UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The trip home from East Lansing, Michigan was mum, as Penn State filed quietly on to the plane, having traded soggy grass-stained jerseys for travel suits.
When Penn State head coach James Franklin entered the postgame media room, among dissecting a nearly seven-hour outing at Spartan Stadium, his message was clear.
Yes, a seven-hour outing, as severe weather forced a 3-hour and 22-minute delay. That wasn't what Franklin chose to focus his message on though.
His message was simple, return to the basics - the very core of what it was that got Penn State right up to 12:05 p.m. Saturday afternoon.
Like a single drop sends a ripple through a calm pool of water, Franklin's message spread through the team as they trickled into the media room to meet with reporters.
"We have to get back to who we are, what got us to this point," running back Saquon Barkley said. "What got us to this point is playing together, playing as family. When we're 2-2 last year, we weren't even talked about, we're getting talked a lot now. We have to find a way to get back to, who we really are."
Barkley and even a few other Nittany Lions couldn't quite put their finger on it postgame though, with a good week of practice building confidence headed into the final game of a challenging middle part of the Big Ten slate.
"At the end of the day it's football, you have to give credit where credit is due, Michigan State is a great team and have the chance a great chance to finish out the season strong too," Barkley said. "We have to focus on Penn State football, both offensively and defensively and get it right, getting back to our standard and mentality."
As Franklin noted, that means turning the focus entirely toward a 1-0 week, tuning out anything and everything that might pop up along the way.
"If you focus on being 1-0 and you achieve that each week, everything else will take care of itself," Franklin said.
Even quarterback Trace McSorley noted that honing in on the focus and getting into the submarine is not as easy as clicking off the remote or tapping uninstall on a few apps.
"It's something that I kind of think maturity on our team is going to kind of show," McSorley said. "We need to be mature enough to handle that. It's impossible to completely tune it all out and not to see any of it. You have to be mature enough to know that it doesn't really matter, all that matters is the product on the field."
For McSorley, even coming off his second-highest passing yardage total, wasn't enough for him to take his mind of the stinging feeling.
With 381 yards through the air and three touchdown passes, McSorley moved to the top of the record book with 51 career passing touchdowns. He tied the record in the first quarter, finishing off Penn State's longest scoring drive of the season (92 yards) with a 31-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton.
Among his top receivers, Hamilton and DeAndre Thompkins both registered 100-yard receiving games with a touchdown catch each.
Since Penn State and Michigan State started playing for the Land Grant Trophy in 1993, there have only been two other games featuring a pair of 100-yard receivers (2008, 1994).
Thompkins and Hamilton combined for seven receptions for at least 10 yards, including Thompkins' career-long 70-yard scoring grab on the final play of the third quarter.
While Penn State won the explosive plays battle 14-13, even as Franklin said postgame though, it still wasn't enough to make up for costly turnovers.
"We lost the turnover battle, we lost the field position battle, explosive plays were a wash, so that's the story of the game," Franklin said. "It's pretty much that simple."
With just a few hours remaining in Sunday's usual practice day to re-examine and make corrections, it's clear Franklin's message has been received.
"These past two weeks, I'd be lying if I said they do don't sting, they don't hurt," tight end Mike Gesicki said. "I think it's a reality check for us. It's a wakeup call for us. If we're the team that we say we want to be and if we're the team that we say we are, then we're going to bounce back from it."
By Erin Neri, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After losing the first game of the weekend series to Mercyhurst, Penn State men's hockey bounced back on Saturday night in record-setting fashion.
Saturday night, the Blue and White came out fast and aggressive, with senior forward captain James Robinson scoring his first of three consecutive goals on the night at 2:33 in the first period.
"Having a hot start tonight was something that we stressed right from the end of the game last night," Robinson said. "Getting that momentum rolling for the whole game was big for our team."
Center Chase Berger, Liam Folkes, Nikita Pavlychev and Andrew Sturtz also added goals in the 7-5 victory.
While head coach Guy Gadowsky noted after game one he was disappointed in his defensive unit, following game two, he was quick to give the Lakers their due credit on offense, despite a better performance.
"I really like the way Mercyhurst plays, we have to give them some credit here," Gadowsky said. "They have so much speed through the middle, it really caused us problems, I have to give them props."
Sturtz stole the show with his record-setting performance in game two of the series. The junior forward rose to No. 1 on the Penn State all-time goals list, passing Casey Bailey with his 46th career goal.
Sturtz scored on an empty net to help solidify a Nittany Lion win in the final minute of play in the third period. The goal was also Sturtz's eighth short-handed goal of his career, only furthering his own program record.
"He [Sturtz] obviously did some great things and that accolade of breaking Casey Bailey's record, that's extremely impressive and extremely well deserved," Gadowsky said. "It's great that it comes on such a great game for him."
In addition, the righty shooter also set a pair of Penn State single-game records, with four assists and five points. However, amidst all the record-book climbing, Sturtz didn't take the sole credit for his success, instead giving thanks to all his past and present teammates.
"Obviously it was something special to get it," Sturtz said. "I think a big credit to all those goals goes to every player I've played with over my two and a half years here."
Robinson also shared some of the spotlight, scoring the fifth hat trick in program history in the first two periods. Like Sturtz though, Robinson also shared the credit with the rest of the team.
"It was obviously super cool to put three in the back of the net," Robinson said. "However, stuff like that doesn't happen without your line mates and your teammates."
The trio of Robinson, Sturtz and Berger formed the first line of Saturday night's a game, a line that was non-existent Friday. While Berger and Sturtz did play together on the second line of game one, Robinson played on line four.
The line put up monster numbers, combining for five goals and five assists, but the idea to string together just the right combination of Nittany Lions didn't come from the coaching staff.
"I'd love to tell you it came from great minds of the coaching staff but it didn't, it came from a player," Gadowsky said.
Although he was reluctant to say who exactly came up with the idea, Gadowsky did note he was absolutely right in his thinking piece the trio together.
By Will Desautelle, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - Penn State cruised past Rutgers at Rec Hall Saturday night, winning in straight sets (25-9, 25-9, 25-12) to improve to 23-1 (13-1 Big Ten) on the season.
"We hit .700 for the match so you have to be impressed by that and I thought we played a clean game," Penn State head coach Russ Rose said.
Senior Haleigh Washington continued her strong play, leading the Nittany Lions with 12 kills and five blocks. Redshirt sophomore Tori Gorrell also added seven kills and two blocks in an impressive collective evening for Penn State's two primary middles.
The Nittany Lions overwhelmed Rutgers with their size all match, out-blocking the Scarlet Knights 9.0-5.0, hitting a combined .567 on the night to their .056 hitting percentage.
"Rutgers is challenged in some areas right now," Rose said. "They're in transition with personnel, and it's a really tough year in the conference to be in that situation."
Saturday was also the second home game in a row in which Penn State saw impressive contributions from players off the bench. Senior Clare Powers entered in the second set and recorded four kills on as many attempts, along with an ace.
Redshirt junior Nia Reed also came off the bench and had three kills on four attempts, in addition to a solo block. Reed, who had eight kills on her first eight swings against Wisconsin last week, has given Penn State another reliable option off the bench for coach Rose.
It was also senior night on Saturday, as the Nittany Lions honored eight Nittany Lions who all entered the game at some point.
Together, the Nittany Lion seniors combined for 31 of Penn State's 42 total kills and 14 of 24 total digs in the win against Rutgers.
"They are terrific people," Rose said. "The goal is always to leave the program at a better place. All of them are great young people. They're all great students and great representatives of their families and Penn State."
Several of the Nittany Lions seniors also reflected on the impact Penn State has had throughout their careers.
"I don't think I'd be the player I am today if I went to any other school," senior Lainy Pierce said.
Washington also called it a blessing and incredible honor to wear a Penn State uniform for the last four years.
"To be given the opportunities that some of the players who helped build this program has been an absolute blessing."
The top-ranked Nittany Lions will be on the road against Iowa on Wednesday looking to extend their current 13-game winning streak.
Defense: Chavis, Haley
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As it has been said all year, the Penn State women's hockey team isn't afraid of any opponent. They know they are a young program, but are proud of the direction that they are headed. Spearheaded by a formidable defense, they believe they are close to taking the next step. Senior Christi Vetter believes it's a result of the team's burning desire to outwork everyone else. Read More
By Patrick Anglin, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As it has been said all year, the Penn State women's hockey team isn't afraid of any opponent. They know they are a young program, but are proud of the direction that they are headed. Spearheaded by a formidable defense, they believe they are close to taking the next step. Senior Christi Vetter believes it's a result of the team's burning desire to outwork everyone else.
"I think one word that really describes our girls is grit," Vetter said. "We're grinding it out on the walls, in the corner, and we're busting our butts. We need to keep striving to be the grittiest team out there. We're going to push each other like we always have, and we're almost there."
The mantra for the team the entire season has been to hustle for a full three periods no matter the score, and that was apparent in their intense efforts in both the 3-1 loss and 1-1 tie against Mercyhurst this weekend. Sophomore goalie Daniella Paniccia credits the team's mentality and identity for their success.
"We're a blue-collar team, we're good at facing adversity," Paniccia said. "We've built an identity as a hard-working program. Like coach always says, we have to play hungry hockey."
Head coach Jeff Kampersal is a firm believer in his players, and notes their continuous improvements, He agrees that the girls are working hard, and that it is showing on both ends of the ice, especially on the defensive side.
"We have flashes of really good defense," Kampersal said. "Our goal is to let up only 7 shots or less a period, and we're right around that. We're pinning hard and being physical."
The defense has been adjusting on the fly and playing hard against solid offensive teams, something that can be seen in their recent performances. As Kampersal has previously lauded, the team's shot-blocking is one of its best assets. The team recorded 40 blocks over the weekend against Mercyhurst. Vetter credits the goalies for helping the team get in position to block shots.
"We talk to the goalies and they give us pretty good advice," Vetter said. "They now how to block shots."
Both goalies for the team played this weekend, senior Hannah Ehresmann on Friday and Paniccia on Saturday. Each posted strong performances in their starts, Ehresmann recording 25 saves while Pannicia totaled 34.
"The sport should almost be called goaltending," Kampersal said. "It's such an important position."
Both girls have been playing excellent as of late, and Pannicia's 34 saves was a new season high for her.
"Some games the shots just add up," Pannicia said. "It felt like a fast-paced game, those are my favorite games with lots of shots. It's easier to stay focused."
Coming up, the team has a long road stretch ahead, not returning to Pegula to play until next calendar year. To be successful on that stretch, the girls will need to continue to learn from their experiences and play a tough, physical style of hockey led by their tenacious defense.
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