted by Warner and Allen. While Allen had the recognition of winning the Heisman a few weeks earlier, Warner was the better player on the field ó at least for that day.

    Penn State's defense put the clamps down on Allen, holding him to just 85 yards on 30 carries after he put forth more than 2,000 yards during the regular season. Meanwhile, Warned continued his Fiesta Bowl success from the year before, running for 145 yards and two touchdowns ó including the game's first score again ó on 26 carries. The Nittany Lions won, 26-10, as Warned earned his second-consecutive offensive MVP award.

    Historic season

    Even with the bar set high coming off an All-American season, Warner still managed to put up top numbers again as a senior. With a stellar offensive around him, Warner put forth another 1,000-yard season, rushing for 1,041 yards and eight touchdowns on 198 carries. He also caught 24 passes for 335 yards and five touchdowns. He eclipsed the 100-yard mark in each of the final five games of 1982, including a season-high 183 yards and three touchdowns in a win at Boston College. Warner finished 10th in the 1982 Heisman voting, while taking home All-American honors for the second straight season.

    That season, Warner rose to the top of the Penn State record books. Capping off a historic career with the Nittany Lions, Warner surpassed Lydell Mitchell as the leading rusher in school history, finishing his career with 3,398 rushing yards. The record stood for 25 years, until Evan Royster broke the mark in 2007.

    With Warner and Blackledge leading the offense for a third season, the Nittany Lions featured the fifth-best offense in the nation, putting up 32.9 points per game in 1982. The lowest output came in the final regular season game, but Penn State still managed to knock off top-ranked Pitt, 19-10. The Lions finished 10-1 ó their lone blemish coming in Week 5 against Alabama ó and earned a spot in the National Championship against unbeaten Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.

    National champs

    Warner and Penn State again found themselves matched up against the reining Heisman Trophy winner, this time it was Georgia's Herschel Walker. Unlike last year, this bowl game had a national championship on the line.

    Just like the year prior, Warner never succumbed to the pressure and again outshined the national award winner. The Penn State back had the game's first score, finding the end zone from two yards out. He added another touchdown on a nine-yard run in the second quarter, finishing with 117 yards rushing on 18 carries. Walker finished with 103 yards rushing and one touchdown.

    In the fourth quarter, Penn State found itself clinging to a 20-17 lead. However, Blackledge ó who would be named the game's MVP ó made a big throw to Greg Garrity to provide some insurance to the defense, making it 27-17. While Georgia would answer with a score of its own, it was too little, too late. Penn State had its first national championship, beating the Bulldogs, 27-23.

    Record-setting career

    When all was said and done, Warner left Penn State holding 42 school records. Along with the career rushing record, Warner set the mark for most 100-yard rushing games with 18. His impact was felt, as the Nittany Lions were a perfect 18-0 in those games. Behind those numbers, Warner was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2009.

    "In all my years at Penn State, we have had a lot of exceptional backs, and he is one of the very best of that distinguished group," Warner's coach Joe Paterno said. "Curt was a leader for the great teams we had in the early 1980's and played a big part in helping us win our first national championship."

    Career stats

    1979
    Rushing: 84 carries, 391 yards, 2 TD
    Receiving: 10 catches, 129 yards, 1 TD

    1980
    Rushing: 196 carries, 922 yards, 6 TD
    Receiving: 13 catches, 92 yards

    1981
    Rushing: 171 carries, 1,044 yards, 8 TD
    Receiving: 9 catches, 106 yards

    1982
    Rushing: 198 carries, 1,041 yards, 8 TD
    Receiving: 24 catches, 335 yards, 5 TD

    Total
    Rushing: 649 carries, 3,398 yards, 24 TD
    Receiving: 56 catches, 662 yards, 6 TD

    Awards

    First-team All-American (1981, 1982)

    West Virginia Sports Hall of Fame

    College Football Hall of Fame


    Post-college career

    Following his back-to-back, 1,000-yard rushing seasons, Warner was the third overall selection by the Seattle Seahawks in the 1983 NFL Draft. It didn't take long for him to transition to the pro game, either. He led the AFC in rushing his rookie season with 1,449 yards on 335 carries (4.3), scoring 13 touchdowns to help the Seahawks reach their first AFC Championship game.

    Warner suffered a torn ACL in the first game of the 1984 season. After missing that entire season, he picked back up right where he left off. After tallying more than 1,000 yards on the ground again in his first season back from the injury, Warner went for a career-best 1,481 rushing in 1986.

    During his eight year career in the NFL, Warner was named to three Pro Bowls (1983, 1986, 1987) and was selected to the All-Pro team four times (1983, 1985, 1986, 1987). He ended his career with 6,844 rushing yards and 56 touchdowns, adding 193 catches for 1,467 yards and seven touchdowns.


    PHOTO GALLERY












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    Penn state vs. Michigan state: Preview



    No. 8 Penn State vs. Michigan State: Game Preview

    Penn State will look to bounce back on Homecoming weekend against a banged-up, yet always dangerous, Michigan State squad.

    (8)Penn State (4-1, 1-1) vs. Michigan State (3-2, 1-1)

    Kickoff: 3:30 p.m., Beaver Stadium, State College, PA

    TV: BTN- Kevin Kugler (play-by-play), James Laurinaitis (analyst), Lisa Byington (sideline)

    Weather: Overcast and cool, with a high of 51 and temps dropping into the 40s later in the day. There is a chance of showers in the morning, but should clear up well in time for kickoff.

    COACHES:

    James Franklin:

    PENN STATE RECORD: 40-18, 5th Year

    OVERALL RECORD: 64-33, 7th Year

    VS. MICHIGAN STATE: 1-3


    Mark Dantonio:

    MICHIGAN STATE RECORD: 103-47, 12th Year

    OVERALL RECORD: 121-64, 15th Year

    VS. PENN STATE: 5-4



    NOW THE FUN PART....

    One of the biggest Big Ten games of the year will happen this week when the Michigan State Spartans take on the Penn State Nittany Lions in the battle for the ďLand Grant TrophyĒ. Both are 1-1 in conference play and coming off losses. This is the third conference game for the Spartans and third for the Nittany Lions.

    Michigan State started out ranked No. 11 in the preseason AP Top 25, but has dropped out of the rankings entirely. The Spartans are 3-2 and coming off a 10-point upset loss to Northwestern. Michigan State fell behind early and could not recover.

    Defensively, the Spartans have hit a rough patch, surrendering an average of 305.2 passing yards per game. The ground game has also been almost non-existent. Connor Heyward leads the team in rushing with only 147 yards and just three touchdowns so far this season. Quarterback Brian Lewerke has passed for over 1,000 yards already this year, but facing a Penn State defense that is only allowing 192.6 passing yards per game is a challenge.

    Penn State rolled through their non-conference schedule and dominated Illinois in their first Big Ten game. Against Ohio State, their luck ran out. Leading by five with just over two minutes to play, Dwayne Haskins hit K.J. Hill for the go-ahead touchdown and the Buckeyes held on.

    With the team coming off a bye week, James Franklin looks to get his Nittany Lions back on track. Quarterback Trace McSorley is one of the countryís best. The senior has thrown for 1,049 yards and 10 touchdowns to only two interceptions. Facing a defense that gives up 300 plus yards per game bodes well for Saturday.

    MICHIGAN STATE OFFENSE VS. PENN STATE DEFENSE

    Spartans Quarterback Brian Lewerke had his breakout performance against Penn State in 2017, tossing for 400 yards and two touchdowns to help sink the Nittany Lionsí playoff hopes. However, he has yet to establish himself as one of the nationís top quarterbacks in 2018 as many expected. While his completion percentage has improved from 59 to 64.2 percent, he has had issues turning the ball over with six interceptions to just six touchdown passes (Lewerke had 20 touchdowns to seven interceptions all of 2017).

    It hasnít helped Lewerke that so much of his supporting cast has been hampered by the injury bug. LJ Scott, perhaps the Big Tenís most bruising running back, has been out since week two and will be a game-time decision on Saturday. They will also be without Cody White, the teamís second-leading receiver, who is recovering from a broken hand. Freshman receiver Jalen Nailor has also been out since week three with an undisclosed injury.

    However, the injuries at the skill positions pale in comparison to the offensive line where the Spartans have been forced to rely on several inexperienced players due to a lack of healthy bodies (something Penn State fans can certainly relate to in recent years). The biggest loss is starting left guard David Beedle. The senior returned from injury against Northwestern, only to suffer an arm injury that will sideline him for at least a month. Starting right guard Kevin Jarvis will also be out, and both starting tackles will play limited snaps as they also recover from injuries.

    The impact of the injuries to Scott and the offensive line is easily noticed with the Spartans run game. Sophomore Connor Heyward and freshman LaíDarius Jefferson have filled in for Scott, with very limited success. Against Northwestern last week, Heyward had 12 yards on five carries, while Jefferson contributed 15 yards of six carries. The Spartans are averaging just 123 yards rushing per game, and that paltry sum has been boosted by some major gains by wide receivers on reverses and sweeps.

    At least Michigan State still has the services of Felton Davis III, one of the Big Tenís biggest playmakers. Davis has been the only constant for the Spartans offense, and single-handedly kept the Northwestern game close with with 146 yards from the line of scrimmage with two scores. Heís the type of player that you can throw it up to when nothing is working and hope for the best.

    Penn Stateís defense grew up fast against the Buckeyes in week five. Despite a late collapse, the young defense exceeded even the wildest expectations before running out of gas. It will be interesting to see how they build off that performance as they face a more one-dimensional and less explosive attack. Lewerke had no trouble finding holes in Penn Stateís defense a year ago, and always found ways to keep the chains moving and keep Trace McSorley and co. on the sidelines last year. He will need another big game, but has already proven heís capable of doing so.

    Penn State defensive end Shane Simmons will be making his much-anticipated return to the field after an injury sidelined him for the first five games. Simmons is an incredibly quick edge rusher who will help an already-talented group of defensive ends. Keep an eye out for C.J. Thorpe, a very large and aggressive guard-turned-defensive tackle who will be making just his second appearance on defense.

    PENN STATE OFFENSE VS. MICHIGAN STATE DEFENSE

    Letís start off with the bad news for the Penn State offense- they will be facing the nationís top run defense on Saturday. The Spartans are allowing just 33.8 yards per game on the ground, and a measly 1.32 yards per attempt. Considering how the Buckeyes were able to slow the Nittany Lion rushing attack, itís no stretch to imagine the Spartans can do the same on Saturday.

    The silver lining? While Michigan Stateís defense is stout against the run, they have also allowed opponents to pass at will throughout the season. The former ĎNo Fly Zoneí secondary is just a distant memory, as the Spartans are giving up 305.2 yards per game- ranking 122 of 129 FBS teams. As long as Penn Stateís receiving corps can limit dropped passes, Trace McSorley should be in for a huge day.

    A name you will hear plenty on Saturday is inside linebacker Joe Bachie. The junior is a preseason All-American and is on the watch list for about every major defensive award, as well as the 2017 team MVP. He seemingly is in on the action on every play, and leads the team with 39 tackles. He also has 2.5 TFLs, a sack and an interception on the season. Defensive end Kenny Willekes will also work to blow up plays in Penn Stateís backfield, and already has eight TFLs and four sacks through five games. Linebacker Andrew Dowell is also dangerous, registering four TFLs and two sacks thus far, and provides regular pressure off the edge on passing downs.

    Penn State will likely try to get the run game back on track, despite the Spartans eye-popping statistics. Either way, McSorley will be ready to take over. Fortunately, K.J. Hamler is set to return after an early exit from the Ohio State game after taking a blow to the head. Pat Freiermuth is now the full time starting tight end, and has shown to be a star-in-the-making as a true freshman.

    SPECIAL TEAMS

    The Spartans have a very reliable kicker in sophomore Matt Coghlin, who has connected on all eight field goal and 14 extra point attempts. His long for the season is 49 yards, besting his two 46-yarders from a year ago. However, they will be without Jake Hartbarger, a four-year starter and one of the top punters in the nation. Hartbarger suffered a leg injury in week two at Arizona State, and is not expected to return for another month. Tyler Hunt has been starting in his place, averaging 38.8 yards per punt with a long of 63.

    Michigan State has not demonstrated much explosiveness in the return game yet. Receiver Brandon Sowards has filled in for the injured Cody White at punt returner, and is averaging 11 yards per return with a long of 24. Running back Connor Heyward serves as kick returner, averaging 24.3 yards per return with a long of 36. The Spartans do not have a return touchdown this season.

    Three Things to Watch

    1. Michigan Stateís offensive line woes

    A year ago, Michigan State allowed the second-fewest sacks among Big Ten teams. This year, Michigan State has already allowed 12 sacks in five games after giving up 21 all of last year. Brian Lewerke has been under pressure this season, and the stats show that the recipe for beating Michigan State lies with taking advantage of the offensive line. Lewerke has been picked off six times, often seeming to force some plays under pressure that just have not been there for him. His six interceptions are the second most by a Big Ten quarterback this season.

    If Penn State can clamp down on Lewerke the way it handled Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins, it could be a long afternoon for the Michigan State offense.

    2. Penn State at home coming off a bye week

    While Michigan State was having a tough battle at home last week against Northwestern, Penn State was taking the week off after its loss two weeks ago against Ohio State. Penn State has had some sluggish starts to games this season, and the defense has had some issues, so there has been work to do during the bye week. James Franklin is 2-3 coming off bye weeks at Penn State but has won the last two at home.

    Since 2009, Michigan State is 13-2 in its next game after a loss if you throw out the 2016 season entirely. The Spartans have already bounced back from a loss this season with a road win.

    3. If running the ball is a difference, Penn State has the decisive advantage

    Penn Stateís running game is off to a solid start this season even after losing Saquon Barkley to the NFL draft. As a team, Penn State is already on pace to have more rushing yards and more rushing touchdowns than it did last season. That is partly because the offense without Barkley is slightly more traditional when it comes to running the ball, with Miles Sanders proving to be a reliable option on the ground. Trace McSorley is also piling up yards on the ground after rushing for a career-high 175 yards against Ohio State.

    Penn State will be challenged by Michigan Stateís Big Ten-leading rushing defense, which is allowing just 33.8 yards per game and has given up only four rushing touchdowns this season. However, the Spartans bring the league's second-worst rushing offense to Happy Valley. Penn Stateís rushing defense has been far from spectacular, but the Lions did hold Ohio State to a season-low 119 rushing yards two weeks ago.

    Here are my keys for Penn State ...

    1. No fourth-quarter collapse. Ohio State rallied from 12 points down to win two weeks ago and Michigan State shut out the Lions in the fourth quarter last season. Penn State must finish against this team.

    2. Don't forget about Miles Sanders in the passing game. The talented junior may not get many yards on the ground against the nation's top-ranked run defense. But can the Spartans handle him on wheel routes?

    3. Keep Spartans QB Brian Lewerke in the pocket. Michigan State's mobile junior threw for 400 yards on the Lions last year. He has the ability to buy time for his receivers to get open against PSU's secondary.

    4. Don't let big-play wideout Felton Davis get loose. Davis leads Michigan State in receptions (23) and yards (374). He tormented Penn State last season, catching 12 passes for 181 yards and a touchdown.
    Last edited by Ratpenat; 12-10-2018 at 01:06.

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