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  1. #41
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    Penn state vs: Michigan state: Recap



    This Is A Problem

    After Penn State fell to Ohio State, 27-26, a familiar feeling began to creep in among the Nittany Lion faithful. Perhaps there's a reason why the team lost to Ohio State in the same manner as its last three losses, games in which the team led late and then wasn't able to get it done down the stretch. This was somewhat ... I don't want to say written off, but there was something motivational and easing about a head football coach seeming angry after a heartbreaking loss, going into his postgame presser saying "we're great, not elite, and I am going to do everything I can to get us to a place where we're winning these games."

    Here's the thing: I don't know why this is a recurring thing, why Penn State has blown fourth quarter leads to USC and Ohio State and Michigan State and Ohio State again and Michigan State again to lose five football games by two possessions. You're going to comment that you have the answer, and odds are, you do not, but it's ok that you and I do not know how to fix this problem.

    Sure, we have our guesses as to why a team that has won 11 games in back-to-back years and has won the Big Ten in that time cannot close out games. My best guess is that everyone tightens up and gets awfully conservative after 55 minutes of playing their game, because they want opponents to take wins instead of making a mistake that hands it to them, but whatever! I don't know anything. None of us do.

    The thing is my paycheck is not dependent on trying to figure out why Penn State keeps losing games in the same manner. Nor is yours. This is on James Franklin ó who gave his word after the loss to the Buckeyes a few weeks ago that the program would find a way to take a next step, and I honestly think is willing to shoulder the load and do whatever it takes to make sure the program gets better. His comment was certainly meant to be more broad, a way to assess how the program as a whole can move forward and take the next step to join the sport's elite.

    What he might have overestimated was where this Penn State team is right now. It is a young team almost across the board, whether that be in terms of reps or literally being in your first or second year of playing college football. If not for the fact that they have a battle-tested senior quarterback, this had all the makings of a seven or eight-win squad in the midst of a rebuild*.

    (*: a funny thing about the post-Paterno era is that "rebuild years" are years in which the Nittany Lions are going to a bowl ó perhaps a relatively good bowl in Florida! ó and not, like, a three or four win team. I digress. Onward.)

    I would posit that next year's team has the potential to be really, really, really good as long as it figures out how to replace Trace McSorley ó oh god they're losing Trace please god no he doesn't deserve this ó but it's not next year. It's this year. And what we know so far about this year's team is the following:

    It beats up on bad teams and will run up the score when possible.
    When that doesn't happen, they're 1-2 and nearly lost that third game, which was at home against a Group of Five team.

    Close games are now becoming a problem. In the last two years, the Nittany Lions are 3-4 in one-possession game. Those three wins came against Iowa (the Nittany Lions were much better, but couldn't finish drives), Washington (a little nerve-inducing, but admittedly did what they need to do, even if the fourth quarter drive chart is rough), and App State (nearly gave that away, too). In six of those seven those games, Penn State either gave away a win or came uncomfortably close to doing so.

    For now, the Nittany Lions are not elite. Close games are a problem, but the biggest problem that was on display on Saturday goes back to a fortnight earlier. Franklin sat at the podium and said that Penn State is a great program, and it needs to take a step forward to become elite. The pain that manifested itself this Saturday, however, might stem from the fact that while that might be true of the program from a 10,000 foot view, the loss to the Spartans illustrated that this year's team has to take a step forward ó in terms of execution and in terms of not shooting itself in the foot over and over with things like penalties and other little mistakes ó to just become great.


    5 Postgame Thoughts:

    Penn State officially has a Michigan State problem. Just like they did last year, the Spartans won a tight game against the Nittany Lions, this time on a touchdown catch in the game's waning moments by Felton Davis.

    Here are some thoughts on the loss:

    Penn State beat themselves today. Yes, there was some shoddy officiating, and the reversed call on Brian Lewerke throwing a backwards pass was brutal. Before you come calling for officials heads, though, there were missed tackles, missed throws, a missed field goal, and a number of other missed opportunities that kept Michigan State in the game far longer than they should have been.

    Penn State's offensive line played, by far, their worst game of the year. It took a herculean effort by Miles Sanders to score a touchdown. Other than that, Penn State's offense did next to nothing all game.

    To go off of James Franklin's comments on elite teams following the loss to Ohio State, elite teams close games, even when they don't play their best. Penn State reinforced it is not an elite team with today's loss.

    Michigan State was ready to play today. Watching each sideline throughout the game, Michigan State seemed to be the team that was fired up. Penn State, on the other hand, seemed flat. We thought the bye week would mean the lethargy that showed up following last year's loss to the Buckeyes wouldn't pop up. Nope.

    The fourth quarter defensive collapses are officially a problem. This is three times this year, and fortunately, Penn State was able to beat Appalachian State, or else they'd be 0-3 in close games this season.

    The Lions' special teams are reverting back to 2015 form. And that's a very bad sign for James Franklin's program. Penn State struggled in almost every phase of the kicking game three years ago and allowed two kick returns for scores. Saturday's effort vs. Michigan State represented a step backward. Leading 7-0 in the first quarter, Penn State's punt coverage team fell asleep and let Michigan State running back Connor Heyward rumble through a wide open hole for a 26-yard gain on a fourth-and-six play. There wasn't anyone close to Heyward. Boosted by the successful fake punt, the Spartans would go on to score the tying touchdown. Game on.

    A change may need to be made at one of the specialist positions. True freshman Jake Pinegar has made just four of eight attempts and it's obvious the Lions' coaching staff has lost confidence in him. Penn State decided against a 46-yard Pinegar try in the third quarter and couldn't convert a fourth-and-four from the MSU 29. Pinegar, who is on scholarship, later missed from 37 yards before nudging a 20-yarder just inside the right upright. He is 0-for-3 from 40-plus yards. The Lions have to be able to trust their placekicker and right now, they cannot.

    Penn State's veteran wideouts aren't scaring anyone. Redshirt freshman KJ Hamler is the only receiver that has consistently made big plays. He led the Lions with five catches for 66 yards, including a five-yard touchdown catch. Hamler has 18 catches for 374 yards (20.8 average) and five touchdowns in six games. Veteran wideouts Juwan Johnson and DeAndre Thompkins have combined for 332 yards and two touchdowns. Johnson caught two passes for 19 yards vs. MSU and Thompkins was held without a catch.

    Miles Sanders' Saquon Barkley impersonation was impressive. Michigan State's top-ranked run defense entered the game allowing an average of 33 yards a contest. With Barkley looking on, Sanders gashed the Spartans for gains of 78 and 48 yards, breaking at least four tackles on the winding 48-yard scoring run in the second quarter. The junior tailback was held in check on his other 15 carries, totaling 36 yards. But the Spartans are going to win some battles, too.

    Backup dual-threat quarterback Tommy Stevens continues to be ignored. This wasn't the Lions' most creative offensive game plan and Stevens didn't play a snap. A week earlier against Ohio State, Stevens carried three times and lost 12 yards. PSU has yet to use Stevens as a passer or a receiver.

    The Lions' defense had no idea what to do with Felton Davis for the second consecutive season. Michigan State played without runner LJ Scott (ankle) and promising wideout Cody White (hand). But the Spartans still found a way to the ball to wideout Felton Davis, who burned PSU with eight catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns, including the 25-yard game-winner with 19 seconds to play. Davis was even better in MSU's 27-24 win in 2017, producing 12 catches for 181 yards and a score. That's 20 catches, 281 yards and three touchdowns in three games. C'mon, man.

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  3. #42
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    Penn State: For the first time since he left, Joe Moorhead's wide-open ways were miss

    Since Iím not a fly on the Penn State sideline, I donít know exactly how to split the blame between offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne and head coach James Franklin.

    What I do know is that the Lionsí offense has lost its mojo, and the fault is not with the players.

    The latest fall-from-ahead heart-breaking loss ó Saturdayís 21-17 setback against Michigan State ó leaves me wondering if things would be different if Joe Moorhead were still working in Happy Valley. In two seasons as Penn Stateís offensive coordinator, Moorhead created the high-octane attack that made Trace McSorley a folk hero and allowed the Lions to return to national prominence ahead of schedule.

    But for two games in a row now, the offense has gone into its shell ó as I pointed out after the 27-26 loss to Ohio State ó with the game on the line.

    Starting with the 2016 Rose Bowl, Penn State has five losses by a total of 12 points. One more score probably wins every one of those games. Adding up the scores from the last 8 minutes against the Buckeyes this year and the fourth quarters of the other games, itís opponents 62, PSU 6.

    Worse than the numbers is the increasing passivity of Rahneís unit.

    Needing one first down to ice Saturdayís game, Penn State ran the ball three straight times. The call on second-and-7 was a terribly unimaginative straight handoff to Miles Sanders. Nothing like running the play the defense is most likely to expect.

    What might have Moorhead done differently? He might have trusted his third-year starting senior quarterback to throw a pass. He might have moved McSorley with a rolling pocket with a run/pass option ó even if there was no intention to throw the ball. At least make the defense respect the possibility.

    Penn Stateís line play is as good as it has been in Franklinís five seasons. Sanders racked up 162 yards on 17 carries, including a two spectacular long runs. But the other 15 carries went for only 36 yards. Both of the big plays came in the first half.

    As improved as the line is, Penn State is not going to close out Big Ten power programs with deep handoffs against stacked defenses.

    Against the Spartans, it never should have come down to fourth-quarter plays.

    What might have Moorhead done differently? He might have put the ball in the air a lot more against a defense coming off a home loss to Northwestern in which the Spartans allowed 373 passing yards.

    Unlike NUís Clayton Thorson, who put the ball in the air 47 times, McSorley threw only 32 times. Unlike the Wildcats, who established Flynn Nagel (10 catches for 111 yards) as their go-to receiver, Penn State made its top pass-catching threat, KJ Hamler, seem invisible for large chunks of the game. Hamler finished with 5 catches for 66 yards. He easily could have doubled those team-high totals if Rahne had designed a game plan to exploit MSUís weaknesses. He had two weeks to prepare. Iím left scratching my head.

    Why has Penn State seemingly lost its identity? Why does the offense suddenly look conservative, like itís playing careful and scared?

    Hamler and tight end Pat Freiermuth are both true freshmen, but theyíve played so well itís hard to buy an argument that the offense has to be simplified for them at the mid-point of the season. Sanders, behind the improved line, is doing a fair impersonation of Saquon Barkley.

    Everything seems to be in place for the offense to continue to grow. Yet it seems to have gone stale. It looks different. It didnít look exactly right even in back-to-back 63-point efforts in September, as crazy as that sounds.

    The scheme seems less varied, less complex, less able to spread and then dissect defenses. What happened to the fun and the daring? What happened to screens and backs slipping out into pass patterns? Sanders and Ricky Slade didnít catch a single pass against the Spartans. Running backs have 2 catches for 2 yards over the past three games.

    What happened to backup junior QB Tommy Stevens and the ďLionĒ role? Was he more injured than we knew to start the season? Or have Rahne and Franklin simply decided to scrap Stevensí multi-purpose offensive role? By all appearances, Franklin is wasting the junior season of a 6-5, 240-pound athlete with huge potential. Weíre about due for an explanation.

    I believe Franklin is the right guy to get Penn State to the ďeliteĒ status he talked about after the Ohio State loss. But Penn State will not further that goal by playing passive on offense this season. The Lions, this year, are the same type of team theyíve been the past two seasons. Not elite, not even ďgreatĒ as Franklin has assessed them.

    Penn State remains a good team that can over-achieve its way into the top 10 playing fun, reckless, attention-getting, program-selling, high-octane offense. The defense is making strides, the past two end-games notwithstanding.

    The defense played well enough to win against Ohio State and Michigan State. The offense, in Year 1 post-Moorhead, did not.

    When Moorhead took the reigns this season at Mississippi State, he told QB Nick Fitzgerald to make room on his mantle for the Heisman trophy. Fitzgerald is not going to win the Heisman, and Moorheadís Bulldogs (4-2) are averaging 12.0 points over their past three games. Life in the SEC is not going to be that easy.

    But Moorhead was sending a message about mindset and confidence not only to his quarterback but to his entire squad. Rahne and Franklin would do well to re-embrace that nothing-to-lose philosophy.

    There may come a time when Penn State can have greater success with less fun, but that time is not now. Itís a shame it took two crushing home losses to drive home that point.

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    Rat - "What I do know is that the Lions’ offense has lost its mojo, and the fault is not with the players."

    If the Lions don't get the mojo back they will be lucky to win three games of the remaining. Book it Dano



    We are Penn State Go Lions.

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  7. #44
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    Coach franklin press conference: Indiana

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Appreciate everybody coming out. Kind of quickly review Michigan State.

    Actually, before we get into Michigan State, address Fred Hansard. I wonít get into the specifics of it, but Fred will be done for the season. Had to undergo a surgery and will be done for the season. I know all the guys and the families and the coaches and his parents are very, very supportive of Fred, but he will be unavailable for the rest of the season.

    Getting into specifically Michigan State, critical, critical statistics that we talk about every single week, the turnover the battle, we were even and we didnít really have a bunch of opportunities to really win that. That was significant in the game. Penalties were significant in the game, especially either the pre-snap penalties or the post-up penalties that are correctible.

    Drive start I think was big. The difference, you know, we ended up winning that by a little bit but we had two inside the ten-yard line, one inside the two-yard line and one inside the ten. I thought that was a major factor in the game.

    The sack battle, although they had eight and we had one, we were pressured a lot. That, and the explosive play battle, I think probably one of the mistakes that we played is we were pretty focused on being patient with the running game and we were able to get the running game going and ran the ball on them better than anybody had all year long, but we werenít as explosive as we need to be in this offense.

    I think they are the main things that kind of jump out and then the last point Iíd make is, you know, we had gotten better all year long. I felt like that week-to-week, watching the tape, felt like that during the games. Felt like that after the games, watching the tape, and did not feel like that this past week. So obviously we need to get back on that track.

    From an Indiana perspective, got a lot of respect for Coach Allen and what heís done. Really a good guy. Iíve enjoyed getting to know him, both personally and professionally. Really a good guy. You know, kind of looking back from a historical perspective, lost to Indiana the year before we got here in 2013 but Coach Allen, this is his second season there and has done a nice job. Got a defensive background. I think everybody realizes that.

    You know, you look at their staff, Mike DeBord, the offensive coordinator has been doing it a long time, 36 years, 18 years as a coordinator. Been very successful. They do a nice job on offense. They are a spread offense. They have got a dual-threat quarterback who has improved dramatically as a thrower. They are spreading the ball around. They have six receivers with 18 catches or nor and they are an 11-personnel or a 10-personnel team but majority in 11-personnel: One back, one tight end and three wide receivers.

    Guys that stand out: As the quarterback, Peyton Ramsey is doing a nice job. A kid from Cincinnati, Ohio. A 68 percent completion ratio, but is really distributing the ball around well.

    Running back, Stevie Scott is an interesting guy. Forced us to kind of go back and look throughout the recruiting process, kid from New York playing for them as a freshman. Heís a big kid, 6í2, 236 pounds and doing a nice job.

    And then they have got four wide receivers, J-Shun Harris, Donovan Hale, Nick Westbrook and Ty Fryfogle I, think is the way you pronounce that.

    Obviously J-Shun Harris is a guy not only on offense, but also on special teams, has made a bunch of big plays. Heís a guy you get the ball in his hand in space and heís challenging.

    Then defensively, Mark Hagen is the defensive coordinator, but him and Tom Allen, you know, are doing that together.

    I think the big thing with them is turnovers and disruption. They do a lot of different things on tape. They are very specific game plan week-to-week. They change a lot week-to-week. They have got seven games -- six out of seven games with an interception. So doing some really about things there. And then obviously decent amount of sacks. I think they are 11th in the FBS in sacks and 20th in tackles for loss.

    They are a four-down defensive front. They play robber coverage. They pressure a decent amount, 46 percent overall. And then we are impressed with No. 99 defensive end Allen Stallings; linebacker No. 42 Marcelino Ball, and then strong safety No. 9, Jonathan Crawford, guys that stand out to us.

    The defensive coordinator William Inge Iíve known for a long time, is doing a nice job with them.

    And then obviously I already talked about J-Shun Harris is a guy that we target going into the game saying that weíve got to make sure that he does not impact the game as much as he has impacted others to this point.

    So open it up to questions.

    Q. You said Saturday that the issue on offense was not being able to throw consistently or successfully against Michigan State. After watching film, why did that happen, and Miles Sanders has just nine catches. Is that by design or are teams taking that way?

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: No, you know, you guys have asked those questions before about design. You know, for us, we basically draw up our routes and our schemes that are very similar to what they have been in the past with a few tweaks here or there, and itís all about what the defense is doing and quarterback going through his progressions and things like that.

    So we donít have a whole lot of situations where weíre really getting to a point where weíre saying the ball is going to this guy on this play, unless itís a screen or something like that.

    You know, we need to be more detailed. We need to protect a little bit longer. Weíre not giving up a whole lot of sacks, partly with Traceís -- how mobile he is.

    You know, making sure that we can hold on to the ball in the pocket and be able to get the ball down the field more consistently in clean pockets. A little bit more detail-oriented in our routes, the depth of our routes, being able to create separation in our routes and then being able to consistently make the open catch or be able to make the contested catch.

    Itís kind of a combination of all those things, and I think obviously also, you know, being a little bit more accurate, as well, all those things. Itís not one thing. Itís all of it together.

    Weíve just got to be a little bit better in all those areas.

    Q. Midway through the season, I wanted to get your thoughts on special teams overall, how youíre playing, and what are the areas you feel like you definitely need to improve during the second half of the year?

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Special teams? Sorry, sounded a little muffled.

    I think, you know, for the most part, our return game has been pretty good. You know, kicking, from a kickoff perspective, some stuff that you guys probably wouldnít know in terms of the calls weíre making and things like that, I think weíre getting good distance and weíre able to kick the ball into the end zone more the most part, but a lot of times our location can be a little bit better in terms of what weíre trying to get done.

    From a field goal perspective, obviously we need to be better there. We need to probably create a little bit more pressure in practice, making sure that on offense, defense and special teams, that weíre treating our preparation Sunday through Friday as game-like as possible.

    Because I think last week, in practice, I think field goals at mid- to high-90 rate. Weíre seeing good things but we have to be able to transfer those things from the practice to the game field at a higher rate.

    The fake punt is something we have to do a better job of. We worked on those things all week long. Had a plan. Had somebody responsible for that, as well as other guys, and we just didnít do our job consistently there.

    Obviously we have to do a better job emphasizing it and showing plays -- most of the things that showed up, that fake field goal that they ran is the same exact fake field goal that they ran against Notre Dame. Had shown it on tape and watched it on tape and it repped it during practice, as well. You know, obviously we need to be clearer with those things.

    Q. Being in a similar situation last season, what are some of the things you think that helped the team get back on track on or off the field after the Michigan State loss a year ago?

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: I think the biggest thing for all of us, coaches, players, everybody involved in the organization, is sticking to our process and focusing on the things that we can control.

    You know, making sure our players are doing that as well as the coaches. You know, focusing on our schemes. Making sure that weíre being as detailed as we possibly can in meetings; that weíre holding everybody accountable to that standard every single day at practice and that the old guys are helping the young guys mature as much as they possibly can to understand, you know, the seriousness and the significance of that standard.

    So you know, I think thatís the biggest thing that we have to do is make sure that weíre, you know, sticking together, that weíre staying positive and that weíre focusing on the things that we can control and get those things fixed and get better at them, because obviously, last week we did not do that.

    Q. What are the attributes in your mind of a successful spread offense and do you think you have them right now?

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, obviously thatís something we spent a lot of time talking about since weíve gone to this offense. Weíve had a lot of discussions about this part of the game.

    You know, obviously when you go to a spread offense, itís a little bit different than running a traditional offense, and had these discussions, really, over the last three years.

    I think the challenge is you want to run the ball as much as you possibly can to burn time-outs, but ultimately, just like Traceís run on the last, on the third down play, the most important thing you have to do is get first downs.

    For us that, is running our offense and doing both throw and pass. The challenge is, if you throw the ball and you throw an incompletion, the clock stops and thatís obviously, you know, not what anybody wants. But if you run the ball and you donít pick up the first down, it really doesnít matter.

    You know, youíve got to be able to do both and youíve got to be able to pick up first downs. Thatís the No. 1 most important thing. I think thatís what happened with Trace is we tell them all the time, you know, if it comes down to getting the first down and running out of bounds, the first down takes priority because being able to get a new set of downs is much more important than staying in bounds.

    You have to make that decision. If you can fight to get the first down, youíve got to fight to get the first down. Obviously that wasnít the situation on Saturday. I think thatís the challenge is when youíre running a spread offense, and they can outnumber you in the box, you have to be willing to throw the ball. And we also have to understand when you throw the ball, they better be high-percentage throws where youíre able to get people in space, because if you throw an incompletion, the clock stops, and we donít want that either.

    Thatís the challenge. We have had a lot of discussions, have had a lot of those discussions with Joe and a lot of those discussions with Ricky and Matt and our staff now, and I think that obviously is a very, very important piece of the puzzle for us over the last, really, two and a half years. We have to get better in that area. Thereís no doubt about it.

    Q. Your defensive tackles, seems like youíre losing bodies frequently now. What do you do or how do you see that situation beyond your starters?

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, weíve got to keep developing those other guys, P.J. Mustipher, Antonio Shelton, C.J. Thorpe and Damion Barber, weíre going to have to develop those guys. Damion is going to have to factor in now and be able to get some work for us. P.J. is going to have to grow up fast. Obviously is a true freshman.

    And having Antonio Shelton, weíve seen some good things from him.

    Those guys have to play bigger roles, thereís no doubt about it. Thatís the situation weíre in. Feel good about what Kevin and Robert are doing, but they are going to have to help those other guys out, as well.

    C.J., this is all new to him and we need these young guys and guys that we have moved positions, need to, you know, have a chance to mature and grow up and understand the responsibility and what they need to do for our defense to be successful.

    Q. Another question about the defense. Seemed like you played more of your backups on defense during the Michigan State game. Were you pleased with the way they played? Did you think the depth is developing a little bit better and was fatigue any factor down the stretch as it was against Ohio State?

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: What was the last part?

    Q. Was fatigue any factor like it was against Ohio State down the stretch.

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Fatigue. Okay. The fatigue word was what I missed, sorry.

    To be honest with you, I think defensively, we played good enough to win that game. I think what I would say is, you know, if we get the turnovers that we should have got in that game, and that was -- I think they had the most fumbles in the country last week without losing any. I think they had four fumbles and a couple interceptions that we didnít get.

    We get a few more of those turnovers, the game is completely different than the way it played out. So thatís the area that we have to get better is the turnovers.

    I thought we did a pretty good job. I think they had been averaging about 123 rushing yards a game. I think we held them to 123 rushing yards; so about where they had been.

    The passing game, they made some plays but we also had some opportunities to make some plays, as well and could have made more. I think thatís the difference; we have to get more turnovers, when we have opportunities to make those plays. I think we all realize weíve got to make more of those.

    Q. Are defenses, I guess Michigan State in particular, in general, are they doing anything different or putting more emphasis on taking away Traceís passing lanes and even running lanes?


    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: When I would say, I think the biggest difference on Saturday is we didnít hit enough explosive plays or throw the ball well enough. When youíre able to throw the ball and now stretch the field horizontally and vertically, that makes it more challenging for them to defend Trace in the running game, as well, because if we keep completing balls down the field stretches, the underneath part of the defense, those guys loosen up and start getting under those throws and thatís when Trace pulls down and takes down.

    When I sit down with the defensive coaches, thatís whatís so challenging. We were able to run the ball Saturday better than anybody had against that defense. We were not able to throw the ball as effectively as we needed to throw the ball on Saturday. That was the difference if the game.

    I think, really, Traces running, usually if you look over the last three years, his running comes as a byproduct of how well we are throwing the ball. Now the defense canít be right; youíre running the ball; youíre throwing the ball and now Trace is able to hurt you for a couple runs a game and thatís when we are -- thatís when we are our most dangerous on the offensive side of the ball, when you feel like weíre able to do all three at a pretty efficient level.

    Q. Tommy Stevens has only played a handful of plays since he was deemed ready to return. What needs to change for his number of snaps to increase?

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: If Iím correct, I think heís only been available to us two games, the last two games.

    We talked about him earlier being available but then we felt like it was probably still in our best interest to hold him. So we fully cleared him to go Ohio State; thatís the coaches, trainers, everybody being comfortable, Tommy being comfortable.

    Last week it was more of a scheme thing. We didnít think it made sense in that game. But weíll look at it every single week to see if it gives us the best opportunity to keep the defense on their toes and keep the defense uncomfortable, whether he is a decoy or whether he is a runner or whether he is a thrower and whether he is a receiver. We look for those options each week.

    A lot of it deals with formations. If certain formations we look at against our opponent create opportunities, and they are plug-and-play plays, where we can put Tommy into that role and it makes sense against this defense in that scheme, then thatís when we do it.

    So everything is pretty much formation driven from that point on.

    Q. This is Ricky Rahneís first full season calling plays. How would you evaluate his performance overall and what areas would you like to see improvement?

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think we had a decent amount of turnover on our staff this off-season, and overall, short-term and more importantly, long-term, I feel really good about the people that we got sitting in the seats that they are in and feel really good about that from a long-term perspective.

    Does experience count and does experience matter? Yeah, thereís no doubt about it. All of us get better every single day the longer weíre in the positions that weíre in, as long as weíre open to listening and to learning and to challenging ourselves and challenging others and being challenged ourselves, then you have an opportunity to grow.

    But experience matters, thereís no doubt about it. I think Ricky is doing a really good job. I think like all of us, thereís a few calls that he wishes he has back, and I think youíd probably say that for every offensive coordinator in the country and weíll be saying that five years from now, as well.

    But overall, big picture, I feel really good about my staff and where weíre going. But you know, again, I donít want that to be misconstrued. Weíll get better and we will get better.

    Q. Given the lack of production of some of your veteran receivers, do you think itís time to take a look at some of the younger kids, especially the true freshmen and with that said, what are the challenges for true freshmen receivers playing at this level that the ordinary person may not take into account?

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think thatís a really good question. I think we do that every week. We are constantly looking and saying, is there someone that can help us.

    We do have a lot of confidence in those vets, and I think obviously we feel like, you know, they are going to have one of those breakout games, and we feel like that every week.

    But yeah, is there some young guys that weíre looking at? Yeah. Obviously Justin Shorter had a setback during camp, which kind of slowed his production experience, you know, being able to gain those reps and experience in practice.

    Daniel George has done a really nice job, and Jahan Dotson has done a really nice job. You see some of the other guys getting reps in complimentary roles.

    For Daniel, heís big and strong and explosive and plays that way. Jahan, heís one of these guys that the game comes very easy to him. Heís a natural football player, and Justin has a lot of ability.

    But I think your point is a good one. You know, running routes in high school, when youíre very rarely going against another Division I athlete, and you may see one, maybe two, on a crazy week, maybe three coverages; and then also, how those coverages affect your routes.

    So now not only do you have to be able to beat the defender over you physically, but then you also have to know all the nuances in terms of how the routes get adjusted based on certain coverages or pressure or blitz or those types of things. And that time and that chemistry with Trace, I think thatís what youíve seen a few times this year where you see Trace go to throw the ball, and heís pulls back because heís expecting a guy to run a route differently than the way it was run.

    So what we are trying to do is kind of a combination of those things, get those guys up to speed, but also be a little bit more consistent with our running backs, receivers, tight ends in the passing game, because thatís obviously an area that weíre not probably as explosive or as efficient as we need to be right now.

    Q. You guys are something like 6-of-31 on third downs the last two games combined. What are you seek on first and second down thatís not setting that up, and how do you go about making sure that improvement happens week-to-week?

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think a couple things. I think the first thing, weíve talked about this before: The reality is, the best offenses have the least amount of third downs. Youíre picking up most of your downs on first and second down.

    The other thing, I think is important, obviously the more efficient you are on first and second down, then youíre in more manageable third-down situations.

    Obviously those two things, I think are the two main indicators. I think all the way back to the Bowl game against the University of Washington, that was probably the difference in that game, how well we did on third down with our plan and our execution of that plan.

    But I think the biggest thing is the same thing youíre seeing on third down, are the same things that we have to get better on first and second down. Itís the details. Itís the consistency. Itís the contested catches or creating separation in our route running.

    Itís a little bit more protection. Itís all of it. Itís not one thing. I think if it was one thing, it would be easy to solve, but obviously itís an emphasis for us.

    Q. Right now, after the last two weeks, is now a good time for you guys to get out on the road, circle the wagons a little bit and what are some of the benefits you guys can get from getting out to a road game?

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: So youíre talking about an away game?

    Q. As a team. Is now a good time for you to get out on the road?

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Iím not sure. To be honest I had auto like to play all 12 games in Beaver Stadium if we could. I donít know if the conference would allow us to do that.

    Yeah, I think obviously, being able to go play on the road; I know Tommy Stevens, Mac Hippenhammer, excited. Itís a change of pace. Itís different. Itís a 3:30 game, which allows us to get there, play the game and get back at a reasonable time, as well.

    To be honest with you, home, away, wherever it is, itís really more about us. I think as I said in the very beginning of this, I think we played really well, you know, week one, week two, week three. We kept getting better. You know, we did not play that way last week. I think everybodyís probably focusing on the last two weeks and I get that.

    You know, I did not like the result of the former -- of the previous game. But watching a tape and watching the game, we played well. We got better that week. We didnít do that this past week.

    Are there a lot of reasons for that? Yeah. And we just need to get back to focus on the things that we can control. Away game, home game, whatever it is, weíve just got to make sure that we donít lose our focus and weíre making sure that our guys are concentrating on the things that truly matter, which is us and our execution and our passion and our fundamentals and techniques and our execution of the assignments. Thatís what we need to focus on, not where the game is played, not who the opponent is. Itís about us.

    Because if we just would eliminate five or six of the unforced errors, missed assignments, penalties, dropped balls, things like that, things that we can control, then I think weíll like the results.

    Q. After the game, Trace said that this team needs to be stronger now more than ever and needs to come together. You guys were able to do that last year after a couple losses, but there were a lot of key seniors behind that. Are you concerned the team is too young to do that this time around, or are there any challenges in that regard with how young this team is?

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, we have a younger team. Thereís no doubt about it. There are less of those guys that have been through this type of adversity before, but the ones that we do have I think have really strong voices and are culture drivers for us and have been really good.

    But does it strain those guys? Yeah, because thereís less of them. Thereís no doubt about it.

    Obviously each week when we watch the cut-ups and go through situations as weíre coming up with the game plan, weíre typically watching the previous game against that opponent from the year before, and you see guys like Marcus Allen who played a lot of football for us and Jason Cabinda who played a lot of football for us and the D-tackles and so on and so forth.

    We have less of those guys on offense and defense, so those guys have to have stronger voices for us, thereís no doubt about it. They have been through this adversity and they have been through the challenges before and we have to push our way through it.

    Q. You mentioned Trace McSorley showing some reluctancy to fire the ball down the field in certain situations. His completions are down 12.5 points through six games. How much do you attribute that to Trace, and how much goes towards maybe that trust and disconnect downfield when you said, not quite as efficient where it needs to be at receivers.

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: I think itís a little bit of all of it: Too many drops. Not enough detail in the routes and the execution. Protection, a little bit longer, you know, so he can be a little bit more comfortable in the pocket, you know, more consistently.

    I think itís a little bit of all those things. You know, I truly do, and I think what happens sometimes is early in the game, if he gets in a situation where heís expecting one route to be run, and they donít, it gives him hesitation. Heís got to have a one-play mindset where, okay, that may have happened earlier in the game but youíve got to trust itís going to happen the next play.

    So itís those type of things, but I think it all affects; it all affects it.

    Q. How reliable was that aspect of the receiver group last year, because it sounds like this may be kind of a new element for Trace and his approach.


    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think obviously Mike Gesicki had played a lot of football for us. DaeSean Hamilton had played a lot of football for us. Saeed had played a lot of football for us.

    So you know, obviously those guys were obviously people that we had spent a lot of time talking about in the off-season that we were going to need to replace. Juwan had played a lot of football for us in a complementary role and Polk and DeAndre, as well, they need to take the next step.

    Obviously coming into the season, we felt very confident about that, and still do. But we need to do it week-in and week-out consistently at practice and in games.

    Q. Over the last two years, Indiana limited Saquon Barkley to less than 60 yards and less than three yards a carry. What is it about their scheme that makes it so tricky, and how do you see Miles Sanders having success this time around?

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: I think that goes back to what I was saying before is this head coach and his defensive coordinator, from what we see on film and from what we have studied, they probably more so than most -- most people are going to stay to their base plan and have subtle tweaks each week.

    They have a very specific plan against each formation and back alignment set on how they are going to stop what they think are the two or three things that you do the most from a tendency standpoint, and it can be pretty different, you know, watching them on tape. Thatís always the challenge is what the defense of the week going to be.

    So I think thatís where you have seen them improve defensively. They have done a really good job. They play aggressive, they play fast and they have got a pretty good fan.

    But also, itís a lot of check-with-me stuff. You see on tape where they are looking to the sideline, the expression the coach uses is who is going to have the chalk last to try to get the perfect call into the game. There are some things that we think we can do to help with that, as well.

    But you know, weíve been pretty consistent this year. Probably more consistent in our running game in terms of eliminating negative yardage runs and tackle for loss and things like that, and I think thatís really helped us this year. I think thatís Miles and his approach, as well as the O-Line and tight ends factoring into that, as well. But thereís going to be some of those things that come up, as well, Saturday. They are going to have some times where they catch us.

    And I also think thatís an area where Ricky is doing a really good job, where thereís not too many plays where the ball is being snapped, and youíve got a free blitzer coming off the edge as soon as weíre handing the ball off. I think thereís been less of that; so a combination of all those things.

    Q. A lot of emotion, obviously, these last couple weeks, and you mentioned you didnít see improvement this last game and you also talked about some different fundamental things that came up in the last game, carrying the ball, line of scrimmage. Was there so much emotion invested two weeks ago against Ohio State and how have you reined all of it in and processed these last two weeks as you look forward?

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, obviously, whenever you lose a game, there is an emotional investment that you have made as an organization, as a program, for the season, for week, and for many he to sit here and say those things donít have an effect, yeah, they do.

    But you have to find a way to push through them, as a player, coaches, a whole organization, everybody has setbacks and that is football and that is life.

    And you canít allow, whether itís one play to affect the next, or one game to affect the next. And that is internal; the things that we can control, and that is also our guys doing a great job of muting the external noise, as well.

    Iíve said this before. Obviously you donít fill up a 110,000-seat stadium without passion, and when we win, itís the greatest thing ever.

    Q. Youíve mentioned before that you donít feel like your staff gets enough credit for developing players as much as recruiting them, guys like Garrett Taylor, Jan Johnson coming in and not being big names, but then play very well for you. On the flipside of that, as a developer of talent, how do you know when a guy is stalling in his development or maybe isnít getting better and how frustrating is that for you?

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think itís obviously, most importantly, those things show up on Saturday, which at the end of the day, thatís all that matters. Were you able to produce when it mattered most and thatís for players, thatís for coaches, thatís for all of us.

    But obviously, the games are a part, but also things that youíre seeing every single day at practice. What youíre hearing in the weight room. What youíre hearing academically, thatís a huge piece for us here at Penn State and within our program. Thatís what Iím hearing from the strength staff. Thatís what Iím hearing when our guys are doing community service. Itís all of it.

    I think thatís what is so special about college football, and I think thatís what so special about Penn State is the greater impact, and I get it. Weíre in-season, so the focus is on football, and thatís ultimately what weíre responsible for.

    But I also know at Penn State, we take great pride in all the other things. So when we talk about development, itís development of all of that. Itís development are they getting bigger and stronger and faster and more explosive; are they getting more fundamentally sound in techniques and things that we ask them to do on the football field that are going to translate into games.

    Itís maturity and thatís how they are dealing with the fans and how they are dealing with the people in the community and how they are interacting with people on campus, off-campus, when it comes to community service.

    Itís all of it. Itís all of it. Itís how we handle with challenging losses. Thatís a football lesson. Thatís a life lesson.

    So when Iím talking about development, Iím talking about all of that. Iím talking about how the program has developed over the last four or five years. Iím talking about how our players have developed. Iím talking about graduation rates. Iím talking about all of it.

    Obviously, you know, last week was hard and the week before was challenging. Thereís no doubt about it. But I will tell you, just like I tell our players, that I want us to do everything we possibly can to prepare Sunday through Friday so that they can put their head on the pillow Friday night and be confident waking up Saturday morning, and I think our guys do a really good job of that.

    Now, I do the same thing. Donít get me wrong; losses are tough and I agonize over them as much as anybody, and I know our fans do, as well, because they are invested.

    But I also know that I sleep well at night knowing that our program has grown dramatically over the last five years.

    Is it where we want it to be right now? No. Is it where anybody wants it to be exactly right now in no. But I know weíre headed in the right direction. I know our players are growing and getting better both on and off the field and academically. I know our coaching staff is, as well. And then type of father I am, and the type of husband I am. When I talk about development, itís all of that. Itís all of that.

    And when you see guys like Saquon Barkley come back last weekend, and the things that he says to you privately in the locker room; and you get a chance to talk with Michael Mauti and he stops by the offices and how heís speaking about the program and so on and so forth, I know weíre doing it the right way.

    What happens is, in any organization, with any CEO, with any team, thereís typically three steps forward and one step back, and that step back is painful and youíve got to learn from it and youíve got to grow and youíve got to evolve and youíve got to get better, and thatís what weíre going to do.

    Q. Your second sentence of your Media Day opener, you said that you had more question marks to answer this year and a very, very, very challenging schedule. Not that you expect to lose, but did you expect a season like this and do you think people under-appreciated the hill that this particular team had to climb to get back to where you wanted to be from the drop?

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think that with the conference that we play in, and the side of the conference that we play in, it is always going to be challenging. Thatís why you come to Penn State and thatís why you come to the Big Ten.

    But it is going to be a challenge, thereís no doubt about it. When you have Penn State, Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan, go on, keep going right down the list; itís going to be a battle week-in and week-out. And we compete with those teams 365 days a year, and we graduated a bunch of experienced players.

    So yeah, I think obviously we knew we had some tremendous challenges to overcome, but also had a lot of confidence. Had a lot of confidence.

    I think as we all know, whether itís high school, college, the NFL, one or two plays, each game, are significant, and sometimes those plays go your way and sometimes they donít. What youíve got to do is youíve got to keep focusing on your preparation and the things that you can control so that more of those plays go your way.

    I think weíve talked about that in the past. I mean, I remember in the past coming into these and there would be, you know, calls that media and fans were questioning in terms of officiating and things like that. My response then was we have to make sure that we do everything that we can; that that margin or error is not so small; that one or two plays or one or two calls that go against us donít determine the game.

    And thatís really where we still are. We have made tremendous progress and I like where weíre headed and I like what weíre doing. But I also think, your point in the beginning was, weíre very aware of the challenges that we had coming into the season, but I also think we had tremendous confidence, and still do. Back to the point I think I was asked earlier, we have some guys that we have to lean on and thereís less of those senior experienced players right now.

    Q. Garrett Taylor had his best game of the year on Saturday. How would you assess his progress at the safety position?

    HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: I think Garrett is a great example of kind of what weíre talking about. Heís a guy that joined the program, came from a great family and great high school program. Wasnít ready a couple years ago and kind of kept getting better and his role continued to improve and his role continued to grow. Heís one of the guys that I think the coaching staff feels like he is really maximizing his ability and his opportunity here,

    We talk about setting our guys up for success when they leave here with championship habits when it comes to football; when it comes to life; when it comes to business. Heís a guy, every single meeting, heís sitting there, heís taking notes. You know, heís taking notes. Heís writing down things that are important. Heís highlighting things. Heís underlining things. Heís jotting stars down.

    Heís just one of those guys that really gets it and says: Look, I have this amount of time. Iíve got these opportunities and Iím going to maximize them. Heís killing it in school. I couldnít be more proud. Heís one of a bunch of examples that we have on our team.

    I think heís also an example of everyoneís journey is going to be different. Weíve talked about that here. Some guys are going to come in and start from the fourth game of their freshman year and then they are going to get drafted No. 2 overall and thatís going to be their journey.

    Or thereís going to be another guy like Grant Haley who has a great career here and has a great career academically and gets assigned to the practice squad and gets bumped up to the 53-man roster today and Big Ten Championships, and all these things, and everybodyís journey is going to be different.

    But I think thatís also where understanding that and supporting that and understand that not only is every single playerís journeyís going to be different; every season and every team is going to be different.

    And weíre on this journey together. Our players, our coaches, the fans, administration, the media, we are all on this journey together.

    I will tell you the one thing, thatís probably for me, is a pretty good reality check is I turn on the TV on Saturday after our game and I watch other people. Thereís a lot of other programs across the country that are on similar journeys that weíre on. Some are emotional highs and some are challenging weeks and adversity that we have to overcome. You know, weíre going through a similar story that a lot of programs across the country go through.

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    Penn State Running Backs Series: D.J. Dozier

    D.J. DOZIER 1983-1986

    A tailback, Dozier matriculated to Happy Valley from Virginia Beach, Va. and earned first team All-America honors from the Walter Camp Football Foundation in 1986. Dozier is the only Nittany Lion to lead the team in rushing four consecutive seasons, doing so from 1983-86. He ranks No. 7 on the school career rushing yardage list with 3,227 yards, scoring 25 touchdowns and averaging 5.2 yards per attempt. Dozier gained 1,002 yards as a freshman and tallied 811 yards and scored 10 touchdowns as a senior and one of the instrumental players on the Nittany Lions' 12-0 squad.

    Dozier will forever have a place in Penn State Football lore for scoring the game-winning touchdown on a six-yard fourth quarter run to lift the Nittany Lions past Miami, 14-10, in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl. A standout at Kempsville High School, he earned Most Valuable Offensive Player of the Game honors by rushing for 99 yards and making two catches for 21 yards in the thriller over the Hurricanes.

    Dozier was selected by the Minnesota Vikings in the first round of the 1987 NFL Draft and played four seasons with the Vikings and the 1991 campaign with the Detroit Lions. A four-year letterwinner at Penn State, he also played baseball in the New York Mets' farm system.

    Currently, former Lion D.J. Dozier decided to leave athletics for religion. He is a Pastor in Virginia Beach, Va.


    D.J. Dozier Statistics at Penn State

    1983: 174 att/ 1002 yds/ 7 tds
    1984: 125 att/ 691 yds/ 4 tds
    1985: 154 att/ 723 yds/ 4 tds
    1986: 171 att/ 811 yds/ 10 tds

    Total: 624 att/ 3227 yds/ 25 tds


    PHOTO GALLERY








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    Penn state vs. Indiana: Preview



    (18)Penn State (4-2, 1-2) vs. Indiana (4-3, 1-3)

    Kickoff: 3:30 p.m., Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, IN

    TV: ABC- Steve Levy (play-by-play), Brian Griese (analyst), Todd McShay (sideline)

    Weather: A cool and clear day, with a high of 57 that will gradually drop into the 40s by nightfall.

    COACHES:

    James Franklin:

    PENN STATE RECORD: 40-19, 5th Year

    OVERALL RECORD: 64-34, 7th Year

    VS. INDIANA: 4-0


    Tom Allen:

    INDIANA RECORD: 9-11, 2nd Year

    OVERALL RECORD: Same

    VS. PENN STATE: 0-1


    NOW THE FUN PART....

    INDIANA OFFENSE VS. PENN STATE DEFENSE

    For years, the Hoosiers were known for a potent offense and a leaky defense. While the defense has seen some improvements, the offense has come back down to earth.

    Leading the way is Peyton Ramsey, a dual-threat quarterback who is in the midst of a solid sophomore campaign. Ramsey specializes in short and intermediate passes, and has the accuracy to dink-and-dunk down the field. He is also one of the most mobile quarterbacks the Nittany Lions will face this season, and is regularly used on design runs as well as scrambling to pick up yardage when needed.

    Ramseyís arm has gotten a workout as of late, as the Hoosiers have been airing it out more during Big Ten play. Heís had at least 40 attempts in the last four contests, averaging 44.25 passes per game. While heís completing 68 percent of passes on the year, he does have a penchant for interceptions. During a 42-16 loss to Iowa on Saturday, Ramsey managed to go 31 of 42, but also threw two inopportune picks. On the season, he has 12 touchdown strikes and seven interceptions.

    Ramsey does an outstanding job of spreading the ball out, making life difficult on defenses trying to shut down any specific receiver for the Hoosiers. Indiana has seven different receivers who have between 19 and 24 catches on the year. J-Shun Harris II leads the way with 24, and recently had a 104-yard receiving performance against the Buckeyes secondary. Harris is just 5-8 and 176 lbs., but like KJ Hamler, can make a defense pay with his blazing speed. While not as much of a deep threat, Harris is often used on screens and short passes in lieu of a traditional running play.

    Junior Nick Westbrook leads the team in receiving yards with 289, but has had a quiet season outside of the Ohio State and Rutgers games (109 and 62 yards, respectively). Sophomore Ty Fryfogle has been getting more looks in the past few weeks, and is coming off his best game after catching four passes for 71 yards and a touchdown against the Hawkeyes.

    The Hoosiers have a talented young running back in freshman Stevie Scott, who has seen less carries in recent weeks as the Indiana offense has become more one-dimensional. He had 69 carries in the first three weeks, which included a 204-yard effort against Virginia and 114 against Ball State. However, heís only had 17 carries in the last two weeks. He is coming off his least productive game of the season, rushing for 29 yards on eight carries against Iowa.

    Indianaís offense matches up fairly well against the Penn State defense. Itís short passing game and mobile quarterback could give fits as the linebackers and safeties have struggled in coverage throughout the season. A key stat for this game will be third down conversions for the Hoosiers. If Indiana is regularly able to convert, they will set up a few long scoring drives and gradually wear down the Nittany Lions defense.


    PENN STATE OFFENSE VS. INDIANA DEFENSE

    While Indianaís defense still has much room for improvement, the unit has made some strides under Tom Allen. Indiana got off to a great start, holding Virginia to 16 points and Ball State to 10 in early-season victories. However, they have allowed 49 points to the Buckeyes and 42 to Iowa in the last two weeks as the quality of offense on the other side of the ball has greatly increased.

    The Hoosiers do a good job of getting in the backfield and being disruptive. They have eight players with at least 2.5 TFLs on the season, making it difficult to focus slowing down any specific defenders. Leading the way is ďhuskyĒ (the name for the linebacker/defensive back hybrid in the Hoosiers 4-2-5 defense) Marcelino Ball with five. He is also tied with two others for the team lead in sacks, with two on the season.

    Statistically speaking, Indianaís defense is basically right in the middle of the pack nationally for first half of the season. The Hoosiers rank 67th in run defense, 71st in passing defense, 80th in scoring defense and 70th in total defense. So while there is nothing you can point to as a strength, there are no glaring weaknesses either. The biggest takeaway could be the possibility of Miles Sanders having another big day after managing 162 yards against Michigan State- the nationís top run defense that was previously only allowing 33 yards PER GAME on the ground.

    Penn State absolutely will need to get its aerial attack back on on track following an abhorrent performance against the Spartans, who have one of the very worse pass defenses in the nation. While the Hoosiers are better at defending the pass, their secondary is coming off two dreadful performances. They allowed Dwayne Haskins to throw for 455 yards and two touchdowns two weeks ago, and then was lit up by Iowaís Nate Stanley, who had 326 yards and six touchdowns on Saturday. Penn State must absolutely work out its kinks through the air on Saturday, before facing a murdererís row of defenses in Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin the following three weeks.


    SPECIAL TEAMS

    Indiana has a solid kicker with an even better name in Logan Justus. Heís made eight of 10 field goals on the season, but only one has been over 40 yards. Haydon Whitehead is an Australian-style punter that is the definition of steady who rarely, if ever, has a bad punt. His average is 40.5 yards on the season with a long of 58.

    Penn State punter Blake Gillikin has been his usual spectacular self, coming off a strong performance where he averaged 45.5 yards on eight punts against Michigan State (fun fact: Gillikin had 13 total punts in the first four games, and 18 combined in the last two against Ohio State and Michigan State). Gillikin may also find himself as the teamís new placekicker, as true freshman Jake Pinegar continues to struggle. Pinegar is just four-of-eight on field goal attempts, and has missed all three attempts of 40 or more yards.

    In addition to being the Hoosiersí leading receiver, J-Shun Harris II is also a factor at punt returner. He is averaging 12.6 yards per return on the season that includes an 86-yard touchdown. Indiana has not been able to manage much productivity on kickoff returners, with a season-long return of just 28 yards.

    Indiana is one of the better teams at defending punt returns, and one of the worst when it comes to defending kickoff returns. If this trend continues, it could result in a big day from KJ Hamler, who can get downfield in a blink of an eye when he sees even the smallest of openings.


    Penn State's 4 keys:

    Figure out the third-down problem. The Lions' offense has faltered on third down in the last two games. Just six conversions in 31 chances.

    Get the ball to tight end Pat Freiermuth. Iowa's tight ends proved to be too much for Indiana last Saturday. Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson produced eight catches for 209 yards and three touchdowns in the Hawkeyes' 42-16 win in Bloomington.

    Cut down on penalties. The Lions were flagged 13 times for 105 yards in the losses to Ohio State and Michigan State.

    Take some deep shots in the passing game. Penn State wideout KJ Hamler has caught nine passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns in the last two games. But if you take Hamler out of the mix, the Lions have only generated six passing plays of 20 or more yards in that same stretch, with a long gain of 31 yards.
    Last edited by Ratpenat; 19-10-2018 at 15:30.

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    Penn state vs. Indiana: Recap



    Sloppy Penn State perseveres against scrappy Indiana as Shaka Toney goes off late

    BLOOMINGTON -- A tired Nick Scott looked around as several members of the Penn State press corps approached following the Nittany Lions' 33-28 escape against Indiana Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

    The fifth-year senior safety had to be tired. Had to be. Penn State's defense barely fended off an Indiana offense that ran 100 plays and totaled 554 yards. The Hoosiers (4-4, 1-4), down five, had recovered an onside kick with 49 seconds to go -- at Scott's expense. He had his hands on the kick and was preparing to run with it, but the ball bounced away and IU's Jonathan Crawford fell on it at the Hoosiers' 42.

    Five plays later, the game ended with the hosts, harassed by the PSU pass rush, at the Lions' 44. Indiana never even attempted a Hail Mary. And the Lions' two-game losing streak was over.

    "It was great to finish on our terms,'' said Scott, who then began to smile.

    "I tried to make it a little bit more interesting than it had to be."

    But here's the thing about Penn State-Indiana games in Bloomington during James Franklin's time with the Lions. They're always interesting.

    PSU won 13-7 in 2014, with the difference being an improbable 92-yard touchdown run by Bill Belton.

    Two years ago during Penn State's run to the Big Ten title, the Lions trailed IU in the fourth quarter before outscoring the Hoosiers 24-7 in the final 15 minutes.

    This game was no different. Starting quarterback Trace McSorley produced 327 total yards and two rushing touchdowns. Backup quarterback Tommy Stevens threw a touchdown pass. Emerging true sophomore end Yetur Gross-Matos shredded the IU offensive line for 10 tackles and two sacks.

    But that wasn't enough.

    Penn State (5-2, 2-2) still would have lost the game had it not been from some stellar efforts by three unsung players -- veteran reserve running back Johnathan Thomas, young backup safety Jonathan Sutherland and reserve speed-rushing end Shaka Toney.

    If any one of those three fails to deliver, the Lions lose their third consecutive game.

    "To see (Thomas) get an opportunity to step in there and make a huge play for us was awesome,'' Franklin said.

    Let's start with the fifth-year running back who was a linebacker last season. Thomas is a deep man on the PSU kick return team and Indiana, having watched KJ Hamler open the game with a 58-yard return that set up the Lions' first touchdown, opted to kick it to him after the Hoosiers took a 21-20 lead on a Stevie Scott 3-yard scoring run late in the third quarter.

    And Thomas, who had one career kickoff return prior to Saturday, rumbled for 94 yards to set up Trace McSorley's 5-yard touchdown run that gave PSU the lead for good, 26-21, with 4:01 left in the third.

    There would be more anxious moments.

    Enter Sutherland, a redshirt freshman who played safety down the stretch when Garrett Taylor was ejected for targeting in the second half. Sutherland finished with seven tackles (six solos) and early in the fourth quarter, he forced IU punt return man J-Shun Harris to fumble at the Hoosiers' 32. Scott recovered and McSorley scored his second rushing touchdown -- a 4-yarder -- five plays later.

    Thomas and Sutherland put the Lions in position to win. And Toney pretty much finished things.

    The Imohtep star, who models his game after Denver Broncos' All-Pro Von Miller, delivered four sacks -- all in the fourth quarter -- and forced a fumble. He also drew an intentional grounding call.

    Toney, a redshirt sophomore from Philadelphia, made a big impact in the Lions' 31-7 road win at Northwestern last season, racking up two sacks and a forced fumble. But he had not done much since.

    "I've had stretches like that but right now, it's all about Penn State,'' said Toney, asked if he had ever dominated like this in high school.

    Toney described himself as "mellow and laid-back" but he does not lack in confidence. When asked about Denver's Miller, Toney said, "I believe I can be a player like him.''

    It didn't hurt that Toney had watched the Indiana offensive line try to pass protect against Penn State's starting ends -- Gross-Matos and Shareef Miller.

    Those two had primarily used the same approach. "Speed to power,'' Toney said.

    And with the Hoosiers behind in the fourth quarter and forced to throw on almost every play, Toney attacked with a different style.

    "You pin your ears back and dip around the corner,'' Toney said.

    "I just said, 'It's time to just go around the guy now'." And with a bit of luck, Toney believed he could have had another sack or two.

    And so Penn State moves on to a big challenge at home against Iowa this week. There are plenty of mistakes to clean up in every phase. Special teams remains a concern due to erratic play. Penn State fumbled four punts -- recovering all four -- and botched a fake punt try.

    The offense produced 417 yards but there were at least five dropped passes. Starting wideout Juwan Johnson didn't play in the second half due to an undisclosed injury.

    And Brent Pry's defense yielded 554 yards and 32 first downs to Indiana. That group won't have Taylor for the first half vs. the Hawkeyes due to his targeting ejection.

    But at least Penn State figured out a way to win the game late, something it could not do despite holding fourth-quarter leads against Ohio State and Michigan State. The pass rush came to life just in time.

    "Honestly, I didn't think we did as well as we wanted to in the first half,'' Gross-Matos said.

    "But in the second half, we got after it.''


    Penn State takeaways:

    1. Four-minute offense still a struggle

    Penn State had to sit on pins and needles through another nail-biting final drive for its opponent after its offense failed to run the clock out again.

    The Lions came out on top in this go around of course, but like the previous two games, the Lions' offense sputtered in the fourth quarter; besides a five-play, 32-yard scoring drive set up by an Indiana special teams fumble, Ricky Rahne's unit amassed just 50 yards during the final 15 minutes, and with a chance to close out the game, Rahne dialed up two passes and a run that netted next to nothing and gave the ball back to the Hoosiers.

    Head coach James Franklin said after the game that the Lions wanted to be aggressive to close things out, which echoes what Rahne said before the game and also what quarterback Trace McSorley reiterated afterward. There's also the crowd that says folks will complain no matter what play is called if the outcome doesn't elicit a first down, and that's true too.

    The problem either way, however, is that a first down passing play like the one Rahne dialed up with 4:35 to go was low percentage and set things off schedule, as the Hoosiers knew they could sit on a short second down pass, and then the third down pass was similar to the first down opportunity. All of that fails to mention that back Miles Sanders was averaging about five yards a carry.

    Aggression is good, and Penn State should want to dictate the end of the game on its terms, but as soon the first down play failed, the percentages started to work against the Lions.

    This area must continue to be a work in progress.

    2. D-line shines bright late, but worries linger

    Penn State came to Indiana without Fred Hansard, as the defensive tackle has been ruled out for the season. That means it was already light up the middle, and Indiana took advantage of that over and over again.

    The pass rush struggled for much of the game, too, even if Yetur Gross-Matos was mighty active and finished with 10 tackles. It shined when it mattered most though, as speed rush specialist Shaka Toney recorded four of the Lions' five sacks after halftime to keep Indiana at bay just long enough to pull out a victory.

    Depth, or really the lack of it, has often been talked about across line coach Sean Spencer's unit, but Toney showed that the backups are slowly but maybe surely coming around as the season winds on. That said, if Indiana could bully the front seven for much of the game, what will Iowa, Michigan, and Wisconsin, all imposing fronts that lie ahead, be able to do?

    There's a lot to ponder with this group moving forward.

    3. Receiver depth chart could take a hit

    James Franklin said after the win that he can't remember a game in which so many players went out due to injury, and receiver might be the position that's impacted most.

    Veteran Juwan Johnson watched the entire second half on the sideline without his helmet, and DeAndre Thompkins wasn't seen in the final 30 minutes either.

    The good news is that Jahan Dotson stepped up and recorded his first career catch while Cam Sullivan-Brown logged some meaningful snaps and had two catches.

    The bad news is that drops continue to plague the unit across the board. Quarterback McSorley was hardly bothered by it after the game, but the group led by first-year coach David Corley now has over 20 drops this season with seemingly no end in sight.

    Will the injuries lead to some depth chart changes? It could be the case, but practice this week will determine that.

    4. How can the special teams be graded?

    Johnathan Thomas may have saved the game with his 94-yard kickoff return that set up an eventual McSorley touchdown run to put the Lions on top, and Rafael Checa, the kickoff specialist, might be the most improved player on the team through seven games, and he was good again on Saturday night.

    Punter Blake Gillikin, on the other hand, has been incredibly inconsistent, and that was the case again this week. Then there's Jake Pinegar, who was perfect on field goal tries but one of his low-trajectory extra points was blocked, which could have proven costly.

    There were a number of kick and punt return errors, as well, that somehow did not cost Penn State a possession despite a few muffed catch attempts and one misplayed kick return situation when the ball hung up in the wind.

    Phil Galiano, the first-year special teams coordinator, has taken plenty of heat so far this season, and in some cases, he's certainly earned it. That said, the group seems to always have a winning play tucked up its sleeve. Is that good enough to counteract all the errors? No, but it's probably better than the alternative, and this is another group that must take bigger strides moving forward.

    5. Lack of improvement

    Last week against Michigan State, we saw that this Penn State team, no matter how good it looked against Ohio State for 52 minutes, has its fair share of flaws. On Saturday, many expected a bounce back against the Hoosiers, but it was anything but that.

    There was simply no sign of improvement. Wide receivers catching the ball? No. The defensive line getting consistent pressure? No. The defense tackling properly? No. There was simply no improvement from week-to-week, and that falls on the coaching staff. What makes it worse is that, as a whole, they keep making the same dumb mistakes that could cost them games.

    This team has the talent to go 10-2, but it may not have the mental fortitude to do so. Either way, weíll find out next Saturday when the Nittany Lions take on a strong Iowa team that took them to down to the wire last season.

    Itís Iowa, Iowa, Iowa, time.

    6. A win is a win

    Much will be made about the way Penn State performed as a road two-touchdown favorite against a team that was recently blown out by Ohio State, Michigan State, and Iowa, but in the end, a win is a win and just what the doctor ordered for Franklin's program.

    Was it pretty? No. Did it signal issues for the rest of the season? Yes. Ultimately though, it's something to build on as the program aims to become bowl eligible next weekend when Iowa comes to town for a 3:30 p.m. kick at Beaver Stadium.
    Last edited by Ratpenat; 21-10-2018 at 06:58.

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  15. #48
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    "Franklin said the coaching staff has "gone back and forth with it in what we need to do" and conceded that "we didn't do a good job" with Saturday's plan."

    If they can't do the job then leave. Stop stealing money for one's incompetence. The players are expected to do one's job with excellence why not the coaches.
    Last edited by itwizard; 23-10-2018 at 15:04.


    We are Penn State Go Lions.

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  17. #49
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    Quote Originally Posted by itwizard View Post
    "Franklin said the coaching staff has "gone back and forth with it in what we need to do" and conceded that "we didn't do a good job" with Saturday's plan."

    If they can't do the job then leave. Stop stealing money for one's incompetence. The players are expected to do one's job with excellence why not the coaches.
    I agree Wiz, I have said from day one that Franklin is a great recruiter but not a game day coach when it comes to xīs a nd oīs. He needs to start winning the games he is supposed to win. Now, I know beating OSU, Mich, and MSU every yea is not going to happen BUT in 2017 and 2018 we had the teams to beat OSU and MSU, no excuses. Michigan this season will be a tall order, they have improved.
    I think after teh season, Franklin has to take a hard look at Wrīs Coach Corley, Special teams Coach Galiano, OC Rahne, and DC Pry.... CorŮey, a hire from Army,I do not think was the proper hire. Why hire a WR Coach from a program that hardly ever throws?? Lasy year Army threw a total of 20 times in 12 games (Athlon Sports wrote an article in their 2018 preview about it, pages 48-51 "An Oral History of Armyīs 2017 Passing Game"). Galiano, has had experience, and happened to be a defensive consultant, I think Franklin should have looked outside the house on that one.
    Ricky Rahne, this is th eguy who was Hackenbergīs QB Coach in 2014 and 2015, Hackenberg regressed, what does that say?? In 2016 and 2017 he was TE Coach and develpoed Gesicki, there is no doubt he is a better TE Coach. Look at his playcalling in th eCapital One Bowl vs. georgia, it sucked, last year in the Fiesta Bowl he had the play makers. Plus, nonobdy cant tell me that Joe Mo didnt act as a consultant behind the scenes in preparation for that game once it was announced. That game plan had Joe Mo written all over it in the fiesta Bowl. DC Pry, how many leads do you have to blow to keep your job?? USC, OSU (2xs), MSU (2xs)....Thats unacceptable. The problem with these coaches is they play not to lose rather than to win and dont close out. That may have worked at Vanderbilt, but not in the Big 10, and not in our division.
    Deep down I want Franklin to be THE GUY, but he may be the guy for the moment, and has advance the program farther in short time than I could have imagined. I expected 10-2 or 9-3 at worst. However 7-5 will be a failure of a season. I understand graduation turnovers each year and that 90% of great teams go 10-2 or 11-1. Not every team is like Bama or has the Saban effect; however at Penn State 11-1 to 9-3 and winning teh games you are to win and playing on New yearīs while improving each week IS expected.

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    Weekly Press Conference - Head Coach James Franklin (Iowa)

    Appreciate you guys coming out, covering Penn State football like you always do. I really do mean that. I appreciate what you guys do for our program and for our players.

    Quickly to go through the Indiana game and summarize it. To me the important statistics that we talk about every single week with you guys and with the program, I think that was really the difference in the game. We won the turnover battle, which was significant, although we did put the ball on the ground in special teams I think four times and were able to get them all back in probably the windiest game I've been a part of. At the end of the day, we were able to win the turnover battle, which was really important.

    Penalties, I think that was a big factor in the game. We were able to win that battle. The drive start battle, we were able to win that. The sack battle, we were able to win that. Maybe a little bit deceiving because most of it showed up in the fourth quarter, but either way, we won that battle.

    We did not win the explosive play battle, but everything else we won. So I think that was really kind of the story of the game.

    Just some notes that we went over as a staff and with the players. You know, the positives of the game. We've done a really good job over the last couple years of eliminating guys that could be problems, especially on special teams, punt returners, kick returners that have given people fits.

    We went into it with No. 5 (J-Shun Harris II), identifying him as a guy that could not impact the game in a big way, and we were able to do that. He had three returns for a 3-yard average, and we were able to cause a fumble. That's two years in a row we were able to cause a fumble, one for a touchdown last year and this one we just recovered.

    He had been averaging 12 and-a-half yards a return, so that was big. I'm really proud of that aspect of being able to identify guys that could be challenges or issues in the games and having a good scheme and having a good plan and having a good mindset to eliminate those guys.

    Special teams, two kickoff returns that equated to two touchdowns and a forced fumble, so that was big. Next-man-up mentality was great because we've had some injuries this year, so that next-man-up mentality, I think that was really good, especially at the wide receiver position. Obviously Yetur [Gross-Matos] and Shaka [Toney] had really big games, and to see still somewhat young players was great.

    And then opportunities for growth. Although we had three penalties, and I think that was really good, they were costly penalties. So we had a holding penalty that took away a first down on offense. We had a defensive hands to the face that gave them a first down. Then we had a defensive offsides penalty that was denied that went for a touchdown, and we didn't rush. They got a free play and were able to throw the ball up to the end zone, so we've got to get those things cleaned up. But those were the general notes that we went over with the players on Sunday.

    Players of the week, Miles [Sanders], Shaka [Toney], and J.T. [Johnathan Thomas.] Miles on offense, Shaka on defense, and J.T. on special teams

    Iowa game, obviously we've moved on. I haven't spent a whole lot of time on Indiana after Sunday, so moving on. Got so much respect for Coach [Kirk] Ferentz and what he's been able to do in his career. A pretty amazing 20 years he's been there. I think he's the longest tenured coach in the country. 16 returning starters off last year's team.

    Their offensive coordinator, Coach Ferentz's son, has done a really nice job for them over the last couple years. I think they've only allowed six sacks, the fewest in the Big Ten this year. The quarterback, Nate Stanley, has really increased his completion percentage from 55 percent to 61 percent this year, and then obviously their tight ends are what make them go on offense.

    Both [T.J] Hockenson and [Noah] Fant are really nice complementary pieces for each other. Fant may be the best receiving tight end in the country, and then Hockenson does a really good job, as well. Hockenson does a really good job at both. He's extremely physical. He's nasty but makes a bunch of plays for them and brings the mentality to their offense.

    They're a run-first team, more of what you would call a traditional Big Ten offense: run first, set up the play action pass off of that. They're a multiple personnel, 12, 21, 22, and 11. I think probably one of the things more challenging this year than in years past is when those two tight ends are on the field they can line up in a two-back set, they can line in a two-tight-end set, they can line up in a three-wide-receiver set, and this year they could line up in what we would term a spread set, like a four-wide-receiver set, but they're doing it out of 12 personnel.

    So obviously as defensive coordinators you like to be able to put people in categories. At 11 personnel they do this, at a 12 personnel they do this, at a 21 personnel they do this. That is challenging to do, obviously, based on their guys.

    I've already mentioned the two tight ends, and then Nate Stanley the quarterback, and then their running back Toren Young, are the guys that have really jumped out to me on tape.

    And then defensively Phil Parker. They're as sound as it gets on defense and really have been for a long time. He's been their defensive coordinator now for six years. They're disciplined, they're physical, and they're well-coached. Base front, four-down front. They're typically going to be some type of two-high defense, whether that's quarter-quarter-half, whether that's cover-two, or whether that's quarters.

    And then obviously they'll mix in some other things where they close the middle of the field up and play either cover one or some type of zone pressure.

    You know, the thing I think that really kind of stands out about them is their front. I think it's by far the front best that we have faced in two years. They are long. They are physical. They are stout. They make a bunch of plays. It seems like they're 6-7, 290 kind of across the board. I think the D-ends are like 6-7 and 6-8, 270 something pounds. Very Carl Nassib like I would describe their D-ends. And then at D-tackle, one of their D-tackles is 6-8. So they are big, they are strong, and they do a really good job of not only being able to stop the run, but also being able to rush the passer in obvious passing situations, and then also batting balls down. So that will be a real challenge for our front.

    Anthony Nelson, defensive end; AJ Epenesa is probably their best pure pass rusher, although Nelson is really good, as well. And then in the back end, Amani Hooker is a guy who's played a lot of football for them.

    And then special teams, I think the biggest thing there, LeVar Woods is their special teams coordinator. Doing a really good job there. Leading the nation in kickoff return average at 30.1 yards. That will be a real challenge for us.

    Guys that stand out on special teams is a kid from Newark, New Jersey, who's a wide receiver for them. Ihmir Smith-Marsette is the guy that they're using on kickoff returns, and then they also have Amani Jones, who does both of those things, is doing a nice job for them on kickoff coverage and kickoff returns.

    And then Geno Stone is a guy obviously from Pennsylvania here in state that's playing on really all four phases for them and doing a great job. There are my overall notes. I'll open it up to questions.

    Q. You mentioned the quality of Iowa's defensive line; how do you think your offensive line has played to this point?

    JF: I think we've really taken some pretty good steps over the last couple years, and that includes this year, obviously. I think things that jump out to me is I think [running back] Miles [Sanders] has been pretty consistent, that we've been able to run the ball pretty much each week.

    We got much less tackles for loss. I've mentioned to you guys before I think that's a combination of our O-line and tight ends, and I also think that Ricky Rahne is doing a good job. We've had some problems in the past where they've brought in edge pressure, whether it's a Sam or Will pressure, and we've already gotten into our play call. We've been in a situation where Saquon [Barkley] was getting the ball and there was someone right in his face. There's less of that. So I think that's a combination of some of the scheme things we're doing, and I think our O-line and tight ends have been better.

    I think in pass protection we've been solid. I think we can be better. I think sometimes you have to be careful because the stats sometimes can be deceiving because [quarterback] Trace [McSorley] is able to avoid some things. But I think we've been good. I think we can be better there with the offensive line developing from a pass pro.

    But from a mentality, they've been excellent. From a team first mentality, they've been really, really good. From a big picture conceptual perspective I think they've been really good. I think the rotation that we used last week with Chasz [Wright] and with [Will] Fries have been really good.

    I think sometimes my approach to injuries, I think, is the right thing to do for our organization, but I think sometimes guys may be nicked up and the media does not know that, and I think that affects some things sometimes. I think us being able to get Chasz Wright some reps in there I think elevated Will Fries' play, and Chasz has earned that. He's played at a pretty high level the last couple years.

    Q. Opponents have been rushing for 165 yards per game versus the defense so far. What has made it so challenging to stop the run this season so far that you've seen?

    JF: Yeah, I think to be honest with you guys, we talked about that before the season. We knew we had question marks at defensive tackle and we had question marks at linebacker. And I think we've made some progress there, but I think we've also had some injuries that have magnified some of those questions that we've had at those positions.

    I see elements that are promising that make you feel good. We show flashes of being really good at times. But then I also think there's times where guys try to make plays and get out of their gap, and it costs us.

    You know, coming into the season, we knew those were some of our challenges. I talked about them fairly extensively coming into the season, and I think in some ways we've solved some of those challenges. In some ways those challenges still exist. We've got to take another step this week. Obviously we're facing a team that that's their identity. That's who they want to be offensively, and it's going to be a heck of a challenge for us.

    Q. How do you know when a young wide receiver is ready to play a larger role? I'm thinking specifically of Jahan Dotson who got in the game last week, but that could apply to any of your freshmen.

    JF: Yeah, I think it's probably no different than anything else. It's balancing what they're able to do in the pass game in terms of route running, in terms of assignments, in terms of recognizing defenses, and also in terms of the run game and being able to hold up physically with our perimeter running game, which is a big part of what we do. So it's a combination of all those things that you're trying to factor in.

    And then you're also looking based on practice, based on practice and game evaluations. Do they give us the best chance to win? So that's a constant weekly discussion on how we're going to approach those things, and I think we go into it each Sunday saying, 'Okay, let's see how this week goes.' to make those decisions.

    I talked to all three of those guys on Sunday night after practice that this was going to be a big week for them, especially with losing some guys last week, that those guys need to prepare as if they're going to be starters this week and then come Thursday or Friday we'll make decisions.

    Q. Your defensive ends you mentioned, Yetur [Gross-Matos] and Shaka [Toney], can you describe a little bit about where their development is right now? Because Shaka maybe people didn't notice a whole lot before Saturday, and all of a sudden the huge fourth quarter. Is he getting ready to have more of an impact on a regular basis, get more snaps? Where is he at?

    JF: Yeah, I think -- I guess where I mentioned earlier is you look at Yetur [Gross-Matos], Yetur was able to get one of those sacks early in the game and then one a little bit later, and then Shaka got them in the fourth quarter; both were obviously impactful and are important.

    Defensive line, obviously when you're in a situation where it's an obvious passing down and the team has to throw, the defensive line is at an advantage. Shaka is talented enough to take advantage of that situation.

    But I do think there's a difference between getting a sack in a normal situation of a game and being able to get a sack in an obvious passing situation of the game. Most importantly, Shaka was able to take advantage of that and do a really good job. Yetur was able to kind of spread it out kind of throughout the game with 10 tackles, as well, so they both played extremely well. But Shaka has shown us flashes of really good things for a while.

    I think sometimes he's not the biggest guy, so I think sometimes we don't give him enough credit for what he's able to do in the run game. But I think that's the next step, is to get more tackles on normal downs, get more tackles for loss on normal downs, get production when it comes to sacks early in game, and then be able to do it when it matters most, which is what Shaka was able to do at the end of the game in a critical situation. So I think it's a combination of all those things.

    But most importantly, those two guys played well. I think there's going to be confidence that comes from that, and we can grow and we can build on it. That will be the plan.

    I think the other thing is making sure that we practice at that type of level with our entire defense and with our entire offense all week long.

    Q. Trace [McSorley] has averaged 18 carries a game in the last four games. Is that a function of opposing defenses keying more on Miles [Sanders]? And I also wondered how concerned you are about Trace taking extra hits with all the extra carries he's been taking lately?

    JF: Yeah, I think in general my concern right now is Trace is carrying too much of the load on offense. That's something that we need to do a better job of. We need more players having a bigger impact on the game on offense. So that's probably my biggest concern.

    I think Miles really is starting to take a step. I thought last week was his best game. I think that's probably my biggest concern with everything. We need to spread some of those big plays and some of those runs and some of those catches, and just overall offensive production needs to be spread out a little bit. That's what I would say.

    I think sometimes there's a misconception that we are running Trace more or that we are using Tommy [Stevens] as a decoy or things like that. We really don't do that. If Tommy is in the game he's part of the read, and the defense will determine whether he gets the ball or not.

    Most of Trace's runs are going to come from one of two things. It's either a scramble off of a normal pass play or it's some type of read where it's a zone read or some type of RPO. It's not necessarily that we go into the game saying Trace is going to run the ball this many times or we're going to throw the ball to this guy. Our offense doesn't really run like that.

    You know, if Tommy gets the ball thrown to him it's because the read told us to throw the ball to him; or if the ball is not thrown to Tommy, it's not that he's been a decoy, it's that the read told us something else or we read it wrong, and then it's the same way in the quarterback run game. It's all pretty much RPO-based. We don't have a whole lot of just straight called runs in our offense.

    Q. You've said that a lot of the time your defense is really more of a 4-2-5 than a 4-3, and I'm wondering if that changes a little bit against this opponent, and what are the challenges in particular for linebackers against a team that runs it pretty well but also has two tight ends on the field that are receiving targets?

    JF: Yeah, it's challenging. I think whenever you can be multiple like they are out of one personnel group -- and not just do it, do it well -- it's challenging. Yeah, I think you guys have seen us in the past against these type of teams. Maybe you play more regular personnel where you have three true linebackers on the field. I think you guys have also seen us play just like when we play some passing teams we'll get into what we've called our wild package, which is three or four defensive ends on the field.

    I think you guys have also seen where we put three to four D-tackles on the field at the same time to maybe be a little bit more stout at the defensive end position.

    There's a lot of different things that we do, and obviously it's all week to week based on our opponent and what they try to do. Yeah, this will be a challenge for us. Obviously completely different style and approach than what we saw last week.

    Q. Journey Brown played a little bit on Saturday; Ricky Slade has been the guy at other times to come in. What has Journey done to warrant more playing time, and are you still looking for a go-to guy that can come in and give Miles a rest with Mark Allen out?

    JF: Yeah, you know, Ricky [Slade] was a little dinged up, and Journey [Brown] has had two really good weeks of practice. There was a lot of conversation as a coaching staff last week. Conversation last week about Journey is really starting to do some good things. He's got a lot of gifts, he's got a lot of talents, but I think early on in his career, he was just thinking a lot. You're starting to see him think less and let those talents come forward.

    But we felt very comfortable putting him in, and he did a nice job. So I think his package will continue to grow, and then I think Ricky I think has got a chance to grow and learn from the experiences that he's got already on game day and really have a nice second half of the year.

    But you've got to have three guys that you feel good about. When we lost Mark, it was Journey's time to step up for us. I think he's done that now, but we've got to keep building on it. We'll see how this week goes.

    But like I said, I think Miles is playing at a pretty high level right now. I thought last week was his best game, and now we need those other two guys to continue growing.

    Q. Micah [Parsons] seemed to be very productive when he was out on the field. Is that a fair assessment, and what do you think he needs to do to maybe earn more of the snaps at that position?

    Yeah, we discuss that every single week. Micah [Parsons] is a really interesting guy. Got to know him during the recruiting process. I'm getting to know him obviously even better now. He's very thoughtful. He sends me messages all the time. He's very thoughtful. It's very important to him. He cares a lot, but he's still growing up and maturing. I think Coach [Brent] Pry is doing a really good job of that. I think Micah is really open to that. I think that's a big reason why he came here. We were very open and honest and transparent about how he was going to be coached and how he was going to be treated. So I see him taking steps.

    A lot of the stuff for him is not necessarily the physical aspect. It's all the details. It's all the details, how to meet, how to practice, even at the hotel. It's just all those details, and I think him and Coach Pry are building a really good relationship that's built on trust. I think that's really what we're talking about is his role growing and increasing as he continues to show signs that he is dotting all the I's and crossing all the T's consistently.

    But I don't think there's any doubt he's shown some real flashes and has had pretty good production. But there's also some times where there's some things that got to get cleaned up.

    I think it's going to be a natural evolution.

    Q. Has anything about Pat Freiermuth's development surprised you, and did you anticipate he could be such an integral part of your offense at this stage of his career?

    JF: You know, obviously when you recruit these guys you have very high expectations of who and what they can be, and we got a chance to obviously evaluate him in games. He came to camp two years in a row and really improved there. He comes from a family of coaches. Got a great mom and dad that handled the whole process really well.

    You know, so he's probably come in probably more mature than your typical freshman. I think it also helped that he came in here, he's 257 pounds, and I think he's 260 now, but runs well and catches the ball well.

    And then I think the thing you never know is when they get here and they go up against other good players, is it too big? Is it too fast for them? When they get into the stadium, is it too big? Is it too fast for them? And every time we put him in a situation, it wasn't. It wasn't. He just did the same thing on Saturdays that he does in practice every single day and had a good summer and asked a lot of great questions and those types of things.

    I think with every guy that we're recruiting now we're expecting and hoping that they're going to come in and be able to have an impact. Now, whether that's starting, that's tough to say. But he's just kind of -- every day has built that trust that we just kind of were talking about, and it happens slowly. Then there were some injuries that he was able to get some more reps and take advantage of it, and just kind of kept growing from there.

    We're very pleased with him. I think he's got a bright future ahead of him, and been very impressed with his freshman year so far.

    Q. You mentioned those freshman wide outs to have a big week this week. We didn't see Juwan [Johnson] in the second half out in Indiana. Do you expect him to play on Saturday?

    JF: Yeah, we we're hoping to get him back in the game on Saturday and weren't able to do that. Me and Juwan have been going back and forth for the last 48 hours because I talked obviously to the trainers to get their feelings on it, but then I think it's also interesting just to kind of hear what the players say themselves, what their temperament is about it.

    He's pretty confident that he's going to be back, and so is [head athletic trainer] Andy [Mutnan]. But it's early in the week, so we'll see.

    Q. This question is about the implications of a defense staying on the field, because the discrepancy was kind of stunning. The last two weeks you guys have been on for 189 [plays] and Iowa has been on for 104. Any implications for practice, for strategy, for substitutions?

    JF: Yeah, there's no doubt about it. Those are things we discuss on Sunday, how many plays we played in the game. Obviously as you guys know, we use the navigation devices, distance traveled, and all those types of things, so it definitely factors into how we practice. Not as an entire team, but how we'll modify those guys' reps. And what we always do is then we check the data on Friday and compare it to the previous Friday and see have we recovered, been able to get the work that we needed to get done during the week, and have they recovered so that they can go out and play at a high level on Saturday. So all those things are factored in.

    And I think that's probably a couple things that we've talked about, as well, is we need to be better on third down as an organization. Our offense needs to be better on third down, which will create more opportunities for our offense to stay on the field and scoring opportunities, but obviously the other impact of that, it keeps our defense off the field.

    Now, when our defense is on the field we have to do a better job on third down of getting off the field. I think sometimes when you look at time of possession, a lot of times if the offense is not sustaining drives, then you look at the defense and you say, The defense is being put in a tough spot because the offense isn't sustaining drives as much as we possibly can, but the defense has the ability to go three-and-out and send it back.

    It's truly a team stat. Offense we've got to be better; on defense we've got to be better. That's something that I think is going to be important in this game. Turnover ratio, like always, because that factors in very similar to staying on the field on third down or getting off the field on third down. We spent a lot of time talking about that on Saturday, because obviously I think you're exactly right, I think we played [100] plays on defense, which is way too many.

    Q. I want to talk about your Z receiver position. Through four Big Ten games, the two co-starters you have there are combining for less than 20 receiving yards per game. Last Thursday, [offensive coordinator] Ricky Rahne told us it wasn't a personnel issue, it was how you were handling defensive strategy across the other guy. Given another game to assess that position, do you think that is the case, and how do you handle that moving forward? I have to imagine 17 yards per game combined between those two players probably isn't what you were looking for.

    JF: Yeah, we need more production. I think if you look at some of that it's drops. But I think if you also look at our offense over -- in the past, in terms of what positions and the guys that are playing each position, who produces the most catches and the most yards in our offense, I think the Z is always a little bit behind those other positions.

    But yeah, I think you look on Saturday, I think at that position we had one dropped explosive play and we had one dropped touchdown. So I think it's a combination of all those factors.

    But I think in general, our Z usually gets a little bit less opportunities and touches than the other two positions. Obviously that's not overall scheme. A little bit of that is that. Part of that is also, like Ricky is saying, how defenses play us. But I do think that's not completely unusual in our offense.

    Q. Jonathan Sutherland has been getting more and more playing time starting on special teams and filling in for Garrett [Taylor] on Saturday. How would you assess his progression so far this year on defense?

    JF: Yeah, good, and we're going to need it on Saturday, obviously, so he'll get a bunch of reps on Saturday. As you guys know, GT [Garrett [Taylor] will not be able to play the first half, so Jon will get a bunch of opportunities there and he's progressing nicely. He's got some real strengths. He's a downhill -- you look at the play he caused the fumble on and that's kind of who he is. When he makes his mind up to go make a tackle, there's very little breakdown. Most guys will come under control and chatter their feet and get their hips underneath them and then make the tackle, and with Sutherland, he's more like a missile. He just goes. I think he flashes that way a lot.

    I think he can bring a lot of the physicality. I think his game and Marcus Allen's game are very similar in a lot of ways. I think as he continues to get more confident, I think you're going to see him be even more aggressive. I think you're going to see him be more violent. But no different than we talked about earlier with Micah, your safeties and your linebackers got a lot on their plate in terms of adjustments, in terms of communication, and especially at the safety position; probably even more so at the linebacker, because a lot of times they're the last line of defense. If you're wrong on the back end, it's going to be a long day for you.

    I know [safeties coach] Tim Banks is really excited about him and his development, and they're working closely together. This week is going to be a next-man-up opportunity for him, no different than we had with [Antonio] Shelton's situation the week before.

    Q. You mentioned Trace [McSorley] carrying too much of the offense. Have you sensed that he's maybe getting worn out at all, not just physically but maybe mentally with everything that's being asked of him, plus so many changes around him?

    JF: No. I think as you guys know with Trace, he's really Steady Eddie. He never really gets too high; he never really gets too low. The only time you ever see that is after a touchdown when he does his celebratory grand slam, home run, whatever you want to call it. But he handles things really well. He communicates really well. He came in and had a good conversation with Coach [Ricky] Rahne about something that he wanted to make a suggestion on offense about tweaking something that we do in terms of practice, you know, what periods we jog through and what periods we go full speed, to try to help with some timing and things like that.

    But Trace is a guy that's always part of the solution. He's never about the problems. I think we all realize it's easy to identify problems, but Trace is a solution guy. He's always been really good at that from a leadership standpoint. He's always been really good at that from an ownership standpoint.

    Mondays, for example, I think he had the entire offense in there, which I think happens every Monday, watching tape together, having discussions, all those types of things, which culturally is really important for us.

    Q. You've mentioned before that the farther away from the ball, the easier it is to play earlier in your career. You've got a couple of young defensive tackles that you're leaning on now. None of it looks easy on the field, obviously, but is there a part of the game, run versus pass, or understanding one part or the other, that comes a little more naturally to a young defensive tackle or maybe something that will be easier to pick up for them as they get into the later part of their freshman year?

    JF: I think it really kind of depends on the person and their skillset. You know, so one of the challenges is typically if you're a defensive lineman who's playing as a true freshman, it's probably because you've been bigger, faster, stronger, more athletic than the people you've gone against your whole life. A lot of times guys can lean on that athleticism, even when they get here.

    The biggest difference in my opinion is the physicality, especially when you're talking about the closer to the ball you are. For the first time in most of these guys' lives, they hit someone and the person hits them back as hard or harder, and that's a strange feeling. If you've always been the aggressor and people have backed down or you've always been the aggressor and been able to knock people back, and now you get knocked back or someone comes back at you as aggressively as you've come at them, and they're older, they're stronger, they're more dense, those types of things.

    So I think that's probably the biggest challenge for a freshman O-line and D-line is the physicality. They can get away with some things at the high school level from a technique perspective because they're just better. They can play high and still not get knocked back in high school. They cannot have their hands inside and still be able to defeat a block. But if they're not technically sound they're going to have a hard time. If they're playing high at this level they're going to get driven off the ball. That's probably the biggest challenge.

    Obviously the speed and quickness and athleticism also is at another level, but I do think probably the biggest thing is just the physicality aspect of it and how quickly can you rebound mentally from that. Some guys, they go hard and they end up getting knocked on their rear end. That's a reality check. This is a very humbling sport. It does that to all of us.

    Some are able to bounce back very quickly from that, and some start to question themselves, which is hard because it's the first time they've ever really questioned themselves in their careers.

    Q. You guys put Jan Johnson on the scholarship at some point recently here. When did that happen, and what does it mean for you to be able to do that with him, given his whole path here?

    JF: Yeah, I think first of all, the expression I prefer to use with these guys is he earned it. We didn't give him anything. Jan has earned it. I've been planning on doing it for a while. It's kind of like you decide to get engaged and you're just looking for the right moment to do it, and I've been thinking about doing that with Jan for a while.

    But it's like, what is the right time? And I was thinking about doing it in the locker room after the Indiana game. I thought it would be really cool to do that. I was talking to the team on Thursday and I was just kind of talking about Jan, and I was talking to the team about everybody in this room is sitting there, and every person in the room's role was critical and important to what we're trying to do. On top of that, that their circumstances could change like that.

    Jan's story is pretty incredible. You think about this. He walks on to Penn State. He walks on. In his first year, the wrestling coach, this guy by the name of Cael Sanderson, you guys probably know who he is. Cael came over and said, 'Hey, Coach, we lost our heavyweight wrestler, and we'd love to see if one of your guys could help us. We know Jan wrestled in high school.

    So as a true freshman he goes over and wrestles. He's 220 pounds and he wrestles 285, the heavyweight, and allows them -- I'm not an expert on wrestling, but I know if you don't have anybody to wrestle you lose a certain amount of points. If you have someone to wrestle you lose a certain amount of points. If you get pinned you lose a certain amount of points. If you win you get a certain amount of points.

    So in a lot of ways he helped them that year win a National Championship. Does that, and then comes back and rejoins the team and then ends up, if I'm remembering correctly, the next year we have a bunch of injuries; plays in the Michigan game; tears his ACL. Then last year he's the starting tight end on the scout team. He's the starting tight end on the scout team because he gives us the best look.

    And I'm telling everybody, I said, Think about it. Jan, where are you right now? He said, The starting Mike linebacker. I said, Where were you last year? He said, I was the starting tight end on the scout team.

    So it's just a really good example of Jan has always put the team first. Always. Always. He's always put the University first, put the athletic department first. The wrestling team needed him. He went over there and did what he had to do to help that organization. You ask a guy who's trying to earn a job at linebacker to go play scout team tight end? Not once did he question it. Not once did he ever hang his head. Not once did he let his shoulders hang.

    Whatever Coach [Brent] Pry and myself asked him to do, he did it to the best of his ability. On top of that, I didn't mention, he graduated last year. He's working on a master's degree right now. So I'm telling this story in front of the team, and as you guys know, I get emotional. I'm just like, I don't know why I'm waiting until Saturday. Jan, you're on full scholarship, and the whole place goes crazy. Typically [director of operations] Mike Hazel and [video coordinator] Jevin [Stone] want to have a camera in for this, but I didn't know I was going to do it. I just think it was the right thing to do. I'm talking about Jan, and I'm like, 'What are we waiting for right now? There's no better time than the moment.'

    And telling that story I think we can all learn from Jan. I think we can all learn from Jan and people that are members of teams, people that are members of organizations. When you daily and time after time and moment after moment put the organizations' objectives ahead of your own and you put the people around you objectives and goals ahead of your own, that's a recipe for success in life. And Jan is that guy. So it was really cool.

    Then we tried to call -- I know I'm talking too long about this. Then right after the meeting we tried to call his dad. His dad refused to answer the phone. We called his mom. His mom refused to answer the phone. So we didn't even get Jan -- because they had another child that had a sporting event, so we didn't get their parents until late that night. Then Jan's dad is like, 'Yeah, I kept getting this call from Maryland. I don't answer calls' -- some of you guys know I've got a Maryland number. He wouldn't answer my call. I'm like, 'I'm trying to call you with good news.'

    But it was really cool. I think Jan is another example. Charlie Shuman, [Brandon] Smith. We've had so many examples of guys like this, which is to me what makes college athletics and college football so special.

    Q. I know you talked about how well Miles [Sanders] is playing. How do you enter the Big Ten schedule? You mentioned the importance of that three-person rotation. Through four games the other guys have touched the ball twice out of the backfield, Journey [Brown] once and Ricky [Rahne] once. Is that something you want to get back into the next five games, getting Ricky and Journey involved, or is it just more that there's not a reason to take Miles off the field because of the way he's playing?

    JF: I think it's a combination of both. It's a combination of Miles is playing really well right now, and I think it's also a combination of I told you Ricky was a little banged up last week. Journey was starting to kind of take that next step that we felt comfortable putting him in the game, that he could use his ability and could play with confidence and those types of things.

    I think it's kind of a combination of all those things. Miles is playing pretty well. It just so happens that you lose Mark Allen, and then it just so happens that Ricky gets dinged up and then Journey is the next guy up. J.T. [Johnathan Thomas] is another guy that we had a lot of confidence in that we could put in.

    But I think it's not one of those things. It's a combination. Obviously we're going to need those other two guys to continue to take on some of this load. So I think to your point that you're making is a lot like Trace [McSorley]. We don't want Trace having to carry so much of the load of the offense. We also don't want Miles having to carry so much of the load of the running game.

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    Penn State Running Backs Series: Blair Thomas

    Blair Thomas 1985-1989

    When growing up and becoming a Penn State Fan, my favorite back was Blair Thomas. There was something about the big, lumbering, but fast guy who wore a neck collar and tore up defenses on fall saturdays. I used to love imagining I was him while playing football in the backyard while dragging people along for the ride carry after carry. Yet, in reality in high school I was just an old lumbering offensive lineman. I guess we can all dream of glory..........
    The debate has raged for decades among Penn State fans. Who was the better cutback runner? Warner or Thomas? Thomas accepted a football scholarship from Penn State University. Blair Thomas was the first player to rush for 1400 yards in two seasons earning All American honors in 1987 and 1989. He was a backup on the 1986 National Championship team, tallying 504 yards on 60 carries and 5 touchdowns. In 1987, he became a starter as a junior for head coach Joe Paterno, posting 1,414 yards on 268 carries and 11 touchdowns. In 1988, he was lost for the season with a serious right knee injury.
    As a senior returning from reconstructive knee surgery, he averaged just 19 carries in the first 6 games, but ended strong by rushing for over 100-yards in six straight games,[1] while registering 1,341 yards on 264 carries and 5 touchdowns. In the Holiday Bowl against Brigham Young, he rushed for a bowl record 186 yards on 35 carries, receiving Most Valuable Player honors. He was also named the MVP in the Senior Bowl after rushing for 137 yards on only 11 carries. He finished in the top five for the Heisman in 1989 and earned MVP honors in the Holiday and Senior Bowls.
    He is 5th on the Nittany Lionsís all-time rushing list with 3,301 yards and 21 touchdowns. He averaged 5.5 yards per carry, . He was also the first player in school history to rush for more than 1,300 yards in two seasons (1987, 1989). He earned his Bachelor of Science in recreation and parks management at Penn State University in 1989.
    After Penn State Thomas was selected by the New York Jets as the second pick of the first round. Unfortunately he played on some horrible Jets teams for six seasons and couldn't get much going in the NFL. He joined on with several teams over the next few years before he retired in 1995.
    After his playing days Thomas coached the running backs for Temple University before he gave that up in 2005. Today he lives with his wife and three children in King of Prussia, PA. Thomas, former Penn State and Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Kenny Jackson, and local AFLAC agent Al Mayer are partners in a chain of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-area sports bars called KoKoMos.

    Blair Thomas Stats at Penn State

    1985: 14 carries/ 42 yds / 0 tds
    1986: 60 carries/ 504 yds / 5 tds
    1987: 268 carries / 1414 yds / 11 tds
    1989: 264 carries / 1341 yds / 5 tds

    Totals: 606 carries/ 3301 yds/ 21 tds


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    Penn state vs. Iowa: Preview



    No.17 Penn State vs. No.18 Iowa: Game Preview

    (18)Penn State (5-2, 2-2) vs. Iowa (6-1, 3-1)

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

    TV: ABC- Steve Levy (play-by-play), Brian Griese (analyst), Todd McShay (sideline)

    Weather: A wet and chilly day, with highs in the low 40s. Showers are expected all throughout the afternoon, making for very soggy conditions.


    COACHES:

    James Franklin:

    PENN STATE RECORD: 41-19, 5th Year

    OVERALL RECORD: 65-34, 7th Year

    VS. IOWA: 2-0


    Kirk Ferentz:

    IOWA RECORD: 149-98, 20th Year

    OVERALL RECORD: 161-119, 23rd

    VS. PENN STATE: 8-6



    NOW THE FUN PART....

    IOWA OFFENSE VS. PENN STATE DEFENSE

    Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley is quietly having a superb season, completing 60 percent of his passes for 1,559 yards with 16 touchdowns to six interceptions. However, he does run hot and cold at times so you just donít know what you will get from him, regardless of the opponent. He had two of his best performances recently against Minnesota and Indiana, where he threw for a combined 634 yards and 10 touchdowns. However, he came back down to earth last week against Maryland, completing 11 of 22 passes for 86 yards. He also had a similar performance against Northern Illinois in week one, completing just 11 of 23 for 108 yards, and like the Maryland game, threw one touchdown and an interception.

    Stanley is a pure pocket passer with a 6-4 242 lb. frame. He will rarely leave the pocket, and in two years as a starter, his game-high for rushing yards is just 15. His offensive line does a great job of keeping him upright and giving him time, as Stanley has only been sacked five times in seven games.

    Fortunately for Penn State, running back Akrum Wadley is now in the NFL. Wadley was Iowaís top offensive weapon in recent memory, and single-handily brought Iowa back for a late lead in 2017. Taking his place is sophomore Torren Young, although Kirk Ferentz will typically go with whichever running back has the hot hand. Young leads the team with 403 yards, but sometimes disappears from the game plan- in four games this season heís had less than 10 carries. Fellow sophomore Mekhi Sargent also receives regular carries, and is coming off two solid outings as he rushed for 59 yards against Indiana and 54 versus Maryland. Another sophomore, Ivory Kelly-Martin, could receive the majority of carries on Saturday. After recovering from a concussion, Kelly-Martin came just shy of a 100 yard effort against Maryland on Saturday.

    The Hawkeyes offense relies heavily on tight ends, and may have the best one in the nation in Noah Fant. Despite receiving the lions share of attention from defenses, Fant leads the Hawkeyes in receiving with 26 catches for 312 yards and six scores. Another tight end, T.J. Hockenson, leads the team in receiving yards with 424. He had a huge game in a close loss to Wisconsin, racking up 125 yards on just three receptions. Both can really move for their size (both players are listed at 6-5 and 250 lbs.), and have potential to create some major headaches for an inconsistent Nittany Lions defense.

    Senior Nick Easley is Stanleyís top target at the receiver position, but his productivity can be very inconsistent. For Penn State to come out with a victory, they will need to focus on stopping the run and keeping the Hawkeyes incredibly talented tight ends in check.

    Defensive end Shaka Toney ended the Indiana game on an absolute tear, accumulating four sacks during the Hoosiers final three drives. Heíll look to pick up where he left off. The same can be said for Yetur Gross-Matos, who had a team leading 10 tackles and contributed two sacks at Indiana.


    PENN STATE OFFENSE VS. IOWA DEFENSE

    Penn State will face the best overall defense so far thus season on Saturday, which is bad news considering the offense has been in a state of disarray after a hot start. Iowa has outstanding talent on all three levels, and it will be crucial for Penn State to eliminate the constant mistakes that continue to thwart drives and miss opportunities.

    The offensive line will be in for a test, as the Hawkeyes have several players upfront who can get after the quarterback. Anthony Nelson is one of the best defensive ends around. The 6-7 behemoth has five sacks on the season and seems to create problems for whoever is lining up across from him. Sophomore A.J. Epenesa leads the team with six sacks, and has at least one in five of seven games played this season. Senior defensive end Parker Hesse is highly disruptive as well. Heís accumulated three sacks and is tied with Epenesa with a team-leading seven TFLs. Chauncey Golston also provides quality depth with not much dropoff as a reserve.

    The secondary is also filled with playmakers. The Hawkeyes have picked off nine passes on the season, and have three players with multiple picks. The safeties are especially productive- free safety Jake Gervase is tied for the team lead in tackles, while strong safety Amani Hooker is third in tackles and also has two interceptions, five pass break ups and a safety.

    As previously noted, Iowaís defense doesn't really have many weak spots to attack. They are second in the nation in rushing defense and 18th against the pass. They are only yielding 258 yards and 14.1 points per game, so nothing will come easy on Saturday.

    This game certainly has a make-or-break feel for the Nittany Lions offense. The offense has been inconsistent at times, and a far cry from the explosive big-play unit that often moved the ball at ease. The drops and inopportune penalties are still holding them back and greatly reducing productivity. Now they have one of the best defenses in the nation coming to town, and will be facing two more exceptional defenses in the coming weeks.


    SPECIAL TEAMS

    Iowa has a reliable kicker in Miguel Recinos, which is incredibly important as this game could easily come down to a field goal. Recinos is 10-of-13 on the season, and has made all three of his field goal attempts between 40-49 yards. His career long is 48 yards. They also have a very steady punter in Colten Rastetter, who is averaging 43.6 yards per punt. While he doesnít have a booming leg, he also doesnít have any poor punts either.

    The Hawkeyes have a dangerous kick returner in receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette, who is averaging 33.3 yards per return on the season with a long of 60. Receiver Kyle Groeneweg handles punt returns, averaging 7.4 yards per return with a long of 23. The Hawkeyes do not have a return touchdown on the season, although Smith-Marsette seems prepared to break one at any point in the near future.


    PENN STATEīS 4 KEYS:

    1. Win the third-down battle. Iowa's offense is converting third downs at a 49-percent rate and the Hawkeyes are third in the Big Ten in time of possession, averaging 33:34. The Lions' defense played 100 snaps against Indiana and may be a bit weary this Saturday. Can PSU force a few three-and-outs?

    2. Slow down Iowa tight ends Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson. The duo has combined for 51 catches, 736 yards and nine touchdowns. Fant is viewed as a potential first-round draft pick.

    3. Have a sound pass protection plan. Iowa's A.J. Epenesa is second in the Big Ten with six sacks. Teammate Anthony Nelson is right behind him with five.

    4. Limit mistakes in the kicking game. Michigan State converted a fake punt against Penn State and the Lions had their fake punt try stuffed by Indiana last week. The Hoosiers also recovered an onside kick in the final minute.
    Last edited by Ratpenat; 27-10-2018 at 00:58.

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    Penn state vs. Iowa: Recap





    Well, they did it!

    It wasnít pretty, but they did it!

    Penn State finally closed out the game when leading late.

    Saturdayís game against Iowa was far from a work of art, but football is a results business.

    The Nittany Lions fell behind early after a bad opening drive and dropped snap by Blake Gillikin led to a blocked punt and a safety.

    The Hawkeyes scored a field goal on the ensuing drive to make it 5-0 (funfer!) and then added to that lead on a fake field goal to make it 12-0.

    All was lost.

    But maybe not!

    Penn State responded with a strong drive for a touchdown that was capped by an 18-yard pass from Trace McSorley to a wide open Pat Freiermuth.

    The Hawkeyes then extended their lead to 14-7 when a snap went over Gillikinís head and through the end zone for a safety.

    (Weíll have more on a certain special teams coach later this week.)

    Things looked even worse for the Nittany Lions when Trace McSorley went down holding his knee following a sack and was forced to leave the game.

    Then Penn State decided to wake up.

    John Reid picked off an errant pass from Nate Stanley and returned it to the Iowa 3-yard line before Tommy Stevens, in for McSorley, rumbled in to tie the game.

    After a pair of field goals and some preposterous decision making from Kirk Ferentz, the teams went into the break deadlocked at 17-17.

    Penn State came out and made a statement immediately after the half, forcing a Hawkeyes three-and-out.

    On the following possession McSorley, back in the game, took off down the field for a 51-yard touchdown to give the Nittany Lions a 24-17 lead, their first of the game.

    Jake Pinegar then connected on a 49-yard field goal, his second of three from 40-plus, to make the score 27-17.

    With just over 10 minutes to play, Penn State appeared to be primed to salt the game away with the ball inside the Iowa red zone.

    Then catastrophe struck.

    Naturally.

    McSorley and Miles Sanders mishandled a hand off and the Hawkeyes took the ball back down 10 points.

    Though it didnít score on that drive, Iowa wasnít dead yet.

    After punting and pinning Penn State inside the 10, catastrophe struck again.

    Again, naturally.

    Trace McSorley dropped back to pass and failed to see Iowa safety Geno Stone. Stone jumped the pass, picked it off and returned it to the house to cut the lead to 27-24.

    The Nittany Lions actually responded well this time.

    KJ Hamler took the following kick return inside the Iowa 40, and while the offense sputtered, Pinegar came up clutch again with a 44-yard field goal to make it 30-24.

    Things looked bleak with Iowa driving down inside the Penn State 10 and time running down, but then it was the Hawkeyes turn to fu-mess it up.

    Stanley and star tight end Noah Fant had a miscommunication and Nick Scott, ever the opportunist, intercepted Stanleyís pass at the Nittany Lions 3-yard line.

    Penn State got one first down on the following drive and burned a couple minutes as well as all three of the Hawkeyes timeouts, but eventually had to punt.

    Blake Gilkin boomed to put Iowa inside itís own 30, and while the Hawkeyes drove all the way inside the Penn State half, they were unable to find the winning score.

    On the final play of the ball game, Shareef Miller beat his man and got to Stanley who pitched the ball back to a big olí lineman who was eventually chased down and tackled at the Penn State 29.

    We did it, yíall.

    We survived.

    Go State.

    I need a drink.


    Penn State takeaways:

    McSorley's worth shines through again

    Forget the errant passing day, his involvement in a fourth-quarter fumble, and the pick six interception toss that put Iowa back in the game.

    All of those were costly mistakes, but ultimately, not losing ones.

    The takeaway on No. 9 yet again is just how resilient he is. McSorley went down with a leg injury following a sack in the second quarter, and it caused him to miss a few series, but he ultimately returned after halftime and put any doubts about his health to rest when he busted off on a 51-yard touchdown run to break a 17-17 tie that put the Lions ahead for good.

    There are, and always have been, some things to nitpick about the quarterback's play game in and game out, but there is no questioning that he's tough, a winner, and willing to do anything to lead his team to victory.

    On Saturday, he proved that again.

    Pinegar breaks out

    Field goal kicker Jake Pinegar was heavily questioned and criticized for his up-and-down start to the season, but he had the game of his career to date against Iowa, his home state team.

    Pinegar connected on field goal tries of 44, 45, and 49 yards, the latter of which was a career high. The 49-yarder was the de-facto game-winner, as well, while the 45 yard boot added needed comfort late.

    Connecting on those kick consistently will be the next step for the freshman, but on a day the Lions needed every advantage they could get, no matter how big or how small, its kicker shined and had his best performance when it mattered most.

    Lions 'D' steps up in big spots

    Big defensive stands have not been a part of every Penn State game this season, but Saturday night featured a few.

    Safety Nick Scott, who has been a ballhawk this season, recorded a key fourth quarter interception on 1st and goal from the PSU 3 that killed Iowa's best chance at winning the game late, but he was far from the only standout star.

    End Yetur Gross-Matos continued his impressive season by racking up nine tackles and two sacks, while John Reid's 44-yard interception return set up a Lions' score earlier in the game to help calm things down after McSorley left due to an injury.

    Iowa did not score a traditional touchdown against the Lions' defense, as their points came off two safeties, a fake field goal touchdown pass, and interception return for a touchdown, and two field goals.

    If Brent Pry's unit came come up with the same kind of key plays at Michigan next week, the Lions might be able to hang around long enough to spring an upset.

    The Yetur Gross-Matos show

    Yetur Gross-Matos may have had his coming out party on Saturday afternoon against the Iowa Hawkeyes. The sophomore out of Virginia had a career day for the Nittany Lions, collecting nine tackles with four for losses and two sacks. Prior to the last two weeks, the Penn State pass rush was having a hard time getting home but Gross-Matos and Shaka Toney have a combined six sacks against Indiana and Iowa. Tremendous performances to say the least for both players.

    The big takeaway?

    Iowa came into this contest with its sights set on maybe winning the Big Ten West and earning a College Football Playoff berth. Penn State entered it knowing that its shot at conference and national titles are all but shot.

    Yet, circumstance didn't reflect reality, as the Lions looked desperate and played with more will to win.

    It's true that Iowa's Nate Stanley struggled mightily and that may have been the biggest difference in the game, but mistakes like poorly-timed penalties, turnovers, and struggles with the four-minute offense has sunk this Penn State team before.

    Not this week, though. Instead, the Lions overcame any and all of their faults on the road to victory, and now Penn State needs to parlay this win into its preparation for a trip to top-five Michigan.

    Will winning be easy, or even likely? Certainly not, but as James Franklin's team showed on Saturday night, opportunity is always one play away.

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    Coach franklin press conference: Michigan

    JAMES FRANKLIN: First of all, appreciate everybody coming out. Weather is really nice out there. Better than I anticipated. Never really know what the weather is like until I go to practice or come to the press conference.

    Kind of summarizing the Iowa game, itís kind of interesting. You look at the statistics that we talk about each week. Itís pretty much a wash. Turnover battle was even. Penalties was basically even. Drive start battle was basically even. Sack battle was basically even. Explosive play battle was basically even.

    So we were fortunate to come out of that game with a win against a really good football team here at home, especially having to overcome the two safeties, which in my 23 years as a coach and however may years as a player, I donít know if Iíve ever seen that.

    So we were fortunate to be able to overcome that, but our guys have shown over a number of years that we are a resilient group, weíre gritty and gutty, and guys stick together. Guys stick together on the sidelines supporting one another and all those things. Thatís good to see.

    So happy about that. Moving on to the challenge this week is Michigan and Coach Harbaugh and The Big House. So a tremendous opportunity. I know our guys are excited about the opportunity. If you look at them theyíre a veteran team; 21 of was 29 starters returning this season.

    They opened the season with a loss to Notre Dame, and since then have played really well. Offensive coordinator, Pep Hamiltin. Iíve known Pep forever. Pep spent a lot of time in D.C. and Howard when I was at the University of Maryland. Iíve known Pep for a long time. He does a really good job. He had a nice career in the NFL for a number of years were he gained great experience, and has been at Michigan for the last two years. He and Coach Harbaugh are heavily involved in the offense.

    Big thing with them is their balance. Theyíre extremely balanced offensively. I think in some ways similar to what we faced last week in terms of run first team, and a lot of their offense is based around their tight ends. They got two very difficult matchups as tight ends, both in the run and pass game. So that will be a really challenge for us.

    Then the transfer quarterback, Shea Patterson, has really helped them. They were able to get a veteran guy who has played a lot of football and has mobility, so that will be challenges.

    The stat that probably jumps out the most with those guys is time of possession. Theyíre seventh in FBS. I think we know the defense plays a huge part in that.

    Offensively theyíre committed to running the football 72% the time on normal downs. Theyíre what we call the truck play or pin and pull. Split flow zone, inside zone, and then the kick play.

    Big 12 personnel team based back to the tight ends that we talked about, and then mix in 21 personnel and then 11 personnel is their third most likely personnel group, which goes against the norm in college football.

    Shea Patterson, been very impressed with him; completing 67% of his balls. The running back is doing some really good things now. Karan Higdon is a senior and has got 831 yards, and probably most impressive is the 5.4 yards per carry as well as him catching the ball out of the backfield.

    Donovan Peoples Jones, who we know very well who we recruited. Big, strong, physical, fast receiver; has done a nice job for them.

    And then the tight end, Zach Gentry, 6í8Ē 262 pounds. If I remember correctly from recruiting out of high school, I think he was a quarterback, a quarterback at transition.

    Don Brown on defense. I think you guys know we got a lot of history with Don. Heís done a great job. You look all the way back to his time at Boston College. Were faced them in the bowl game, the Pinstripe Bowl when he was the defensive coordinator. You look at his time now at Michigan. Heís had either the top defense in the country or one of the top defenses in the country really since heís been doing it now for the last how many years.

    We have history even before that. He was defensive coordinator at Maryland when I was the offensive coordinator. Got a lot history there; got a lot of respect for Don both personally and professionally, and his family. I think he did a great job. Really, really good job.

    They lead the nation in total defense and pass defense. Theyíve held seven of their last eight opponents to the lowest yardage total of the season. Theyíre a base four down front, but theyíll mix in some three down stuff.

    Theyíre a press a man pressure defense. Theyíre going to try to overload you in the box and take every yard away. Most defensive coordinators will give you something while trying to take another thing away. Don does not want to give up a yard in the game. He tries to take everything away from you.

    Thatís how they play. Theyíre going to try to pressure your quarterback, overload the box in the run game, and going to take all easy throws away because they press pretty much every play. They know how youíre going to try to attack them and you know how theyíre going to try to stop you. They spend all week preparing on those things that people try to do to try to attack press man coverage, and we spend all week trying to come up with ways to beat it.

    The total defense, theyíre first in the Big 10 and first in the country. Passing defense, first in the Big 10 and first in the country. Scoring defense, first in the Big 10 and sixth in the country. So theyíre doing a great job.

    Chase Winovich is a guy that when we got the job here at the State of Pennsylvania we tried to get involved in but it was just too late. Heís done a great job. I talked to him Big 10 media days. I think he got there at 208 pounds as a linebacker, and has transitioned into a 255 pound defensive end. His motor on tape is. He plays the game really, really hard.

    Devin Bush is as impressive a middle linebacker as youíll see. He flies all over the field and is explosive, strong, and powerful. I think you guys all know we knew Lavert Hill very well, extremely well. Heís playing at a high level for them, too.

    Then special teams, Chris Partridge runs their special teams. Itís his third seen there. Theyíre fast, theyíre physical. Guys that jump out to us, Jake McMurray is is a wide receivers; starts on three special teams units for them. Jordan Glasgow the Glasgow family seems like theyíve had a big impact at Michigan for a number of years he starts on a four units for them.

    Their punter, Will Hart, is punting the ball 50 yards consistently. Able to swing the field for them. Ambry Thomas is another guy we know really well that we recruited that has a huge special teams role for them. Then we talked about Donovan Peoples Jones as a punt returner.

    I skipped over the players of the week. From last week, offensively was Trace, defensively was Yetur, and special teams of Pinnegar. I didnít go over that because itís probably obvious to everybody. Probably could have figured that out.

    Questions.

    Q. Good afternoon, James. How would you describe the Michigan defensive line? You had a lot of praise Iowaís defensive line last week.

    JAMES FRANKLIN: I think theyíll really good. I think the difference is with Iowa they were really controlling the game on the defensive side of the ball with their D line. They put a lot of responsibility and a lot of pressure on their D line. It started and ended with their D line.

    Literally, you saw on tape you would line up in empty formations, and they play a four man box. They were able to do that because of how they coach and how they played those defensive lineman, especially with their length, which is really unusual. So I think it really started and ended with their D line in a lot of the different ways.

    Where Michigan, their personnel is impressive. Gary, we all know about him. The defensive end we just talked about, we know about him. The middle linebacker.

    But I would say what really is Michigan is the corners. It starts with their corners. Theyíre able to put those guys on an island and play press man coverage all the time.

    Again, there are very few plays you look at on film and you see a light box. Theyíre going to overload you in the box. Everybody is at the line of scrimmage pressuring you in your face. High pressure, run game blitzes, pass game blitzes, and itís challenging. There is no doubt about it. I think you guys have heard me mention this before. Reminds me when I first got to the University of Maryland. Played Florida State and they were really talented and they played press man and they overloaded the box.

    There wasnít a whole lot of yards when you watched the tape. Youíre fighting for every yard you could get. Thatís how I would describe them. Don as a defensive coordinator and their defense, I would describe them as greedy. They want to take everything away. Most defensive coordinators and coaches donít really approach it that way.

    So itís really challenging. I think their personnel is extremely good. Theyíve been recruiting well for a long time, even before this staff arrived. Personnel has always been strong at Michigan. But I think their scheme combined with personnel is very challenging.

    Q. I want to ask you about Patterson. What stands out about Shea Patterson?

    JAMES FRANKLIN: Usually I canít hear some of you guys but everybody in the room mouths you what you said. Literally you guys did get it? I had a hard time. Sounds like crumbled. What stands out about Shea Patterson? Thank you. This is like a co op. We all work together.

    I would say a couple things. They were able to go out and get an experienced quarterback, so they got a guy who has played a lot of football. Heís been in big moments, those types of things. Heís a guy that I would probably describe a lot like Trace. You watch him, and heís able to make plays from the pocket, from outside the pocket, and also able to make plays with his feet.

    Like I mentioned earlier, heís already played a lot of football. They were able to bring a guy into their program that had a lot of experience already, and I think has really helped them. So heís added another dimension to their offense, and I would describe him in a lot of ways like Trace.

    Q. (Regarding Denny Douds.)

    JAMES FRANKLIN: Denny Douds, right? I donít know. The connection must be bad. A lot of times itís just withone person, but this seems like itís all of you.

    I did hear Denny Douds. Huge impact. Denny really served a lot of roles for me. Denny was my head coach in college. Denny was a father figure in a lot of ways for me. For me for a good portion of my life I didnít really have that role in my life, so Denny kind of filled a lot of those gaps for me.

    Then after I got done playing and thought I wanted to coach, I lived with Denny and his wife, Judy, for a period of time until I found a place to stay. So I remember coming in nights after practice and after meetings and we would sit on the back porch, and Denny is a huge ice cream guy, so we would eat Klondike bars on the back porch and talk stories, and I would ask him a thousand questions as a young ball coach trying to figure some things out, where I wanted to go with all this.

    Heís always been a great sounding board for me. When I was at the University of Maryland they used to come and visit all the time. Pretty much everywhere I had been from that point on they would come and spend time and talk ball, or I would go up there and spend time and talk ball with them.

    Denny has been a huge part of my life for a long time. Long time. I think heís been a head coach there for 43 or 47 years. I think heís been at ESU for like 53 years. Just been a huge impact on my life personally and professionally.

    I love Denny. It was really cool couple years ago to be able to go back there for his 50 years. They had a banquet in the summer for him. That was really cool. Not only were we able to see Denny and his family, but then it brought back hundreds of former players. It was kind of strange. You would have guys in the room that were 62 years old that played for Denny and guys that were 26 years old that played for Denny, and everything in between. Fathers and sons. It was really pretty cool.

    The wins are important in this business. We all get it. But I also hope that I have the opportunity to have the type of personal impact that Denny had on people and had on that community and all those types of things. I havenít reached out to Denny yet because Iím trying to figure out what Iím going to say to him. Kind of been struggling with that, to be honest with you. Iíll give him a call.

    Try to give him some time as well, because, you know, itís just you been in the same place for as many years as heís been there and all the lives that heís touched, when you walk away itís hard. I think we have all seen that. Weíve seen that here at Penn State. Weíve seen that nationally. Itís hard at the end.

    So Iím going to reach out to Denny and hopefully get some time with him to talk and make sure he knows how much I appreciate him professionally, but more importantly personally. I think itís just a great example why sports are looked at the way theyíre looked at in our country. Coaches have a huge impact. Coaches and high school teachers and elementary school teachers have such a huge impact on young people in our communities and complement whatís being taught and learned in the classroom and setting kids up for success later in life with great life lessons.

    I guess where Iím struggling with is how do I put all this into words it Denny? How do I explain that during a game week on a phone call when I would rather do it in person. Trying to kind of work through all that.

    Q. Trace has been called the best player in college football. How is he, and what does Trace do to maintain his durability?

    JAMES FRANKLIN: Best player in college football, Iím assuming heís talking about Trace. Iím just kind of -- I heard best player in college football, so I just assumed what heís talking about. I just think itís the collection of work. You know, itís all of it. Itís not just the stats. Itís not just the wins and losses. Itís all of it. You think about what that guy has been able to do in his career, the number of wins. I mean, we played good football here at Penn State for a long time, and heís got a chance to be the winningest quarterback in program history. Probably the most important stat that you can get.

    Heís done unbelievably academically. Heís been a great teammate. Heís been a great role model. Heís been a great son, been a great brother. Heís been a joy to coach. Heís been a tremendous example, both verbally and through his actions.

    His production is hard to argue with, both in the pass game and in the run game. You know, so itís the combination of all of it. Thereís players that have had really good years, but again, if youíre coming up with a list of characteristics or attributes or things that you were looking for to determine a guyís career, you know, heís got most of the boxes checked. You know, so when you talk about how valuable heís been to this team, but more importantly how valuable heís been to our organization over the last four years, I think one of the great examples of Traceís impact is Tommy Stevens. I think because of how Trace has been and his relationship with Tommy, to sit here and say that that didnít factor into Tommy staying, I think that was a big part. I think Tommyís respect for Trace and their relationship. For Sean Clifford, you know, for Levis, for Shuster, for all these guys. Thatís a strong room that weíve got, our quarterback room, and it starts at the top with Trace and with Ricky.

    Thereís just so many ways that I could describe it. When it comes to community service, heís been the model. He really has been. Heíll leave a legacy here not just outside of our building with how heís treated people and how heís played, and heís been a warrior, but also inside our building. I mean, the same thing that you guys see, thereís examples of that.

    Everybody knows he got dinged up in the game, so Iím not keeping that a secret. Well, literally by 7:00 a.m. heís done more than most people do all day to give him the best chance to be healthy, to practice at a very, very high level, and then also to make sure that he can go and be present and dominate in the classroom.

    So he just -- heís a great example. He came in with a tremendous foundation from mom and dad. I actually met with mom and dad and Trace yesterday. Theyíve done a great job. And then we were fortunate and able to build on that. But itís been a real complementary process between our staff and Traceís parents, and all along this journey kind of working together for what was in Traceís best interest and what was in Penn Stateís best interest.

    Q. Special teams, the guys have done some really good things there. How close are you to getting that whole clean special teams game?

    JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, you know, after this Saturday, weíve still got a lot of work to do. I think some of it is personnel. I think some of it is some of the things that we can do better from a scheme standpoint to put our guys in better position. We just need to be more consistent. We do some really good things on special teams, but then weíve also had some plays that have really hurt us. Thereís no doubt about it that we need to be better there and we need to be more consistent there, and then going on the road against a really good opponent in a challenging environment, you know, we canít afford to make those types of mistakes like we made on Saturday. I think we all recognize that and are working really hard to mature in that area and grow in that area.

    But weíve made a bunch of big plays, as well, weíve just got to get rid of the plays that are hurting us.

    Q. On 3rd down, last week you guys were 25 percent on 3rd down conversions. I was wondering what has to be done for that to improve and especially against a Michigan team thatís one of the best in the country at stopping teams on 3rd down?

    JAMES FRANKLIN: Better on 3rd down. Yeah, thatís going to be a real challenge. You look at Michigan defensively, it really doesnít change a whole lot by field zone or situation. They are who they are. So itís going to be a real challenge. Theyíre not just good in one area, theyíre really good in general on defense. I mean, statistically they are dominant. They are dominant.

    Their time of possession has been impacted because they get off the field on 3rd down and continue to give the ball back to their offense over and over and over again by being great on 1st and 2nd down and creating challenging 3rd down situations and either getting to your quarterback or breaking the ball up. So thatís going to be a big story line for the game is can our defense get off the field on 3rd down and create opportunities for our offense, and then is our offense going to be able to execute on 3rd down and try to swing that time of possession back into more of a balanced situation and put our defense in a better situation and put our offense in a better situation.

    Thatís going to be a big story line of the game. I donít think thereís any doubt about it. But itís not just 3rd down, itís all of it, and like I said, thereís not a whole lot of change in how they try to defend you, and itís an aggressive, in your face -- and theyíve got a bunch of different calls and theyíve got a bunch of different wrinkles that they do, but for the most part youíre going to have to be able to handle the pressure, not only in terms of your quarterback, them trying to get to your quarterback, but also run blitzes and then also what they do on the perimeter with their defensive personnel in terms of press coverage in your face and challenging every throw.

    Q. Iím wondering, why do you think you guys have been so good in the red zone, and what role does play calling have in that?

    JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think weíve been good in the red zone this year for a couple reasons. You know, I think when youíre able to run the ball better, whether itís traditional runs with your running back, and I think our improvement on the O-line and tight end and what Miles is doing has had a huge impact on our red zone. As you get down there in the red zone, your playbook starts to shrink because you donít have a lot of the vertical concepts to your passing game.

    The teams that typically are the best teams in the red zone are the ones that are able to run the ball, so I think thatís probably one of the bigger differences this year is our ability to run either with the quarterback or with the running back down there has been helpful, and I think weíve made some plays. I think our tight end development at that position has helped us in the red zone, as well, really with all of those guys, Holland, Bowers and Freiermuth, so I think thatís been a part of it, too. And I think our offensive staff has done a really good job of studying it, have a really good idea of who they are, how they want to attack them and cause conflict in their assignments and their responsibilities, and so far so good. And then when youíve got a young talented kicker thatís starting to gain some confidence and grow there, I think that helps, as well. I think heís made six out of his last seven field goals, so thatís been a big part of it. But I think we all know when you get in the red zone youíve got to score touchdowns against good teams. The field goals are good, but if you want to go on the road and beat a good team, youíve got to score touchdowns when you have the opportunity.

    Q. The defensive ends have gotten a lot of attention the last couple of weeks, but have you noticed an improvement in guys like Givens and Windsor?

    JAMES FRANKLIN:
    Yeah, I actually think you look at what we were able to do last week, I thought we did some really good things across the board with our defensive line. I think the area that weíve got to get better is some of the penalties that weíve had. Those things weíve got to get cleaned up.

    The aggressive penalties that happened during the play, I think we want to limit them, too, but you can live with them, but itís the yards that we just give away. Weíve got to get those cleaned up, especially in critical situations.

    But I think our D-line, as you know, coming into the season, D-line and linebacker were probably two of our biggest question marks. I think as the season goes on, our defense is playing better. Why are they playing better, because of our D-line is starting to get better and play with more confidence from a depth perspective. And the same thing with our linebackers. Weíve got some young players that are starting to gain confidence, and weíre kind of starting to have an idea of who our guys are at that position.

    I thought last week we did a pretty good job of controlling of line of scrimmage. So weíre going to need to continue to do that because week in and week out in this conference, like weíre going to -- like the challenge weíre going to face this week, weíre going to have to do that. This team wants to run the football, and then they want to complement it with their passing game and getting their tight ends into match-ups, favorable match-ups, so weíre going to need to continue growing there.

    Weíve had some injuries. Weíve had other guys had to step up, so thereís been a lot of different factors there, but I do see us getting better.

    Q. Do you go back to what happened in that game against them in 2016 at all to try to simulate the experience in the big house, or are the situations completely different?

    JAMES FRANKLIN: The game that we went there three years ago? Yeah, I donít -- I think weíve already learned from that experience. I think if you look at how we have played really since that game, we have made a lot of corrections. Weíve gotten better. I think weíre one of the better teams in the country when you look at that, and not only overall record but also specifically how those games have played, the wins, the losses, all those types of things. Weíve been very competitive.

    I think Iím not happy and weíre not happy until we win them all. I get that. But to sit here and say weíre going to go back to that game three years ago, no. Weíve evolved, weíve learned, weíve grown. Itís going to be a challenge. Thereís no doubt about it. Weíre excited about the opportunity, and weíre excited about the challenge.

    Three years ago compared to now are two completely different teams, two completely different points in our programís development and history. Youíre always learning, but the players on this team, a good portion of them werenít even here when that game took place.

    Most important thing we can do is study these guys statistically, study these guys when it comes to tendencies, watch as much film as we possibly can, and come up with a plan thatís going to put our players in the best position to beat this team this year, and itís pretty much that simple week in and week out, and thatís also coaching fundamentals and techniques and getting our guys prepared for the players on our team who havenít been there yet, of what that environment is going to be like.

    Itís all of those things.

    Q. James, what do you see, do you and Brent see as Micahís upside at linebacker? A lot of people out there were like, why donít you just play him at D-end, but Iím assuming you guys see something for him long time at that position. What do you see for him there?

    JAMES FRANKLIN: Well, I think you probably see both. You know, I donít think thereís any question that Micah could play D-end. We had an opportunity where we had a little bit more depth at D-end, and we had more questions at linebacker and felt like he could answer some of those questions, and he wanted to do it. I think one of the things thatís nice is I think as Micah continues to grow and get more confidence and Brent gains more confidence, as well, I think thereís a lot of ways we can use him in both ways. I think we can use him as a linebacker. I think we can get him into situations from personnel packages where weíre using him to blitz the quarterback and rush the quarterback.

    So in a lot of ways youíre able to take advantage of all his skills. But that will be a constant conversation over the next number of years here, but for us right now, I see him getting better each week and gaining confidence. The reps usually show that, indicate that.

    So I think youíll see Micah continue to grow and play with more confidence, and I think youíll also continue to see Micah have more and more production, and then I think as he continues to really start to master that position, I think youíll start to see us put more things on his plate.

    Now, Micah wants all those things right now. I mean, Micah wants to play linebacker, he wants to play running back, and he wants to wrestle for Cael, and heís not kidding. He talked to Cael about it. He wants to do it all, and he wants to do it all yesterday, and thatís just kind of getting Micah to understand -- letís focus on one thing at a time and get really good at that one thing before we put the next thing on his plate.

    But heís good. He says it, kidding around, but heís deadly serious, and we have a lot of fun with him, but right now, weíre pretty pleased with how heís handled himself in the classroom and how heís growing as a linebacker and how heís embracing all the aspects of our program. But itís one day at a time. Itís one step at a time, no different than anything else.

    But I think youíll see it. Over time itíll happen, slowly but surely.

    Q. Speaking of one of your other linebackers, Cam Brown seems to have really stepped up his game the last couple weeks. Is that what youíve seen from him, and with such a unique talent like Cam whoís 6í5Ē, plays linebacker, is this what you envisioned for him at the very beginning when you signed him as a linebacker?

    JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah. You know, itís interesting. He always could run. He was always aggressive. Heís an intelligent guy, as well. So yeah, we thought he could do a lot of different things for us.

    I think part of it was kind of finding the right position for him. I think that was part of the journey for him, as well. I think the other thing is because heís so long, getting the right type of mass on him was challenging. When youíre that big -- he put on 20 pounds, and it still didnít really look like it a whole lot, but thereís one thing to putting on weight, itís another thing to put on strength and durability and those types of things. So weíve been very pleased with him. Heís playing aggressive. Heís playing violent. Heís playing fast. Heís playing with a lot of confidence right now. So yeah, weíve got very high expectations for him, not only this weekend but also in the near future.

    Heís coming along nicely. I know Brent really enjoys working with him, but I think heís got a very bright future, and heís going to need to play well on Saturday.

    Q. Trace had that long run Saturday after hurting his leg, kind of showed his toughness. Iím just curious, you mentioned heís gritty before; is that the epitome of his toughness? Can you think of an example or two where heís kind of impressed you with that toughness, and how do you think thatís going to affect him come Saturday, as well, then?

    JAMES FRANKLIN: Well, I really do, but as you know, Iím not going to talk about how itís going to affect him on Saturday, but yeah, I think itís a really good example. Again, I donít think itís one moment. I think Saturday was a moment that probably exemplified that, but I think overall, what heís been able to do for the last three and a half years I think is really the story. I donít think one game is going to define Trace McSorley. Itís the whole package. Itís the running, itís the passing, itís the leadership, itís the toughness, itís the academics, itís the community service. Itís all of it. And I think thatís why whenever I listen to press conferences that the coaches were saying or read transcripts or whatever it may be, everybody talks about him.

    Last year Saquon Barkley got a lot of attention, but a lot of coaches you talk to say, yeah, Saquon Barkley was a very, very special player, but it started and ended with the quarterback. He made it all go.

    So I think thereís a lot of good coaches in our league. You could make argument maybe the best in the country. Thereís a lot of respect for Trace universally. I just -- Saturday was a really good example of that. He got banged up a little bit, he went down, and it was like the whole stadium, you could like literally, there was no oxygen left in the stadium. The whole stadium took a deep breath, and then when he came out of that tent and started jogging around, that moment probably kind of tells the story. But I would say actually the fact that heís been playing this long and there have been very few times that heís even laid on the field in the first place talks about it, the way heís been able to develop because of his toughness, because he never misses practice, the way heís been able to develop because of how he takes care of his body, how much sleep he gets at night. Heís never cramped. And I know these things sound small, but itís because of his sleep and because of his nutrition and because of his hydration. Because he does all those things right allows him to practice at a high level every single day without losing time. Because of how he practices and because of how he trains allows him to play at a high level.

    And the reality is if youíre not living right in every one of those areas, itís going to come back to haunt you at some point. One of those areas is going to catch up to you, and itís going to limit your development. And Trace is a guy that is willing to make all those choices day after day, whether heís in Lasch building or outside of Lasch building that are going to give him and us the best chance to be successful.

    I think that speaks volumes.

    Q. With Jake Pinegar, even when he wasnít seeing that success translate to field during games, you mentioned during practice he was still hitting the kicks. Now that heís hitting them in the game, have you seen any kind of change in him in practice?

    JAMES FRANKLIN: Not really. I think it goes back to what I was telling you guys before. I was seeing, we were seeing great things from Pinegar at practice every single day. He was doing some really good things. But we all know going into Beaver Stadium, itís different. Thatís a different environment. I canít imagine there was too many games in Ankeny, Iowa, that were similar to Beaver Stadium. Itís different for him.

    But heís been great in practice. Heís worked really hard, both on and off the field. Having some success on Saturdays allows him to continue growing and building on it. But I think it goes back to me saying before that weíre a developmental program. Weíre going to recruit these guys and weíre going to love them and weíre going to work them hard and coach them hard and develop them.

    No different than we talked about drops. If you see these guys and theyíre investing and doing everything that they should be doing, thatís going to allow the coaches and the players themselves to have a lot of confidence, that theyíre going to have the success that they want to have, and I think that was the same thing with Jake. He was really hitting the ball well in practice. Weíve done a really good job of creating competition at that position, so I think thatís helped, as well.

    But yeah, it was great to see him go out and play well on Saturday. We needed it, and he needed it.

    Q. This morning Garrett Taylor told us that you pointed out in the Sunday team session, Yetur Gross-Matosís practice habits. Iím curious what those habits have looked like and how youíve seen them translate on game day?

    JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, so Yetur is a guy that he doesnít know anything else but full speed. Some guys you have to coach that, and they figure it out later in their careers. Some guys you fight with them their whole career, and they never practice as hard as they should practice, and then it never translates and they never end up maximizing their potential or their ability, and then other guys just naturally have a great motor. I think this guy at Michigan, their D-end, 15, Winovich -- am I saying his name right? Heís got an unbelievable motor. I think Yetur has got a great motor.

    And I think whatís really good and I think whatís really important is when your team sees a guy like that practice like that all the time and then is able to have the success that he has, that sends a great message for our whole team in terms of what work ethic and motor can do.

    I donít know if Iíve been around a D-end two weeks in a row with that type of production in the Big Ten. Really, really impressive, and I think the most important thing is -- you know, sometimes Coach Pry will call a stunt or Coach Chaos, Spencer will call a stunt, and weíll slant into a gap and no one will block him and you tackle a guy in the backfield and the guy gets up and goes crazy and all that kind of stuff. But a certain percentage, the scheme made the play for him. And then you have the guys who defeat a block and make a play, and they did it.

    And right now what I see happening is kind of a combination of those two things. A lot of his tackles, if youíll go back and watch his production, itís not at the point of attack. Heís the backside end, and heís running the play down on the opposite side of the field. So to me, whenever I can show that in a team meeting on Sunday and show those type of effort plays, I think it goes a long ways.

    Iím really pleased. Heís a guy that I think you guys know weíve been excited about for a while. Heís got the body type youíre looking for, heís got the athleticism youíre looking for, heís got the mentality. And then, hadnít played a whole lot of football for us, and is gaining confidence and has spent time in the weight room in the off-season. So itís all starting to come together for him right now. Weíre going to need him to play really well on Saturday, and as you can imagine, theyíre also doing the opposite. Theyíre saying, this guy is playing his tail off right now, identified him, and theyíre saying, we canít allow this guy to have the type of production heís had the last couple weeks.

    Just like weíre trying to continue the trend, theyíre trying to stop the trend.

    Q. You guys, almost half your staff is in new roles this year, you mentioned special teams scheming earlier. Has there been more of a transition there? Have you been part of that before, other than maybe your first year here, where people were in new spots, and how much growing pains did you anticipate? How would you gauge that factor?

    JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think thatís definitely a factor. I donít think thereís any doubt about it. You look at my career as a head coach, weíve had pretty good consistency. I think you guys have also heard me talk in the past about the importance of experience. Experience counts, and stability counts, and consistency counts.

    Joe Moore had to leave to go be the head coach at Mississippi State. Thatís the right thing for Joe. Thatís the right thing for his family, and thatís a win for everybody. Thatís a great situation. But we canít have guys leave for lateral moves. You know, lateral moves in terms of job description and professionally. Thatís what canít happen, because the reality is every time you lose someone and you have to replace them with someone new, thereís a transition process. Thereís growing pains.

    So thatís always a part, year in and year out, no different than losing players that graduate and losing players to the NFL, replacing those guys. Thereís growing pains that come with that. We lost three D-tackles last year. We knew coming into this season that was going to be a big question mark for us, getting those guys.

    And the same thing with the coaches. The administrative thatís been with us for a long time. Probably the fact that those guys have now been with me all these years, it probably saves an hour and a half a day. So if you hire someone new, Iím spending an hour explaining all those things that these guys, I donít have to say a word to about. Whenever you hire a new coach, they may have great experience, but you look, theyíve come from somewhere else that has a different system and has a different culture, and they have to fit into it.

    I think a lot of times when you have turnover, you know, when you really start to get a return on your investment is year two. So yeah, I think for us, weíve got to make sure that weíre doing everything we possibly can in terms of creating a really good environment and that people want to come to work at every single day, and then also that financially weíre paying the same salaries that everybody else is in terms of our peer groups. Thatís got to happen, because to sit here and say that thatís not a factor, it is a factor. This is a special place, but thatís a factor.

    So yeah, I think retention is really, really important for us to keep growing.

    And again, if people leave for obvious promotions, thatís a different story.

    Did I answer your question? I donít know if itís the mint green shirt, but you just seem -- your spirit is a lot better. Your spirit is a lot better. Sometimes youíre a little bit like -- what is that cartoon with the one -- is it Eeyore? But the mint green, itís got your spirit -- your wife is going to be all over that, huh?

    Q. From a coaching perspective, where is the disconnect between what youíre preparing for each week and then how itís executed, because youíve mentioned some of these special teams things, youíve been preparing for them all week and then they work. How do you get a team to execute on those plays across the board, offense, defense and special teams for things that you know are coming and then you execute like you practiced for them?

    JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, you know, letís be honest, on offense, defense and special teams -- your point is a good one. So on offense, defense and special teams, there is going to be plays that we prepared for and schemes that weíre expecting to see, and we are going to execute at a high level. But thereís going to be plays where we donít. Theyíre on scholarship, too. Theyíve got really good coaches, too, and thereís going to be times where they get you. Thatís going to happen. You want that percentage to be as small as it possibly can be.

    Thereís also going to be the other end of that where something is going to show up in the game that Michigan is going to get from us that we havenít shown before and that weíre going to get from Michigan that we havenít seen before, a new wrinkle. Something is going to show up. And then when you have to go back and say, okay, we havenít seen this, but here are our rules for bunch. Here are our rules for empty. Hereís our rules for unbalanced. Hereís our rules for an odd stack. So you canít cover everything all week long. Youíve got to invest your time in the things you think youíre going to see and then have rules to cover the others.

    And then youíre going to have some things that you cover and you work and you donít execute, and thatís happened a few times.

    I think what happens sometimes with guys is they know their responsibility, but then they try to do too much, so they know their responsibility, and then they try to do too much to help somebody else or take on somebody elseís responsibility, and that haunts you.

    At the end of the day, youíve got to be disciplined enough to do your job within the scheme. If youíre responsible for the A-gap, youíve got to be in the A-gap. Youíve got to be in the A-gap. And I think what happens sometimes is the ball is about to hit the B-gap, and you get out of the A-gap and jump in the B-gap to make the play, and you make it, but then the next time that happens, now you jump into the B-gap and the running back sticks his foot in the ground and hits the A-gap and now you didnít do why you are job. So itís that fine line of Iíve got to do my job and Iíve got to trust that the other 10 guys are going to do their jobs consistently. And you may get away with that a few times where you go outside the framework of the defense or the offense to make a play and it works for you, but that same percentage where it works for you, that same percentage is going to come back and bite you at some point. Does that make sense? So itís the maturity to say that Iím going to do my job and Iím going to trust that the other 10 guys are going to do their job. And the hard part is when they get outside of their framework and then they get rewarded for it, thatís where youíve got to be careful because now theyíre likely to do it more at a higher level, and itís going to come back to beat you more at a higher level, and I think thatís whatís showed up a few times.

    The fake field goal, literally, you go back and watch the tape, we are pointing at the guy, my guy, my guy, pointing, and then what happens, the play starts, the guy goes down to block someone, our guys get off of our man, and all of a sudden he slips out and then makes an unbelievable catch.

    So weíve just got to get all 11 guys, very Bill Belichick, do your job, and youíve got to do it, not just one play, youíve got to do it for four quarters because the one play you donít when you play good teams, theyíll take advantage of it.

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    Penn State Running Backs Series: Ki Jana Carter

    Ki Jana Carter 1992-1994

    Sure things at running back are rarities in the NFL. The best running back prospects of the last 10 years, for example, were Ronnie Brown, Reggie Bush and Darren McFadden. Those three have combined for one Pro Bowl appearance.

    Adrian Peterson was once the best back in the NFL, and is now trying to squeeze out another good year with the Redskins. Even he was such an uncertainty coming out of college that he fell to seventh in the draft, even though he was an absolute maniac at Oklahoma.

    Once upon a time, Ki-Jana Carter was that sure thing.

    Even though Rashaan Salaam of Colorado rushed for over 2,000 yards and won the Heisman Trophy for the 11-1 Buffaloes, Carter (the Heisman runner-up) was still the most fearsome tailback in college football that year.

    He rushed for a ridiculous 7.8 yards per carry and 23 touchdowns in his junior season. His 1,539 rushing yards likely would have been significantly higher if it weren't for Penn State destroying its competition so easily that year. Seven of PSU's victories were by 27 points or more, and the Nittany Lions' 38-14 win over USC wasn't nearly that close, as PSU led 35-0 at the break. That offense scored 47 points per game, which led the nation, and nobody held the Nittany Lions below 31 points in any game.

    The '94 Nittany Lions were absolutely loaded on offense. That much is to be expected; you can't go 12-0 and score that many points without lethal talent at every turn. Carter was the best of the bunch. He was lightning fast, powerful and had uncanny field vision.

    No single play embodied Carter's talents better than Penn State's first play from scrimmage in the 1995 Rose Bowl, an 83-yard touchdown that simply wasn't fair.



    Carter famously left Penn State early to join the NFL after his junior season, even receiving the blessing of Joe Paterno to do so. Said Paterno at the time: This is the first time I have told anybody who has not graduated that I felt they ought to leave." That's like getting a blessing from the Pope to punch a bishop. Leaving Penn State without graduating under Paterno just wasn't done (Carter did graduate; he just left Penn State with eligibility still on the table).

    Sure enough, Carter was the first pick of the 1995 NFL draft, becoming Cincinnati's tailback of the future. All of a sudden, Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders had company.

    And then it all fell apart.

    The Bengals eagerly signed Carter to a seven-year, $19.2 million deal that set a rookie record at the time. Then on his third carry in his first preseason game, Carter shredded his left ACL and was done for the year.

    Keep in mind, this was 1995, when torn knee ligaments weren't merely the year-long inconvenience they are today. They could end young players' careers and this injury haunted Carter for the rest of his.

    Carter rejoined the Bengals in 1996 and only missed one game over the next two seasons. But his athleticism had left him and at times it seemed like his heart wasn't in it. Certainly his propensity for injury didn't help his confidence. At any rate, Carter spent two more years barely seeing the field for Cincinnati, then put in time with the Saints and Redskins over the next three years before calling it a career.

    One has to wonder what modern surgery and rehab could have done for Carter. Nobody ever fully recovers from a torn ACL. Running backs can resume their careers and at least get into starting shape within about a year or soósometimes less.

    At the very least, when a tailback (especially a young one) goes down with a torn ACL, the thought is rarely "there goes his career" unless it's part of a much more extensive injury. Even then, rehab and recovery are generally assumed. Oh, if that could have been the case in 1995 too.

    At any rate, Carter is now the CEO of ByoGlobe, a firm that specializes in eco-friendly sanitizing and has been doing business for the last four years. His name is on the company's website if you look hard enough, but he's hardly a focal point of the business. Nobody looking at the website would be able to tell a former NFL player was the CEO unless they knew who he was.

    It is a shame, though, that indeed not everybody knows who he is, considering he had the talent to be one of the NFL's next truly great running backs. He's doing well for himself, however, which failing a successful pro career, is all anyone can hope for.

    Statistics at Penn State

    1992 Penn State 42 att 264 yds 6.3 avg 4 tds
    1993 Penn State 155 att 1,026 yds 6.6 avg 7 tds
    1994 Penn State 198 att 1,539 yds 7.8 avg 23 tds
    Total 3 seasons 395 att 2,829 yds 7.2 avg 34 tds

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    Penn state vs. Michigan: Preview



    No.14 Penn State at No.5 Michigan: Game Preview

    #14)Penn State (6-2, 3-2) vs. (#5)Michigan (7-1, 4-1)

    Kickoff: 3:45 p.m., Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI

    TV: ESPN- Kirk Herbstreit (analyst), Chris Fowler (play by play), Maria Taylor (sideline)

    Weather: Cool but dry, with temps in the mid-to-low 40s during the game.

    COACHES:

    James Franklin:

    PENN STATE RECORD: 42-19, 5th Year

    OVERALL RECORD: 66-34, 8th Year

    VS. MICHIGAN: 1-3


    Jim Harbaugh:

    MICHIGAN RECORD: 35-12, 4th Year

    OVERALL RECORD: 137-58-1, 15th Year

    VS. PENN STATE: 2-1


    NOW THE FUN PART....


    MICHIGAN OFFENSE VS. PENN STATE DEFENSE

    Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson received an enormous amount of buzz after transferring to Michigan to lead the offense, and now weíll finally see him take on the Nittany Lions. Patterson hasnít been putting up prolific numbers during his time in Ann Arbor, but has been very efficient- exactly what is needed when you have one of the nationís best defenses.

    Patterson is completing 67.2 percent of his passes on the season, with 12 touchdowns to three interceptions. He wonít take many designed runs, but has the mobility to elude pressure and pick up the occasional first down with his legs as needed. It should be noted that he managed an 81-yard run against Wisconsin, so that RPO is always in Harbaughís back pocket if needed.

    Karan Higdon is one of the better Michigan running backs in years, and has the all-around ability to run between the tackles and get a big gain outside. It will be crucial for the Penn Sate defense to wrap up and not allow him to break tackles, which has been an issue throughout the season. Higdon has posted 100-plus rushing yards in the past six games heís played, and is coming off a 144-yard effort at Michigan State. They do not use Higdon out of the backfield often, as he has four receptions on the year and has yet to catch multiple passes in a game this season.

    Sophomore Donovan Peoples-Jones is easily Michiganís biggest playmaker on offense. He leads the team with receiving touchdowns by a wide margin with six, and is second in receptions (22) and receiving yards (326). His productivity has dropped off recently though, posting just eight receptions in the last five games. Sophomore Nico Collins has been getting more looks from Patterson as of late, as he can create mismatches with his 6-foot-4, 215 pound frame.

    Speaking of using size to create mismatches, Michiganís passing game relies heavily on the involvement of the tight ends. Senior Zach Gentry leads the team in both receptions and receiving yards, and is a load to cover at 6-8, 262 lbs. Surprisingly enough, Gentry has just one touchdown on the season.

    As far as Penn Stateís defense, keep an eye out for Yetur Gross-Matos. He has been an absolute terror the past two weeks. The sophomore defensive end leads the Big Ten in tackles for loss, and was named Defensive Player of the week after totaling nine tackles, four TFLs and two sacks against Iowa. If more attention is being paid to Gross-Matos moving forward, it will free up Shareef Miller to make an even bigger impact.

    PENN STATE OFFENSE VS. MICHIGAN DEFENSE

    Penn State faced its best defense of the season so far against the Hawkeyes last Saturday. Now they up the ante by going against an even better defense in week 10. The Wolverines are loaded with talent throughout, and form one of the very best defenses in the nation.

    Linebacker Devin Bush, the heart and soul of the defense, suffered an injury two weeks ago at Michigan State but is expected to play on Saturday. He makes plays from sideline-to-sideline, and also knows how to get in the backfield to blow up a play. As long as he sees the field, youíll be hearing his name plenty. Chase Winovich is one of the best defensive linemen in college football, and will give the offensive line fits. He leads the team with 10 TFLs and also has three sacks. Rashan Gary isnít too far off at the other end position, but is not likely to play while he works to return from a shoulder injury. Outside linebacker Josh Uche has been effective coming off the edge, leading the team with five sacks.

    Michigan has been dominant on defense throughout the season, without many specific weaknesses to attack. They are first in the nation in pass efficiency defense, passing yards allowed and total defense, yielding just 122.9 yards through the air and 220 total yards per contest. The rushing defense isnít that far off, allowing just 97.1 yards per game. The Wolverines obviously arenít giving up many points either (14.4 per game) since they arenít allowing teams to move the ball much. They have really picked up steam the past two games, allowing just 20 points combined to Wisconsin and Michigan State. They are also coming off a bye week, giving defensive coordinator Don Brown two weeks to plan against the Penn State offense.

    The one negative for Michiganís defense is that they allow teams to score once they make it in the red zone, allowing teams to put points on the board 93.3 percent of the time.

    Penn Stateís offense will not be able to afford many mistakes against a defense of Michiganís caliber. A dropped pass or untimely penalty could easily be the difference in pulling off an upset or going home in defeat. Points will be at a premium, so converting third downs will be crucial, and the offense will likely need to pull off a few big plays to outscore the Wolverines.

    Trace McSorley briefly left the Iowa game last week with a leg injury, but returned for the entirety of the second half. Even if heís banged up, itís going to take an awful lot to keep McSorley off the field. True freshman receiver Jahan Dotson has become more involved with the offense, and caught a key fourth down pass to set up Penn Stateís first score against Iowa. Keep an eye out for another true freshman, tight end Pat Freiermuth, who has caught a touchdown pass in four of the past five games.

    SPECIAL TEAMS

    Michigan kicker Quinn Nordin, who you may have heard of, has connected on 11 of 15 field goals on the season with a long of 50 yards. He is three of six for field goals of 40 yards or more. The Wolverines have one of the nationís finest punters in Will Hart, who is averaging nearly 50 yards per attempt. Hart often has punts of more than 60 yards, providing the defense with a huge boost by regularly flipping the field when the offense stalls out deep in its own territory.

    The Wolverines have a dangerous set of return men in Ambry Thomas and Donovan Peoples-Jones. Thomas is averaging 24.9 yards per kickoff return, and had a 99-yard score against Notre Dame. Peoples-Jones averages 8.8 yards per punt return, and also had a return touchdown of his own by going 60 yards for a score against Nebraska.

    Penn State kicker Jake Pinegar seemed to have turned a corner last week against Iowa. Coming into the game, his long for the season was 39 yards. Against the Hawkeyes, Pinegar was perfect as he nailed three field goals of 40 or more yards in wet conditions. He has now connected on his last six field goal attempts.

    The Nittany Lions may need a big special teams play or two to pull off an upset. Fortunately, DeAndre Thompkins and KJ Hamler can both deliver in the return game.

    Penn State's 4 keys:

    1. Take away Donovan Peoples-Jones and the big play. The Wolverines' receiver-return man has produced seven total touchdowns, including a 60-yard punt return score. Peoples-Jones has six touchdown receptions on only 22 catches. PSU may want to put top corner Amani Oruwariye on Peoples-Jones.

    2. Get creative on offense in the second half. Michigan's elite defense has allowed just 56 points during the second half. The Lions were held to just three points during the second half of their last loss (Michigan State).

    3. No special teams mistakes. Kicker Jake Pinegar made three field goals of 40-plus yards against Iowa but there were issues with the punt team and the Lions allowed a fake field goal for a touchdown. There is no room for error vs. Michigan.

    4. Make some plays on third down. Penn State is converting third-down attempts at just under 36 percent (39 for 109) and Michigan's defense is allowing a 29 percent conversion rate. In the Lions' two losses to Ohio State and Michigan State, PSU's third-down success was far worse -- just 6 for 31 (19 percent).

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    Carter was a BEAST! Remember really enjoying watching him run back in the psu days. Thanks again for all these special posts, amigo! Cheers!!

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


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    Penn state vs. Michigan: Recap



    Penn State certainly had its chances in the first half. Garrett Taylor returned a blocked kick for a touchdown, but it was called back due to a block below the waist on Zech McPhearson. Two plays later, Trace McSorley and Miles Sanders had another handoff snafu, resulting in a fumble recovered by Michigan. The Wolverines took advantage of the turnover, going on a 10-play 48-yard drive to go up 14-0.

    The Nittany Lions, once again, had another chance for points before the half. DeAndre Thompkins blew past a Michigan cornerback who stumbled at the line of scrimmage, but McSorley overthrew a streaking Thompkins, sending Penn State into halftime scoreless for the first time since its visit to the Big House in 2016.

    I know what you might be thinking here: ďOh, so Penn State pulled things together, and made a game of it in the second half?Ē

    Uh, not quite.

    With a hobbled McSorley, Penn Stateís offense could do little. Eventually trailing 21-0 late in the third quarter, the Nittany Lions went with Tommy Stevens, who proceeded to throw a pick six, putting the Wolverines up 28-0. From there, Michigan (rightfully) poured it, going up 42-0 before Penn State answered with a late Tommy Stevens touchdown, to make a 42-7 final.

    What can be said? This was a flawed Penn State team that played with fire the entire year, and tonight, it caught up to them. Offensively, nothing went right ó from a hurt Trace McSorley who clearly wasnít the same, to the offensive line that had its worst outing of the year. While the defense actually played pretty well, it was a unit that was gassed by the middle of the third quarter, and just didnít have the juice to hold on.

    For tonight, Iíll say this: be angry. Losing in an embarrassing fashion is never fun, and unfortunately for Penn State, this is the first time in over two years that we sit here on the receiving end of one. But know this, too: the last time this program received a beating of this magnitude, it got better from it. Letís hope, this time, the same thing happens.

    Key Takeaways:

    The first-half defense was strong

    Penn Stateís first-half defense in all reality played well enough to win. They were on the field for what felt like the entirety of the half but still managed to keep it a 14-0 game. The offense simply couldnít get anything going for the most part and the few chances they had were squandered. The defense was strong and rather impressive, all things considered. The second half was totally different as it seemed once Tommy Stevens threw his pick-six, the defense seemed either gassed or completely out of it emotionally. But in the end, the defense gave the team a chance to be in the game in the first half and the offense just couldnít capitalize.

    Pathetic offensive performance

    This could be an overreaction, but if Penn State had a game plan for Michigan, it seemingly was nowhere to be found because the offense was pathetic from start to finish. Remember when the offensive line was supposed to be a strength? Well completely forget that. It was obvious in the first half that Trace McSorley was not healthy enough to give them a chance to win and while Tommy Stevens didnít play tremendously when he was in the game, the coaching staff probably shouldíve given Stevens a chance earlier. But when you put up just 7 points it doesnít matter. All in all, it may have been the worst offensive performance Iíve seen in a long time.

    Not a good look...

    This takeaway pertains to two major points.

    First, Penn State had one job today besides winning. If it didnít win, at least play well enough that you donít get completely blown out. Welp. The Nittany Lions got blown and while it was 42-7, it truly feels like a 58-0 type loss. Itís not a good look plain and simple for Penn State.

    It wonít be a loss that helps on the recruiting trail (wonít kill them either) and in ways itís an embarrassing loss that everyone inside the locker room should be embarrassed about. Itís okay to lose, but I know Iím not the only one who saw a team that looked like it laid down once the game went to 28-0.

    The second portion of this is the fact that Penn State now lost to the other ďBig ThreeĒ in the Big Ten East this season, the third time in the James Franklin era that the program has done so. So prepare to hear that fact go around the next few months.

    Offensive Line

    An area of major disappointment for the Nittany Lions this season has been the offensive line. This unit returned four starters, and lone new starter was a former five-star recruit. The offensive line has not turned into the strength many expected it to be this fall, and Saturday was their worst performance yet.

    Mental errors and Self Inflicted Wounds

    Zech McPhearson was called for a Ďchop blockí on the blocked FG play. This was an atrocious call and Big Ten officiating at its finest. Trace McSorley and Miles Sanders then had a bad exchange on a zone read leading to a fumble that Michigan recovered. On the ensuing Michigan possession the Wolverines found themselves in 3rd and 7 before Robert Windsor jumped offsides. Windsorís penalty made it 3rd and 2, which allowed the Wolverines to go for it, and convert, on 4th and 2. This drive ended it a touchdown making it 14-0 when, without Windsorís penalty, it may have been 10-0. While drops were not as big of an issue on Saturday, largely because the offensive line was eaten alive all day long, Brandon Polk did record yet another drop on Penn Stateís opening drive. Why Polk, Koa Farmer, and Robert Windsor continue to start and play is mind boggling.

    Penn State's offensive series/mistakes so far:

    Drive 1 -- Needs to take a timeout after the playclock hits "one second" during a punt

    Drive 2-- Dropped pass by Polk AND bad spot that went unchallenged by Franklin

    Drive 3 -- None ... ran 4 plays and punted

    Drive 4 -- Fumble

    Reflect on Assistants moving forward

    In what has become the norm this season, fans were upset with Penn Stateís coaching after the game as well. The masses remain ready to run David Corley, Phil Galiano, and Ricky Rahne out of town. And, to be honest, all three should be relieved of their duties this offseason. If Rahne stil has a job on Monday I will be pissed off.

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  37. #59
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    Penn State Football & Being Elite: When No Moorhead is Less

    Penn State football appears to have lost its mojo. Especially on offense, and along the sidelines.

    A drive I took to Latrobe this summer helps explain why.

    It was the end of July, and I headed west out of State College to spend the day at the Pittsburgh Steelersí training camp.

    While there, among the Penn Staters I caught up with was Malik Golden, who last played for the Nittany Lions in 2016 and has spent the better ó and worst ó part of the past two seasons on injured reserve for the Steelers.

    Golden had been through the wars at Penn State. He was the last recruit to verbally commit to Joe Paterno. He played two years for Bill OíBrien and two years for James Franklin, at wide receiver then at safety, where he had four position coaches. Suffered through four seasons of never more than eight wins.

    Then came 2016. And Joe Moorhead.

    ďWe had some rocky roads to begin with,Ē Golden, a wise-beyond-his years player who has always been straightforward, admitted that summer day. ďSomething happened. We turned it on, the offense clicked, the defense clicked and from there we just took off. Two years later, theyíre still going, so I was glad I was able to help with that.Ē

    What was that something? I asked him.

    ďJoe Moorhead is a genius,Ē Golden laughed. ďAnd Mississippi State got a damn savant.Ē

    That was coming from a guy who had been through it all at Penn State. Played defense. Was amply cynical.

    Yet Golden attributed Penn Stateís run of 22-5 success in 2016-17 to Joe Moorhead. Since then, Penn State is 6-3. Before Moorhead, they were 14-12, giving James Franklin a 20-15 record at Penn State without JoeMo.

    Moorheadís departure has had an impact not just on the 2018 offense, but on the squad overall ó its confidence, its swagger, its old-young dynamic and its offense-defense locker room camaraderie.

    Moorhead believed. And not just in his offense.

    Trace McSorley said it best two years ago, when he talked about what the RPO ó and JoeMo ó meant to the Nittany Lions:

    ďA big part of that is, One, the offense Coach Moorhead brought in,Ē McSorley said before Penn Stateís appearance in the 2016 Big Ten championship game.

    ďTwo is the mentality that he brought. The mentality among this team changed once Coach Moorhead stepped foot in the football building. Thereís just a different light around the team, a different mentality. Guys really bought into that.Ē

    Moorhead had a special relationship with a lot of players, including wide receiver DeAndre Thompkins. The two had a weekly texting ritual that fueled and centered Thompkins, a quiet and thoughtful sort. Clearly, in 2018 the Penn State coaches had lost faith in Thompkins, who had the fortitude and self-confidence to overcome it and return to a key role. Itís hard to believe that Thompkins ó a fifth-year receiver averaging 15.8 yards per catch who was the nationís No. 5 punt returner in 2017 ó would have fallen off the radar screen if Moorhead had been around.

    Or Josh Gattis, for that matter.

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    Now, flash forward to today: After a string of three losses in five games that has extended Penn Stateís losing streak to the Big Ten Eastís Big Three ó Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State ó to 0-5, that belief is being challenged, if not in the locker room then among Nittany Nation.

    THE KEYS TO THE CAR

    Moorhead turned over the keys to the RPO car to Ricky Rahne, and it seems clear that it in crunch time ó against big-league teams and not the Kent States and Illini of the world ó that Rahne is still getting adjusted to what was, in essence, a Lamborghini. Of course, the passengers are not the same ó gone are Saquon Barkley, Mike Gesicki, DaeSean Hamilton and Chris Godwin ó and that accounts for the offensive woes as well.

    In its stead, recently, is a Toyota Corolla. Functional for those drives against Indiana, but you canít make it go in The Big House. The change is likely part players, part scheme, part opposition, part play-caller. And although Rahne, a former QB at Cornell who has coached the offense and occasionally quarterbacks with Franklin at Kansas State, Maryland and Vanderbilt, knows his football, the RPO was in Moorheadís DNA.

    And not Rahneís. Weíre really not sure what offense he would like to run if given his own car, at Penn State or elsewhere. He stayed at K-State when Franklin left, but overall Franklin has been his boss for much of the past dozen years.

    Moorhead, the size of a well-fed tight end, not only commanded the Penn State offense. But he commanded the meeting room, the sideline and the practice field. And thereís no doubt during games in 2016-17, that Franklin would at least on occasion defer to Moorhead ó a former head coach at Fordham with a 38-13 record ó when it came to in-game decision-making with the offense.

    His departure has left Franklin without a super-seasoned veteran on the sidelines, beyond O-line coach Matt Limegrover ó who already has five players on the field to worry about ó and Brent Pry, who has an entire defense to run. Some of the sideline chaos has to be attributed to the loss of at not-so-ordinary Joe, as well as Charles Huff, the Nittany Lionsí running back and special teams coach who was on the field in games. (Gattis was the assistant special teams coach ó do you notice a pattern here?)

    Rahne calls the plays from the press box and McSorley has said he is OK with that. But with Moorhead no longer on the sidelines, after a phone call upstairs to Rahne, McSorley is left to his own devices. As if the guy doesnít have enough on his shoulders already.

    Often, if the QB coach and the coordinator are the same person and he is in the box during games, the quarterback will spend some serious time conversing with the head coach. Not so with McSorley and Franklin. (I always try to follow McSorley with my binoculars when he comes off the field.) Instead, McSorley frequently sits next to No. 3 QB Sean Clifford or young wide receiver Jahan Dotson on the bench, after a phone call check-in with Rahne. The QB's interaction with the HC is minimal.

    All of this may have led to the confusion on Saturday in Ann Arbor, when Franklin kept on flipping McSorley and Tommy Stevens in and out of the game. It seemed like there was no rhyme or reason, and afterwards the two quarterbacks said they were undaunted by it all. But one would think that if Moorhead ó or Rahne ó were on the sidelines, it would have been a much cleaner situation.

    SPEAKING OF PASSION AND BEING ELITE

    The fun that until recently ruled the Penn State offense ó home run swings and literally uplifting tosses of players to the blue and white skies ó seems to have disappeared, along with the touchdowns.

    When it comes to the RPO and PSU, the passion has gone out of the relationship.

    Hereís what Chris Godwin, now with the Tampa bay Buccaneers in the NFL, said in 2016 about that: ďCoach Moorhead is very passionate. Heís a very passionate guy. We can tell that through all of our meetings. He can go from a very calm talking tone to really getting fired up as if we are going to play that day. Thatís what we love about him. Each and every game heís going to come out and call it to win.

    ďHis halftime (speeches) are really fiery. He gets his blood going. His face starts to get red. It gets us going. Obviously, we wish that we could have a better start to the first half, but all year weíve been a second-half team, so I think itís worked out.Ē

    Over the past five games in 2018, against the meat of the schedule, the second half has been a particular thorn in Penn Stateís side. The Nittany Lion offense has scored just 19 points in the third quarter of the past five games, beginning with Ohio State and ending with Michigan.

    Thatís not a good indication of effective halftime adjustments. Led by Moorhead, the offensive staff in 2016-17 featured a braintrust that also included Gattis (now at Alabama), Huff, Limegrover and Rahne.

    Rahne and Limegrover remain, but the other three have been replaced by wide receiver coach David Corley, running back coach JaíJuan Seider and tight end coach Tyler Bowen, who are each in his first year as a full-time assistants at Penn State. (Bowen was a grad assistant at Penn State and spent two years at Fordham, one as O-coordinator, with the RPO.)

    On Saturday, Michiganís offensive coaches included well-respected veteran Pep Hamilton, who was an offensive coordinator in the NFL; Jim McElwain, a former head coach at Colorado State and Florida, and offensive coordinator at Alabama; and Ed Warinner, who was an offensive coordinator of some sort at seven schools, most recently at Ohio State. Not to mention head coach Jim Harbaugh, a former Michigan and NFL quarterback who led the 49ers to the Super Bowl as a head coach and now has a heavy hand with the Wolverine offense.

    Thatís #elite.

    Hereís McSorley at the tail end if the 2016 season, talking about Moorheadís ability to scheme after the first two quarters. ďPart of it is what we talk about at halftime,Ē he said. ďOur coaches do a great job of making adjustments. He gives guys a chance to see things and how theyíre going to try to play us.Ē

    ROW THE BOAT

    Recently, the Penn State offense seems rudderless ó and yes, in part because of McSorley's injury.

    A redshirt freshman wide receiver leads the Nittany Lions in receptions (K.J. Hamler, 28), although he had just one against Michigan. A true freshman wide reliever (Jahan Dotson) has recently emerged as the No. 2 wide receiver. And a true freshman tight end is No. 3 in receptions (Pat Freiermuth, 16) and is playing ahead of a trio of veteran tight ends who have been at Penn State for a combined 11 seasons ó Jon Holland, Nick Bowers and Danny Dalton, who have combined for 13 receptions in 2018. (Rahne coached those three in 2016-17.)

    At running back, it is seemingly just as confounding.

    Miles Sanders exploded for 162 yards against Michigan State, but in the other four games since Ohio State, heís rushed for 43, 72, 62 and 14 yards ó the 14 coming against Michigan on seven carries. And itís not that heís sharing the load with another running back. Take away McSorley and Stevens, and other than Sanders, only Ricky Slade (one carry vs. Michigan State, and like a punch to gut, MIA since) and Journey Brown (one carry each vs. Indiana and Michigan) have carried the ball.

    Overall, in that stretch the Nittany Lions are averaging just 10.4 second-half points. The first half hasnít been much better during that stretch, as Penn State has averaged just 22.6 points per game over its last five contests. (Lest I remind you, John Donovan was fired after the 2015 season after overseeing a Penn State offense that averaged 23.2 points per game.)

    I get it. Other teams are on scholarship, too, and Barkley was a No. 2 pick and the Moorhead offenses at Penn State were populated with NFL-caliber wide receivers.

    But hasnít Franklin been recruiting and developing top players in the meantime? And doesn't the starting five along the offensive line have a combined 19 years at Penn State? And maybe be a bit riskier on offense. Maybe run Hamler in some motion or give him a carry; he had just one touch from the line of scrimmage on Saturday.

    No wonder Hamler was ticked off in The Big House and he showed. He didnít see face-to-face with Corley, out there for the whole world to see on national television. Not good form.

    Itís a far cry from 2016 and í17, when Gesicki had to say this about the Nittany Lion offense:

    ďI think Coach Moorhead has done an unbelievable job instilling confidence in all of the players and all the guys on the offense,Ē said Gesicki, the former Nittany Lion tight end who as Franklin has pointed out numerous times the past few weeks went through some trail and tribulations before Moorhead arrived.

    ďIt was something where we would go out there and we wouldnít know if we were going to get that first down, we didnít know if we were going to move the ball down the field.

    ďNow, in our heads we know that weíre going to take the ball down the field and go get a touchdown. He obviously has a great scheme and a great game plan and heís put it all together.Ē

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  39. #60
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    Don't expect a playoff team in the future coming from Happy Valley.

    FRANKLIN: "Yeah, I think we had a decent amount of turnover on our staff this off-season, and overall, short-term and more importantly, long-term, I feel really good about the people that we got sitting in the seats that they are in and feel really good about that from a long-term perspective."

    How can he feel good when they can't beat rank teams? Out of the top 20 now and how can Franklin feel good.

    To bad all of that wasted talent getting screwed.

    Will get a suck of a bowl bid this year.
    Last edited by itwizard; 06-11-2018 at 04:22.


    We are Penn State Go Lions.

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