CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Welcome to GoPSUsports.com's live, interactive
coverage of the 2014 football season. Tune in for live blog coverage from all
12 games on the schedule. The Nittany Lions meet Illinois in the penultimate game of the season.
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- The Lady Lions close out the Preseason WNIT on
Saturday against Seton Hall, a matchup that has been on hiatus since 1998. With
one exhibition game and two preseason matchups under its belt, the young Lady
Lion basketball team is ready to place another 'W' in the win column.
Seton Hall's style of play is something similar to what Penn State demonstrates on the court; attack in transition.
Heading into this Saturday's game, head coach Coquese Washington and her staff are firm that if the team can attack the paint in transition, the Lady Lions will come out on top.
"We've got to get more free throws," said coach Washington. "We've got to get more pressure on the defense by attacking the paint."
The Lady Lions are known to be a fast-paced team that can sink baskets on transition. This season, the key to execute just that is point guard Lindsey Spann. A newcomer to the starting lineup, the Laurel, Maryland native is leading the Blue and White in scoring after posting 14 points against Albany and 17 against Towson last week.
"She's a fantastic point guard," said coach Washington. "She has a really high basketball IQ. She sees the floor and has a knack for scoring."
Spann isn't only focusing on her offensive contributions but how she can further aid on defense.
"I'm working on hustling, being more aggressive on defense, getting deflections and steals," said Spann.
Washington knows that the Lady Lion defense will have to be prepared when the Pirates come to University Park.
They're a pretty aggressive team," said Washington. "They've got really quick guards who do a great job attacking the basket. They're going to put pressure on our defense with their dribble penetration."
Senior Tori Waldner's experience and height is no secret for the Lady Lion defense. Waldner has tallied 20 rebounds in two games. However, the Lady Lion defense is looking to increase its total boards across the roster tomorrow.
"Seton Hall throws up a lot of shots," assistant coach Itoro Coleman said. "We have to rebound. They move very quickly in their offense and there will be plenty of opportunities for us to rebound. How well we are able to get the 50/50 balls will determine who will win this game."
The Lady Lions will tip off with Seton Hall on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. in the Bryce Jordan Center.
By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach John Gondak and two members of the Penn State cross country teams are headed west to Indiana this weekend to compete in the 2014 NCAA Cross Country Championships.
Freshman Jillian Hunsberger is making her National stage debut after qualifying at the Mid-Atlantic Regional with an 11th place (20 minutes, 49 seconds) finish in the 6,000-meter run.
The freshman has had a great 2014 season posting competitive times in all her races.
As most athletes would be, she is excited, nervous, and ready for the
"I don't event know what to expect I'm just going to go and try my hardest. Just thinking about the race, making sure I have it planned out," said Hunsberger. "I [mostly] mentally preparing, I will be excited on Saturday.
Fifth-year senior Matt Fischer has had an exemplary year. He finished first in both races he competed in at home and was named second team All-Big Ten at the Big Ten Championships.
Fischer, the Mid-Atlantic Men's Athlete of the Year, is making his second trip to the NCAA Championships this weekend after a phenomenal first-place finish at the Regional meet with a time of 30 minutes, 16 seconds.
"I was pretty excited and just to see how well the team did was exciting. It was a bit of a let down when we found out that we didn't make it [to Nationals]," said Fischer. "Personally, it ended up working out and I think it set me up well for this week."
As Fischer looks to end his senior year in the best way he can, his second trip to Terre Haute, Indiana provides opportunity for preparation.
"Last year was my first time there and I wanted to go out there and get All-American but there were 70-80 guys that at any given day could fall in there too," said Fischer. "I'm just more mentally and physical ready [this year] and I'm more confident."
In 2013, Fischer posted a 78th place finish in 31 minutes, 6 seconds, a 10,000-meter time.
"I feel that I still have work to do and I'm not satisfied at all and I want a big result this weekend," he said. "Making sure I feel good is all that matters at this point. There's only one left and I have to put all my energy into that one."
This weekend will see Fischer final collegiate cross country race, however, he doesn't fear the end quite yet as he stays focused on the mission.
"I'm really excited. I feel like I'm in the best spot I've been all season at the right time and as long as I can put that together on Saturday and I can walk away happy with what I did, it'll be a good end to the season," he said.
Hunsberger will represent the Nittany Lions in the 6,000-meter run set to kick off at noon on Saturday followed by the men's 10,000-meter run slated for 1 p.m.
Game Blog: Penn State at Illinois
Game Notes | Gameday Central | Illinois Scouting Report | Coach Franklin Wednesday
Press Conference Roundup | Coach Huff Q&A | Player Q&A Video
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State (6-4, 2-4) will play its final road game of the 2014 season on Saturday when it travels to Illinois (4-6, 1-5) for a noon kick (ESPN2) inside Memorial Stadium.
The Nittany Lions earned their sixth win of the season last weekend with a 30-13 victory over intrastate foe Temple. The running back duo of Akeel Lynch and Bill Belton powered the Penn State offense behind a strong outing from the offensive line. Lynch and Belton combined for 222 rushing yards and a pair of scores in the victory. Lynch tallied a career-high 132 yards in the winning effort.
Defensively, the Nittany Lions forced five turnovers and limited the Owls to just 248 yards. Freshmen Christian Campbell and Grant Haley each snagged their first career interceptions in the contest. Haley returned his interception 30 yards for a touchdown, marking the first time a true freshman has scored a touchdown since Nov. 15, 2003 (Paul Posluszny).
Penn State is ranked in the top five in three of the four major defensive statistical categories. The Nittany Lions are No. 1 in the nation against the run (83.1 ypg.), No. 3 in the nation in total defense (265.6 ypg) and No. 4 in the nation in scoring defense (16.2 ppg).
Additionally, Penn State leads the nation in team pass efficiency defense (96.89), is sixth in third down conversion percentage defense (29.2 percent), is second in the nation in first downs defense (140 total), is 10th in passes intercepted (15) and is No. 16 in passing yards allowed (182.5 ypg).
The Nittany Lions have held their opponents to an average of 15.4 points and 139.9 yards below their season average this year. In the last three games, Penn State foes are 7-of-47 on third down (14.9 percent).
The Fighting Illini will look to snap a two-game losing streak on Saturday after back-to-back losses to No. 16 Ohio State (55-14) and Iowa (30-14). The Illini defeated Minnesota on Oct. 25 (28-24) for their first Big Ten victory of the season. Illinois is averaging 25.6 points per game on offense and is ranked No. 2 in the Big Ten in passing (255.6 ypg).
Welcome to the Gameday Preview for the week 11 matchup against Illinois.
What to Watch For - Penn State
1. Senior safety Adrian Amos said that the Nittany Lions set a goal of forcing at least two turnovers per game. Through 10 games, the Lions have forced their opponents into at least two miscues on five different occasions. That includes each of the last four games. Penn State has forced 11 turnovers in the last four contests. Head coach James Franklin often talks about the importance of playing complementary football. The turnover picture speaks to that in clear details. Since the Ohio State game, Penn State has scored 41 points off of turnovers, including two defensive touchdowns. Simply put, the defense's ability to create turnovers has put the Nittany Lion offense in a good position to capitalize on short fields and score more points.
2. Thanks to a season-high 254 rushing yards against Temple, the Nittany Lions have gained 416 yards on the ground during the past two games. Junior left tackle Donovan Smith returned from injury against the Owls and senior captain Miles Dieffenbach played extensive snaps for the first time this season last week, as well. The addition of two veteran players up front is a significant boost to the offensive line and its ability to create running lanes for Bill Belton and Akeel Lynch.
3. Penn State is the nation's second-youngest team with 76 underclassmen (49 freshmen/27 sophomores). Only Pittsburgh entered training camp with more underclassmen on its roster (81). In all, 11 players on offense, two players on defense and two players on special teams (15 total) have made their first career starts this season. Nine true freshmen have played for the Nittany Lions in 2014, including five on defense, three on offense and one punter. All nine freshmen - Marcus Allen, Troy Apke, Saeed Blacknall, Christian Campbell, Jason Cabinda, Mike Gesicki, Chris Godwin, Grant Haley and Daniel Pasquariello - have been instrumental in helping the Lions secure six victories.
What to Watch For - Illinois
1. Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt returned to the field last week after missing three games due to injury. Prior to getting hurt, Lunt was among the top signal-callers in the Big Ten. Lunt has completed 65 percent of his passes and thrown for 1,671 yards and 14 touchdowns with just three interceptions this season. Senior Reilly O'Toole stepped in for Lunt when he was injured, and he will likely see action on Saturday. O'Toole has thrown for 745 yards and five touchdowns with his arm. Additionally, he has playmaking ability with his feet. Freshman receiver Mike Dudek has been very productive for the Illini with 51 catches for 787 yards.
2. Junior linebacker Mason Monheim is the leader of the Illinois defense. A Butkus Award Watch List member, Monheim is ranked 16th among all active FBS players and first in the Big Ten with 8.26 tackles per game (Minimum of 24 career games played). Monheim is second in the Big Ten behind Mike Hull with 9.8 tackles per contest this season. He equaled his career-high with 15 tackles against Iowa last week.
3. Illinois is ranked 10th in the nation in net punting thanks to a 44.9-yard average from Justin DuVernois. The Illini have averaged 40.85 net yards on 60 punts this season. DuVernois has kicked 17 punts of 50 or more yards this season and has forced 15 fair catches.
The Final Word:
Saturday's game marks the final road game of the 2014 season. The Nittany Lions are 3-1 in games away from Beaver Stadium this season, which includes a 2-1 mark in Big Ten games. Penn State topped UCF to open the season in Ireland. In Big Ten play, the Lions have victories at Rutgers and Indiana. Since 2000, the Nittany Lions have tallied four on-field wins away from home just three times. The list includes the 2008, 2009 and 2011 seasons. Saturday's contest in Memorial Stadium will mark Penn State's 12th visit to Champaign. The Nittany Lions own an 8-3 on-field mark in games held at Illinois. Kickoff is set for 12:01 p.m. on Saturday with Bob Wischusen, Matt Millen and Quint Kessenich calling the ESPN2 broadcast.
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By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.-Less than a month ago, Brett Gravatt was a bench player trying to fight his way into the lineup for the Penn State men's soccer team.
Now, he's the player that sent the Nittany Lions to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
During Penn State's first round game against Hartwick Thursday night, the reserve midfielder scored the first goal of his career with 16 minutes remaining to give the Lions a thrilling 2-1 win.
"Wow," Gravatt said afterwards. "I felt excitement, I guess. I'm glad I could help."
Although the feat may seem impressive itself, it doesn't give complete justice
to the beauty of the sophomore's goal.
Taking the ball on the right side of the box, Gravatt separated himself
from a defender with a quick move to his left, then fired a rocket that curled
past goaltender Tom Buckner and into the top left corner of the net.
As teammates engulfed him in celebration, Gravatt simply turned and
walked towards the Penn State sidelines.
"One of my strengths is [one-on-one] so I like to go at people," Gravatt said. "I was able to beat him inside and got the shot off and I got lucky and it went in. I curled it pretty well and I guess I hit it pretty well."
Not only did the goal give the Nittany Lions a lead they wouldn't
relinquish, it was a moment that Gravatt had spent the entire season working
After coming back from a torn meniscus in the offseason and playing just 84 minutes in Penn State's first 16 games combined, the Dunn Loring, Virginia native finally got into the starting lineup during the Lions' previous two games against Akron and Michigan State.
While the sophomore didn't enter the game until the second half against Hartwick, he made sure his presence was felt when the opportunity arose.
"The message to the guys before the game was, 'don't blend in, standout'" head coach Bob Warming said. "When the game is over with, know that you've stood out in some manner, that you made a big play, that you helped your team win and obviously Brett did that. He took advantage of a moment and helped our team come through."
It may have been Gravatt's first tally of the season, but it didn't come as a surprise to any of his teammates, who are used to seeing such plays from the midfielder in practice.
"Yeah, we've seen him do that a lot," senior forward Mikey Minutillo
"All the time," midfielder Brian James added.
However, the goal was more than just a big moment for Gravatt. It was
also proved that the Nittany Lions were capable of coming from behind in the
second half with their season on the line.
After playing the Hawks to a draw in the first half despite outshooting them eight to two, Penn State fell behind less than a minute into the second when a scrum in front of the net produced a goal by Jhevaughn Beckford.
Down 1-0 and with only 44 minutes remaining to salvage their season, the
Lions didn't roll over and quit. Instead, they responded by continuing to
create chances in the Hartwick zone.
Just over 13 minutes after Beckford's goal, Minutillo answered for the
Lions, beating Buckner to a ball from midfielder Drew Klingenberg and tapping
it past the goalie to knot the score at 1-1.
Afterwards, the 6-foot-1 forward admitted he was nervous as he watched a
Hawks defender nearly prevent the ball from ending up in the net.
"To be honest, I was a little doubtful that it was going to go in," Minutillo said. "That center back came in sliding and he got a piece of it, but luckily it had enough pace, but as it was rolling I just wanted it to go faster and faster and thank god it did."
In total, the Nittany Lions outshot the Hawks 17 to seven in a hard fought, physical game. What impressed Warming the most though, was seeing the fortitude of his players after they fell behind.
Soccer is a low scoring game, and one goal can often be enough to determine a winner. But on Thursday, the Nittany Lions overcame that and found a way to chip away at the Hawks' defense until the game was won.
The NCAA Tournament is now in full swing, and Penn State is sure to see
another challenge when it takes on Syracuse on the road on Sunday. Still, wins
like this prove the team will not go away without a fight.
"You know what I liked the most, is that we've had games this year where we had a goal scored on us and for the next few minutes we were a little poor," Warming said. "[Tonight], I thought we stepped it up a little better. We just kept going, kept going at them. I was really excited about that because it means that your team has confidence and they feel they're going to win it. I think not having that self doubt anymore is going to help us."
By Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Those close to freshman forward Aly Hardy know that she is a well-rounded individual. She is not only a dedicated hockey player, but also a saxophone player and dancer.
Her smooth saxophone and dance abilities translate well onto the ice where she displays orchestrated skating with her line mates, as well as a unique barrel of stick handling skills.
She is making the most of her opportunities and impacting play through her constant progression, feisty play and work ethic.
The St. Albans, Vermont native has seen playing time in the past four games has jazzed up the program and was a contributor to three Blue and White wins during that four-game span.
Her hard work even translates into the players lounge at Pegula Ice Arena where she enjoys competing in 'Just Dance' on Xbox and at the Ping-Pong table, as well.
"Well I play ping pong mostly with [Hannah] Bramm because I can't play against Jill [Holdcroft] anymore because she makes me mad," said Hardy.
In fact, according to Hardy, the aforementioned statement is her favorite aspect of the state-of-the-art Pegula Ice Arena.
"I'd probably have to say the lounge," said Hardy. "The couches are really comfy, and I really like how we have Xbox and we play 'Just Dance' sometimes and the ping pong table definitely."
Music, dancing and ping-pong aside, Hardy intends to continue to jazz up Penn State as she progresses into a more experienced performer on the ice.